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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Link to Someone New
It's that time again. I had planned to do a big review of an Anime movie I saw, but time is short, so I figured it's time to send some traffic (all 7 readers) towards some new corners of the internets (at least, they were new for me!). Enjoy.
  • Final Girl likes to watch slasher movies from the '70s and '80s. She recently made the acquaintance of Kelly Hu, star of Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (a better role than Deathstrike in X2? Sure!) Also, she's got some updates on Neil Marshall's new flick, Doomsday (Marshall helmed Kaedrin favorite The Descent). I probably discovered this blog during the 4 Weeks of Halloween, after I'd watched some obscure horror film and looked up some reviews... and of course, she had reviewed said obscure horror film because she's awesome like that.
  • How To Spot A Psychopath has a neat post detailing the The Six Ugliest Space Lego Sets. While you're there, stop by Dan's Data if you've got an interest in computers and gadgets.
  • SciencePunk has an interesting post about Zombies and the science of siege warfare. This post reminded me of something that always bothered me about the movie 28 Days Later... (a film I like a lot, despite what follows here). In that film, the "Rage Virus" is frighteningly fast-acting. An infected human succumbs to the virus within only 30 seconds. This is all well and good, and horrific, but it seems pretty counter to basic epidemiology. I'm not a doctor or scientist, but it seems to me that the reason diseases spread is that there is a long incubation period, wherein the host has a chance to spread the disease. This period is effectively nil for the Rage virus, so I'd think that the disease would be relatively easy to contain. At the very least, I don't see how it could leave England (I guess there's a chance, given the Chunnel and France's historically weak defenses against invaders). Of course, this detail was explained in the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which posits the existence of carriers who are not affected (much) by the virus and actually depicts the transfer of the virus off the island. Wait, what am I saying, who watches Zombie movies and seriously considers things epidemiology or even plot holes?
That's all for now. I'm travelling this weekend, so Sunday's entry may be a bit sparse (unless I find some time tomorrow to write something up).
Posted by Mark on January 30, 2008 at 10:35 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Best Films of 2007
I saw somewhere on the order of 60 movies that were released in 2007. This is somewhat lower than most critics, but higher than your average moviegoer. Also unlike most critics, I don't consider this to be a spectacular year for film. For instance, I left several films off my 2006 list that would have been shoe-ins this year. If I were to take a more objective stance, limiting my picks to the movies with the best technical qualities, the list would be somewhat easier. But that's a boring way to assemble a list and absolute objectivitiy is not possible in any case. Movies that really caught my attention and interested me were somewhat fewer this year. Don't get me wrong, I love movies and there were a lot of good ones this year, but there were few movies that really clicked with me. As such, a lot of the top 10 could easily be exchanged with a movie from the Honorable Mention section. So without further ado:

