Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Men Behind The Artist

An interview with THE ARTIST director, Michel Hazanavicius and star, Jean Dujardin

As is ordinarily the rule during the holiday season, film audiences are inundated with grandiose family fare and a slew of prestige pictures designed to use the power of words to move people to both laughter and tears. One notable exception this year falls somewhere in the middle of this spectrum but does so without uttering a single syllable.

THE ARTIST, French director, Michel Hazanavicius’s ode to an era of cinema that has long been forgotten, will most certainly differentiate itself from the glut of awards season contenders this year, simply by being the charming delight of a film that it is. There is one other factor that will likely get everyone talking about it though; it’s silent.

As I’m sure you can imagine, getting THE ARTIST made was no easy feat. “At the very beginning, I felt very lonely because nobody wanted to make this movie,” Hazanavicius tells me when we meet at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the many carefully chosen festival stops THE ARTIST made on its path towards tentative Oscar gold. “Now, to see so many people delighted to see the film, it’s very gratifying,” he concludes, with sincere and evident appreciation.

The idea to make a silent movie was one Hazanavicius tossed around for years and one that he is certain he is not alone in having. “It is a fantasy that I think many directors have,” he claims.  “A lot of us would love to at least try to do it. Maybe I wanted it a little bit more.” It was not until after he found success with his OSS 117 spy film series that anyone took his idea seriously though. “Once you have some success, people don’t see you the same way,” he admits. “Suddenly, something that could be insane becomes doable.”

Dujardin as George Valentin
And so Hazanavicius enlisted the help of his OSS 117 stars, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo (who is, incidentally, also his wife), to take on the leads in his crazy dream project. According to Hazanavicius, Bejo was on board from the start, but Dujardin was somewhat concerned when he first heard of the idea. “Yes, I thought he was crazy but Michel is incredibly hard working,” Dujardin confided to me, when we too met at this year’s TIFF. “Michel’s preparation ahead of time made everything go smooth though and he has advanced his career ten years with this film.”

Hazanavicius’s research included screening several silent films, his favorites being the American examples from the final years of the silent era (1924-1929). “I watched a lot of silent films to understand the rules and there are more rules than in a usual movie,” he explains. “In many ways though, it was more freeing. You can go places you usually don’t go because it does not have to be so realistic.”

Hazanavicius on set
Despite all his well researched knowledge on the subject, Hazanavicius knew that selling THE ARTIST  to mainstream audiences would not be so simple. This awareness directly influenced the story of the film. “I thought that to tell a story about a silent actor would make things easier for the audience to accept it was a silent movie,” he says of the story’s origins. In keeping with that, Dujardin plays a successful Hollywood star who falls out of favour when he refuses to acknowledge the “talkies” as anything but a passing fad.

Modern audiences might find the shift in pace to be an adjustment at first, but what makes THE ARTIST  so successful is its inherent celebration of the cinema itself. By scaling everything back, Hazanavicius reminds us what true movie magic is. The fact that he and his incredibly talented cast, which also includes John Goodman and James Cromwell, do so without any dialogue, begs the question, do today’s movies talk way too much?

Bejo as Peppy Miller
“Language is very practical but it is usually just information,” Hazanavicius responds. “It’s so rich to communicate in other ways and it is too easy to just use words.” This is a sentiment that Dujardin also agrees on. “The overuse of dialogue in modern movies is just a sign of not trusting the actor’s performance. Many things can be expressed without words.”

Whether general filmgoers embrace THE ARTIST remains to be seen but at this stage, that almost seems beside the point. “