Top 10 Movies of 2007
* In roughly reverse order
  • Zodiac: This one barely makes it on this list. It's one of the few early year releases that has made it on the list, and as such, it's something I actually want to revisit. But of all the early year films I saw, I remember this being the most interesting and best made. If you know about the Zodiac killer, you know the ending won't provide any real explanations (nor should it) as the killer was never caught in real life. As such, this does diminish some of the tension from the film. Still, director David Fincher has made an impeccable film. It's not as showy or spectacular as his previous efforts. Stylistically, it's rather straightforward, and yet, it's a gorgeous film to look at, and Fincher does manage to imbue some tension throughout the film, which focuses more on the obsession of those trying to find the Zodiac than the Zodiac himself.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Gone Baby Gone: It basically starts out as a straightforward crime thriller and mystery and those elements are very well done. But the ending introduces a moral dilemma that has no good answers. You can't help but put yourself into the movie and think about what you would do in such a case, and to be honest, I don't know what I'd do. I suppose I should mention that this is Ben Affleck's directing debut, and he proves shockingly adept at doing so.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Bourne Ultimatum: A fantastic action film, and one of the few sequels worth it's salt in a year of particularly bad sequels. Paul Greengrass' infamous shaky camera is actually put to good use here, and the film also features good performances and great stuntwork. Some may be put off by the camera work, but when you look at a film like this, and then you look at a film like Transformers, you can see a huge difference in style and talent.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Superbad: Hands down, the funniest movie of the year. I'm a sucker for raunchy humor with a heart, and this movie has that in spades. Great performances by Jonah Hill and the deadpan Michael Cera, as well as just about everyone else. Of all the movies on this list, this one probably has the most replay value, and is also probably the most quotable.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Stardust: This might the most thoroughly enjoyable movie of the year. A great adventure film that evokes The Princess Bride (perhaps unfairly leading to comparisons) while asserting an identity of its own. In a year filled with dark, heavy-hitting dramas, it was nice to sit down to a well done fantasy film. Well directed with good performances (including an unusual turn by Robert DeNiro as a flamboyant pirate) and nice visuals, the real strength of this film is the story, which retains the fun feeling of a fantasy while skirting darker, edgier material.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters: Documentary films don't generally find much of an audience in theaters, but The King of Kong should be in every video game enthusiast's Netflix queue. It delves into the rough and tumble world of competitive video gaming for classic games, particularly Donkey Kong, but it does so kinda like an inspirational sports film. You've got your lovable underdog who has never won anything in his life, and of course the villainous champion who looks down on the underdog and seeks to steal his thunder. It's a great movie and highly recommended for video game fans.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Orphanage: Certainly the creepiest movie of the year. Though perhaps not exactly a horror film, it establishes a high level of tension all throughout the film, and the story, while a little odd, works pretty well too. A spanish language film that gets unfairly compaired to Pan's Labyrinth, it is nonetheless worth watching for any fan of ghost stories.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • The Lives of Others: This film actually won the Oscar for best foreign-language film last year (beating out Pan's Labyrinth - a surprise to me), so I might be cheating a bit, but it didn't really have a theatrical release in the U.S. until 2007, so I'm putting it on this list. Set in East Germany during the Cold War, this film follows a Stasi agent who begins to feel for the subjects he's surveiling. It doesn't sound like much, and it's not exactly action-packed, but it is quite compelling and one of the most powerful films of the year. All of the technical aspects of the film are brilliant, especially the script and the nuanced acting by Ulrich Mühe. This film would be amongst the top of any year's list
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Grindhouse: I'm referring, of course, to the theatrical release of this film. I say this because a lot of critics like to separate the two features and heap praise on Tarantino's Death Proof (which I'll grant, is probably the better of the two, if I were forced to chose), but to me, nothing beats the full experience of the theatrical version. It starts out with a hilarious "fake" trailer, then moves into Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, an over=the-top zombie action film done in true grindhouse stile (missing reels and all). Following that we get three more absolutely brilliant fake trailers and Tarantino's wonderful Death Proof. The films are dark, they're edgy, and they're probably not for everyone. In attempting to emulate 70s grindhouse cinema, the filmmakers have lovingly reproduced the tropes, some of which may bother audiences (particularly the awkward pacing of both features, which is actuall brilliance in disguise). It's a crime that the theatrical version is not available on DVD. The double-billing was poorly advertised, so it looks like the studio opted to split the films up and give longer cuts of each their own DVD. Supposedly, a 6 disc boxed set containing everything is in the works.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Planet Terror | Death Proof] [Winner of 3 Kaedrin Movie Awards]
  • No Country for Old Men: The Coen brothers have outdone themselves. This is perhaps a boring pick, as this film is at or near the top of most top 10 lists, but that happened for a reason. It's a great damn film. Gorgeous photography, tension-filled action, and that rare brand of dark humor that the Coens are so good at. It also features the most memorable and terrifying villain in years. The ending is uncompromising and ambiguous (which may turn some viewers off), but I found it quite appropriate. Of all the films this year, this one is best made and most entertaining (if a little dark), a combo that's certainly difficult to pull off.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon] [Winner of 3 Kaedrin Movie Awards]
Honorable Mention
As I mentioned above, a lot of these honorable mentions would probably do fine for the bottom half of the top 10 (the top half is pretty strong, actually). In some cases, I really struggled with a lot of the below picks. If my mood were different, I bet some things would change. These are all good movies and worth watching too.
  • Juno: This film could easily have made my top 10 list, and it's the dark horse pick for the best picture oscar. Funny comedies that are also smart and clever are rare, and this is a wonderful example. Juno's too-cool-for-school hipster dialogue was definitely a turn off for portions of the film (particularly the beginning), but it sorta grows on you too, and by the end, you're so involved in the story that it's not noticeable. Of particular note here is Ellen Page's brilliant performance as the title character and her parents, played ably by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. Michael Cera puts in another subdued performance, but hey, he's great at that and it fits well.
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • Waitress: Yet another unexpected pregnancy movie (there were three this year, the others being Juno and Knocked Up). It's a "chick flick" but I found that I really enjoyed it. Aside from the fact that nearly everyone in the movie is cheating on their partner, it's really quite an endearing movie, and it's very sad indeed that writer/director Adrienne Shelly will not be making any more films (she died shortly after production). Great performances by Keri Russel and Nathan Fillion (of Firefly/Serenity fame) and a nice turn by Andy Griffith as the crotchety-old-man-with-a-heart-of-gold.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Rescue Dawn: Werner Herzog's great film depicting a vietnam POW's struggle for survival in the jungles of Vietnam could easily have made the top 10 (a lot of the films in the honorable mention could have). I'm not that familiar with Herzog, but after seeing this film, I'd definitely like to check out some of his older classics. Good performances by Christian Bale (one of the best of his generation) and Steve Zahn (who is normally relegated to comic relief, but doe a nice job in this dramatic role).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Sunshine: Solid space-based science fiction is somewhat of a rarity these days (actually, SF in general seems to be), and this film manages to pull it off. It's a little cliche-ridden (some good, some bad), but I really enjoyed tihs film, even the ending which seems to strike a lot of people the wrong way (I loved it). Good ensemble cast, wonderful high-contrast lighting and a decent story. Perhaps hot the greatest film, but there's something to be said for a well executed genre film
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Ratatouille: Brad Bird is perhaps my favorite American animator working today, and this film really is a delight. It is, perhaps, not as seamless as his previous efforts (I was particularly taken with his last film, The Incredibles), but it's still quite a good film. The story follows a rat who seems to have developed a talent for cooking. This rat eventually teams up with a young human guy so that they can elevate the cuisine at a famous French restaurant. It sounds silly, and well, it is I guess, but who cares? It's fun. The one ironic bit is that the character of the rat is much more compelling than any of the human characters. There are a lot of nice touches in the movie, and I'm quite looking forward to Bird's next project (whatever that might be).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Michael Clayton: This slow-burning legal thriller was actually quite good. Helmed by Bourne collaborator Tony Gilroy, this film goes perhaps a little too far at times, but is otherwise a keenly constructed thriller. At times, it doesn't seem like there's really that much going on in the film, but Gilroy somehow manages to keep the pace high (a neat trick, that) and I did genuinely find myself surprised by the ending.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • There Will Be Blood: Amazing character study from director Paul Thomas Anderson. The first 20 minutes of the film are an outstanding exercise in breaking from tradition (there's almost no dialogue, but it's also compelling material and necessary for the story). The over-the-top ending is a little strange and leaves you wondering "Why?" but it's also oddly appropriate. It's one of those movies that has grown on me the more I think about it. Daniel Day Lewis gives an amazing performance (yeah, I'll even give it to him considering the last 20 minutes of the movie) and director Anderson is at the top of his game. Oh, and I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!!! I DRINK IT UP!!!!!!
    More Info: [IMDB]
  • Eastern Promises: Well, the premise of this film isn't all that exciting, but I found Viggo Mortensen's performance riveting and his character provided most of the film's interesting twists and turns. It's worth watching because of him and his character, but it's also a flawed film (especially in comparison to the other recent Cronenberg/Mortensen collaboration, A History of Violence).
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Hot Fuzz: Among the better comedies this year, Hot Fuzz is an effective action movie parody. While much of that is overt, there are some great subtle touches as well (particularly with respect to Simon Pegg's peformance, as he evokes shades of Schwartzenegger in Predator or the T-1000 in T2). Ultimately, the story devolves into something rather stupid, which puts this a peg below Shaun of the Dead (which was made by the same filmmaking team), but it's still quite entertaining.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
  • Black Book: Despite the involvement of Paul Verhoeven (whome I generally dislike except in rare exceptions), this turns out to be one of the more involving historical thrillers that I've seen in recent years. It's not a profound journey, but it's got some wonderful pot-boileresque elements and it managed to pull me in to the story, which was complex and well done.
    More Info: [IMDB] [Amazon]
Should have seen: Well there you have it. A little late, but I made it. That just about wraps up the Kaedrin movie awards, hope you enjoyed them. I don't know if I'll do another Top 10 Box Office Performance analysis, but if I do, it probably won't be for a little while (that actually might make it a little more accurate too)
Posted by Mark on January 27, 2008 at 08:18 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ok, I'm slacking. The top 10 movies of 2007 will be posted this Sunday. In the mean time, I leave you with this anti-terrorism suggestion from Charlie Stross (and yes, I'm posting this a few months late, but it's still funny):
The solution to protecting the London Underground from terrorist suicide bombers can be summed up in one word: Daleks. One Dalek per tube platform, behind a door at the end. Fit them with cameras and remote controls and run them from Ken Livingstone's office. Any sign of terrorism on the platform? Whoosh! The doors open and the Dalek comes out, shrieking "exterminate!" in a demented rasp reminiscent of Michael Howard during his tenure as Home Secretary, only less merciful.

The British are trained from birth to know the two tactics for surviving a Dalek attack; run up the stairs (or escalator), or hide behind the sofa. There are no sofas in the underground, but there are plenty of escalators. Switch them to run upwards when the Dalek is out, and you can clear a platform in seconds.

Suicide bombers are by definition Un-British, and will therefore be unable to pass a citizenship test, much less deal with the Menace from Skaro.
Posted by Mark on January 23, 2008 at 08:13 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Arbitrary Awards
So the formally announced 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards came to an end on Friday (No clear leader emerged, but No Country For Old Men and The Bourne Ultimatum each brought home two awards), but here's a few additional awards that don't really have any other nominees:
  • Best Car Chase/Stunts: Grindhouse (segment Death Proof) - I blame Zoe Bell, the amazing Kiwi stuntwoman in this movie. Best car chase in years, and it's all the more harrowing because you can tell it's real.
  • Best Non-Car Chase: Dog chases man, from No Country for Old Men. I can't explain this one, but it's one of those Coen brothers moments that are so intense and absurd at the same time.
  • Best Long Take/Tracking Shot: Atonement - Great ~5 minute shot that follows three British soldiers as they make their way through Dunkirk during the evacuation. Director Joe Wright has (rightly, in my opinion) been taken to task for over-stylizing the movie, but I don't consider this masterful scene a part of that. It actually fits into the movie well, and it's not as overt as his other techniques (which are sound, to be sure, but overused).
  • Best Monsters: (nominees must be a class of monster, not an individual) Vampires, from 30 Days of Night. Modern vampires are wussy, emotional beings. This movie shows us what feral, blood-sucking (er, splattering) intelligent monsters are like. A flawed film, to be sure, but great villains (and a wonderful overhead tracking shot that might have won that award in any other year).
  • The John Carpenter Memorial Award: Grindhouse (segment Planet Terror). Since Carpenter seems to have given up making good movies, someone else needs to pick up the slack, and this year, it was Robert Rodriguez. The most notably Carpenteristic element being the soundtrack (done by Rodriguez himself), but other similarities are apparent as well.
  • Scenery Chewers: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War (brilliantly scruffy CIA agent) and William Hurt in Mr. Brooks (yeah, it's not an especially good movie, but Hurt is having a lot of fun playing Mr. Brooks' uh, I'm not sure what he's supposed to be, but he's entertaining). Oh, and how could I forget, Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (particularly the last 20 minutes or so - "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! I DRINK IT UP!" - Indeed, he's even chewing on steak for half the scene.)
If you include these arbitrary awards in the totally tally, it looks like No Country For Old Men picks up some ground while Grindhouse rockets up to tie at 3. And that about wraps it up. The only thing that remains is the top 10 list (coming soon!)

Update: Added Daniel Day Lewis to the scenery chewers. Heh.
Posted by Mark on January 20, 2008 at 11:49 PM .: link :.

Friday, January 18, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Most Unusual/High Concept Film
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This post marks the end of the formally nominated awards, but I've still got another wrapup post with some miscellaneous awards and finally my top 10 films of 2007.

Most Unusual/High Concept Film: Fido

From left to right: Mother, Son, Fido
From left to right: Mother, Son, Fido.

When I was making the nominations, I didn't want to say high concept film, but then after I finished, I realized that they really are high concept films. The winner, a strange but fun Canadian zombie film done like a Lassie story, but with zombies in place of dogs. The setting is a sorta retro-futuristic 1950s, filled with vibrant colors and, well, zombies. It's a lot of fun. Grindhouse is an awesome throwback to 1970s grindhouse film. Stardust is arguably not that unusual or high concept, but then the film's director describes it as The Princess Bride meets Midnight Run. It's probably not as good as either of those films, but that doesn't make it bad (actually, in this mediocre year, it stood out for me, despite the fact that it did so poorly in theaters.)

Next up is a buch of miscellaneous awards, followed by my top 10 of 2007. Both may be posted this weekend, but the top 10 might take a little longer.
Posted by Mark on January 18, 2008 at 12:18 AM .: link :.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Action Sequences & Best Plot Twist/Surprise
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts. Here are the awards for Best Action Sequences & Best Plot Twist/Surprise:

Best Action Sequences: The Bourne Ultimatum

It almost seems like the filmmakers went out of their way to devise the most complex action scenes possible. The train station sequence was nothing short of brilliant. The foot race and fight in tangiers was less unique, but extremely well executed (great stunt work). And a car chase in New York can't be an easy thing to film. Greengrass and his crew nailed every scene. Most of the other nominees were also quite good. I wanted to mention Live Free or Die Hard because it was actually pretty entertaining, certainly much moreso than I was expecting (which is to say, I wasn't expecting much), and the action sequences were well done. 300 had a lot of good action, but by the end, it had become repetitive (I still enjoyed it).

Best Plot Twist/Surprise: The Mist

Minor Spoilers! It's a controversial ending, to be sure. Apparently the book was much more open ended than the movie. But no matter what you think of the film's ending, you have to admit, it was a gutsy move. I mean, it's a movie that wants you to wonder which is worse - humans or the monsters in the mist. It takes a pretty bleak view of humanity... but then, the ending emphasises the price of hopelessness. The other nominees had some good twists as well, particularly The Orphanage and Eastern Promises. A lot of times, twists in movies are ruined by the knowledge that they're coming. If you know something's coming, it's much less difficult to be surprised by it. So the best twists are the ones you don't see coming. All three of the films I mentioned are kinda like that. Sure, I had an inkling for all of them, but it's not like I was watching a M. Night Shyamalan movie.

And coming down the homestretch, tomorrow we've got the final category: Most Unusual Film (and now that I think about it, Best High Concept Film would probably still work for this category)
Posted by Mark on January 17, 2008 at 07:43 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Sequel & Biggest Disappointment
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts. Here are the awards for Best Sequel and Biggest Disappointment:

Best Sequel: The Bourne Ultimatum

This wasn't a particularly difficult decision. After all, most sequels aren't all that great, and this year was no exception. The Bourne movies are indeed quite good, and director Paul Greengrass has managed to make two very good sequels to the original. His fast cuts and shaky camera may annoy some, but Greengrass does a good job of it. It's easy to dismiss such filmmaking until you see a film that attempts the same style and utterly fails (*cough, cough* Transformers *cough*). Anyway, it's not like there was much in the way of competition this year.

Biggest Disappointment: Spider-Man 3

This is the only "negative" category, and it's actually a difficult one. Last year, I chose a movie I actually kinda liked, but which didn't live up to lofty expectations. There are a couple of nominees like that this year, but the winner is more of a bad film that didn't live up to expectations. The first two Spider-Man movies were brilliant, and far exceeded my expectations. The third installment fell flat, succumbing to the typical superhero trap of introducing far too many characters (notably villains, though the character count is way up overall). Then there's also the bizzarre central portion where Peter Parker becomes a tool and does a dance number or something. The first two movies had moments like that, but they were only moments, and they actually helped serve the story. This movie is just a mess.

On deck: Best Action Sequences and Best Plot Twist/Surprise
Posted by Mark on January 16, 2008 at 07:52 PM .: link :.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Most Visually Stunning & Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts. Here are the awards for Most Visually Stunning film and Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film:

Most Visually Stunning: Sunshine

This was a really difficult category this year, as there weren't any huge standouts for me. I ended up on Sunshine, mostly because it's a good film that gets no props and it's gorgeous too. Some of the other films on the list (like No Country or There Will be Blood) probably have more technically sound cinematography and photography (and they're pretty), but they're also relatively straightforward in their craft. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not as visually arresting as epic space-themed sequences that take place near the sun... I should probably also mentione Ratatouille, as it really is quite impressive, but animation is almost like cheating in this category! Still, it's worth recognizing.

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film: The Orphanage

Yep, a last minute entry into the category ends up winning the whole thing. I just saw this movie this past weekend, and I absolutely loved it. By far the best horror movie of the year. It focuses more on a psychological horror, though there are some stingers (aka Boo! moments). Really, though, it's not filled with those moments, which is why it works so well. It's the anticipation that really kills you. The ending is quite odd, but I think it works really well. The other nominees are all pretty good, but my second place would have to go to Sunshine. It's got all the standard space exploration cliches (unfortunately, that means it's got both good and bad ones), but I actually liked it, even the ending (which turned a lot of people off).

It's a shame that there really weren't many other SF films this year (or last year, or the year before...) Unfortunately, it seems like this trend will continue. Even longstanding series like Star Trek seem stagnant (a key indicator of stagnation is moving the story backwards to fill in the past of the universe, as Trek has done with their last series, Enterprise, and with the new JJ Abrams movie). For that matter, why isn't there anything new going on in the genre? All the most popular SF going on right now (Trek, Aliens, Predator, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, etc...) is based on the nostalgic love of movies/series that were made 20-40 years ago. And a lot of that is crap. AVPR was mildly entertaining, the new Terminator series is horrible. Only Battlestar Galactica seems to be doing anything fun, and that's based on a crappy 25+ year old TV series. What was the biggest SF event of this past year? You could argue that it's the 5 disc DVD set of Blade Runner, a 25 year old movie based on a 40 year old story. What we really need is a genre-smashing film or TV series made by a talented filmmaker. I thought perhaps the "untitled Darren Aronofsky sci-fi project" might do something, but that turned out to be The Fountain, which barely qualifies as SF, if at all. We need a new Kubrick-like talent to shake up the genre the way 2001 did... Ok, so I've babbled on about SF enough for now.

Coming tomorrow: Best Sequel and Biggest Disappointment
Posted by Mark on January 15, 2008 at 09:18 PM .: link :.

Monday, January 14, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Comedic Performance & Breakthrough Performance
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts. Here comes the Best Comedic Performance and Breakthrough Performance awards:

Best Comedic Performance: (tie) Michael Cera and Jonah Hill in Superbad

A bit of a cheat, sure, but this comic duo works perfectly together, and Superbad was the movie that made me laugh the most this year. A big part of those laughs was Hill's exuberance and, to offset that, Cera's straight-man act was perfect. I do want to mention two of the other nominees though. Simon Pegg's performance in Hot Fuzz was spot on and featured a number of extremely subtle in-jokes and references (for example, when he runs, he looks like the T-1000 from T2 and when he yells, he does so like Swartzenegger from the end of Predator (i.e. the "Ruuun! Get to da chappah!")). I'd imagine that some people are confused by my nomination of Kristen Wiig in Knocked Up. After all, she's only on screen for what? 2, maybe 3 minutes? Well, she steals every second, and IMHO she's the funniest part of the movie.

Breakthrough Performance: Josh Brolin in Grindhouse and No Country for Old Men

Ok, nominating Ellen Page again was a bit of a cheat, but I wanted to recognize her again because she gave another exellent performance and she didn't win last year. But she wasn't really a breakthrough to me. Her performance was excellent, but I expected that. The other person in the running for this was Michael Cera who put in two good performances this year. In the end, though, Brolin was the real surprise. Where did this guy come from? Oh yeah, The Goonies! But that was over 20 years ago. It's interesting, I suppose, how someone's career can change so quickly, as Brolin went from B-level to A-list seemingly at the drop of a hat. He was excellent in both Grindhouse and No Country, and he turned up in American Gangster and In the Valley of Elah as well. He seems to be busy...

Next up: Most Visually Stunning and Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
Posted by Mark on January 14, 2008 at 07:44 PM .: link :.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards: Best Villain/Hero/Badass
The nominations for the 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards were announced last week. This week, I'll be announcing two winners every day, culminating in a post with my top 10 movies of the year and possibly some other wrap-up posts.

Best Villain/Badass: Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men

This was a more difficult decision than I originally thought. The diabolical Chigurh was the first villain that came to mind for this category, but a couple of other villains really deserved some consideration. I didn't really consider Ben Foster for the win, but I did want to recognize his twisted turn as Charlie Prince in 3:10 to Yuma (he turned out to be a much more compelling villain than Russell Crowe's Ben Wade). I did seriously consider Stuntman Mike from Grindhouse, but while he does make for a great villain, he doesn't turn out to be that much of a badass... Billy Mitchell, a man who made a name for himself by playing video games, might not seem like your typical villain, but I actually did seriously consider him for this award. Just about every time he opens his mouth, I wanted to punch him in the face. I think he's definitely the runner up, which is really saying something, as he's in a documentary film about Donkey Kong (i.e. not a source of villainy you'd expect). In the end, no one could really compare to the chilling, unstoppable killer played brilliantly by Javier Bardem. He's a shoe-in for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar (assuming the Oscars happen this year).

Best Hero/Badass: Nikolai, played by Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises

A much better year for heroic badasses (even if a few are borderline "heroes"), this was a really hard category. King Leonidas and Jason Bourne were on the shortlist, but I ended up going with Viggo Mortensen's Russian gangster, mostly because of that one spectacular no-holds-barred fight sequence in which Mortensen's character takes on two armed attackers and wins... despite being naked for the whole fight. There are other moments of badassery in the movie, but that one scene says everything you need to know about Mortensen's character. The movie is overall flawed, but this character is what makes it watchable.

Up next: Best Comedic Performance and Breakthrough Performance. Check back Monday for the winners.
Posted by Mark on January 13, 2008 at 01:37 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

2008 Predictions
I've never done this before, but let's give it a shot. Here are some predictions for 2008:
  • Neal Stephenson will announce a new novel, and it will feature a portion set in the U.S. Civil War era. It's been around 3-4 years since his last novel (if you want to call the 2700 page Baroque Cycle a novel), and he seems to be putting out a new novel at about that rate. It may or may not feature distant relatives from the Shaftoe and Waterhouse families (along with the other legacies like Enoch Root, the von Hacklhebers, etc...). I have a specific reason for predictiing the 1860s setting, but I could be wrong. If the book is a continuation of the Cryptonomicon/Baroque Cycle series, then I'm much more certain about the setting. However, I seem to remember reading an interview where Stephenson said his next book won't be a part of that series because he just needed to get away from those characters and themes for a while, certainly an understandable sentiment when you consider that he's probably spent somewhere on the order of 10 years (and 3600-4000 pages) writing about them. However, if that's the case, then I'm considerably less confident about the setting, though it's still a possibility.
  • The WGA strike will end or the writers will go back to work without a contract (this could happen if enough progress is made and the writers think it's reasonable). Nevertheless, the strike will have lasted long enough that irreversable damage will be done to the industries affected. As a consumer, this probably won't be so bad, as the vacuum will no doubt be filled with something interesting (probably something interactive, like video games or something like a real time internet video show. Or some combination of both.)
  • Much to my disappointment, Sony's Blu Ray will continue to gain ground in the HD format war and despite last ditch, desperate attempts to salvage their business during the 2008 holiday season, HD-DVD will be all but dead by the end of the year. Cheap players will continue to sell (they're not worthless, as a cheap HD-DVD player will still upconvert regular DVDs - and their prices are honestly rather comparable), but that won't mean much if there are no movies to buy in that format. I hope I'm wrong with this one, but I'm not betting on it...
  • The use of DRM will decline in the music industry, but increase in the movie industry. This will be exacerbated by a decline in theater and DVD sales. Next year has a noticeable dearth of sure-fire blockbusters (the new Indy movie notwithstanding), and DVD sales will continue their slow decline (there are numerous reasons for this - people are becoming inured to the double dipping DVD release strategies, they already have their rainy day library built up enough, and a host of other reasons). As it stands now, Netflix isn't able to do their watch online feature without using proprietary (MSIE only), annoying DRM, and other services are similarly hobbled. I agree with Fledge in that "The first company to let you click one button and download a movie - no frills, no subtitles, no disc extras, just the movie - directly to your DVD burner and stick that in your home theater DVD player is going to mint money, for themselves and for the movie studios." Unfortunately, I don't see that happening this year. I hope I'm wrong!
  • Barack Obama will win the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. This is not an expression of my political preferences (i.e. it's not a personal statement about Obama one way or the other), as I mostly burned myself out on politics a few months before the 2004 elections and haven't paid much attention since. It's just the vibe I'm getting.
Hmm, yeah, I really went out on a limb with these. I stink at this.
Posted by Mark on January 09, 2008 at 12:28 AM .: link :.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards
I saw somewhere on the order of 60 movies that were released in 2007. Believe it or not, this is somewhat down from 2006, mostly due to an otherwise busy year. In any case, this is also somewhat more than what most moviegoers see, so I wanted to do a roundup similar to last year. The categories for this years movie awards are mostly the same as last year, and I think we'll proceed in a similar manner. Nominations will be announced today, and starting next week, I'll announce the winners (new winners announced every day). After that, there might be some miscellaneous awards, followed by a 2007 top 10 films list.

To me, 2007 has been an unusual year for movies. A lot of critics, including Roger Ebert, seem to be saying that 2007 is one of the best years for movies in a long time, but I don't see that. I agree more with James Berardinelli (my other favorite critic) in that 2007 seems to be a weaker year. In comparison to 2006, I find myself struggling much more to compile a top 10 list this year. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of good films in 2007, but most of them are flawed in one way or another. When it comes to flawed movies, there are almost always cases where I am so in love with a film that I overlook its flaws (or its flaws become somehow endearing to me). For some reason, this didn't happen as often in 2007. I don't know if I'm just getting pickier in my old age or if it's a genuine lack of good films. All I can say is that several films I left off of my 2006 top 10 would beat out several films that will probably make my 2007 list. I'm not sure what to expect from 2008, especially when you consider the WGA strike... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The rules for this are the same as last year: Nominated movies must have been released in 2007 and I have to have seen the movie (and while I have seen a lot of movies, I don't pretend to have seen a comprehensive selection - don't let that stop you from suggesting something though). Also, I suppose I should mention the requisite disclaimer that these sorts of lists are inherently subjective and personal. Part of the reason I'm doing this is just to give some love to films that I like, but which aren't necessarily great or are otherwise flawed (as such, the categories may seem a bit eclectic). Some of these movies will end up on my top 10, but the grand majority of them will not.

Best Villain/Badass
Despite my overall feelings, it seems that 2007 was a much better year for baddasses and villainy. As with last year, my picks in this category are for individuals, not groups (i.e. no vampires or zombies as a group) Winner Announced!

Best Hero/Badass
Again limited to individuals and not groups, and again, a much stronger year in terms of badassery. Winner Announced!

Best Comedic Performance
The great thing about laughter is that it's involuntary, but some of the below performances are great because you do need to think about them or recognize something subtle about their performance. Winner Announced!

Breakthrough Performance
Last year, my main criteria for this category was watching a movie, then immediately looking up the actor/actress on IMDB to see what else they've done (or where they came from). This sometimes happens for even well established actors/actresses, so last year's list was quite personal. This year, there are a few personal picks, but it also works as a sort of mainstream breakthrough list. Winner Announced!

Most Visually Stunning
Sometimes even bad films look great, but this year's lineup actually is actually pretty good. On the other hand, none are as visually stunning as some of the 2006 nominees. Winner Announced!

Best Sci-Fi or Horror Film
Genre films get no love, especially from critics, but I'm a total genre hound. I love these genres, so it's unfortunate that there aren't that many to choose from. Still, a pretty good showing for horror this year, though scifi continues struggle (the one genuinely good entry this year turns out to be an homage to philosophical scifi like 2001 or Solaris). Scifi seems to be going the way of the Western or the Musical (both of which have struggled in the past, but which have also been making a somwhat recent comback). Winner Announced!

Best Sequel
There were a lot of sequels this year, with emphasis on threequels. As one would expect, most sequels didn't fare so well. Still, there were a couple that I enjoyed. Winner Announced!

Biggest Disappointment
This is a really difficult category this year because I found a lot of movies disappointing this year. In a lot of cases, they were minor disappointments. These tended to be good films overall, but for whatever reason, I was expecting more (in a bunch of cases, I was looking forward to a new film from a director I liked who didn't quite live up to expectations - this was certainly the case with last year's "winner"). The most eggregious are below, but if I included all disappointments, it would be a really long list. Winner Announced!

Best Action Sequences
These aren't really individual action sequences, but rather an overall estimation of each film. Winner Announced!

Best Plot Twist/Surprise
This was a mildly weak year for plot twists, but some decent ones are below. Winner Announced!

Most Unusual Film
A new category! Alas, I had trouble coming up with nominees. This was originally the "Best High Concept Film" but the below movies aren't really high concept, so I scrapped that. I suppose there can be high concept elements to them, but they're more unusual than anything else. Winner Announced!

Anyone have any suggestions (for either category or nominations)? Comments, complaints and suggestions are welcome, as always.

It looks like Grindhouse is leading the way with an unprecedented 8 nominations, while No Country for Old Men takes in a very respectable 4 nominations. The Bourne Ultimatum, Superbad, and Fido rack up a respectable 3 nominations while a whole bunch of films manage to pull down 2 nominations. As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to give myself a week to think about each of these. I might end up adding to the nominations if I end up seeing something new, or I could add a new category ("Best Tracking Shots" comes to mind, but I haven't seen Atonement yet, and that seems to get all the press when it comes to long takes and tracking shots, so I should probably see that first...) There are a few other high profile films that I still haven't seen yet, (There Will Be Blood and The Orphanage come to mind) but hopefully I'll see those before I get to my top 10. Winners will be announced starting next Sunday or Monday.

Update: A few last minute additions: There Will Be Blood (I also wanted to add Daniel Day Lewis' Daniel Plainview to one of the "Badass" categories, but, uh, which one does he really belong in? He's not a villain, nor is he really a hero. He wouldn't win anyway, but I should note that his performance is incredibly intense, yet he manages (for 2/3 of the film, at least) to embody a conflicted and complex character. I don't think he'd win anyway, so I'll leave him off both categories) picks up one for Most Visually Stunning, as does Ratatouille (a film I inexplicably forgot to include in this category). The Orphanage makes its way into the already crowded Best Scifi/Horror Film category as well as the Best Plot Twist/Surprise category.

Again Update: Arbitrary Awards have been posted. Also see the Top 10 Movies of 2007 list.
Posted by Mark on January 06, 2008 at 12:44 PM .: link :.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Link Dump: The Lost Edition
Not lost as in the TV show, but lost as in, where am I?
  • The Key to Reserva: Breathtaking short film (about 10 minutes) based on a "lost" Hitchcock script, directed by Martin Scorsese in the style of Hitchcock as if Hitchcock were making a movie today the way he would make a movie in the 1950s. It's hard to explain, just watch it.
  • Lunatic at Large: This script, commissioned by Stanley Kubrick in the late 1950s and lost when he moved to England in 1962, has recently been uncovered by Kubrick's son-in-law, who is attempting to get it made.
    There were a couple of false starts. Mr. Hobbs originally approached the French company Pathé — partly because the French hold Jim Thompson in the same esteem as Edgar Allan Poe and Mickey Rourke — and after that arrangement fell through, he formed a partnership with Edward R. Pressman, a New York-based producer, and the London producers Finch & Partners. Mr. Pressman, who is expected to announce the completion of the deal today, said the film would be directed by Chris Palmer, from a finished script by Stephen R. Clarke.
  • The Best 19 Movies You Didn't See in 2007: (Not technically "lost" but close enough!) This sort of list is strange. After all, how does this guy know I didn't see these movies? But it's actually a good list. I'm usually pretty knowledgeable when it comes to movies, even offbeat and obscure ones, but there were a few surprises in here for me. How is it that I never heard of Fido? I've seen 6 of the films on the list, and most were pretty good. I've got a couple others coming from Netflix. Interesting.
  • All Movie Talk: This exceptional, now defunct, podcast is actually the source (directly and indirectly) of two of the above links. It's the only film podcast I've ever seen that even comes close to rivaling the excellent Filmspotting. It's less timely in that it doesn't cover recent releases in the way that Filmspotting does, but that really only serves to make the episodes more timeless, and I'm currently devouring their archives at a frightening rate. These guys really know their stuff, and you can really learn a lot about film and film history by listening to their show. Incidentally, the hosts are the guys behind Rinkworks, so you get a lot of funny asides and "how to" segments (for instance, I just listened to a segment called How To: Be the Slasher, a handy guide for slasher villains who don't know how to terrorize teenagers in a proper fashion). Anyway, it's a great podcast, and well worth listening to for those interested in film. It's a shame they had to close up shop, but it's certainly understandable - this sort of show has got to be a lot of work.
That's all for now. 2007 Kaedrin Movie Awards are coming (in typical Kaedrin fashion, the 2007 movie wrapup happens in 2008.)
Posted by Mark on January 02, 2008 at 09:51 PM .: link :.

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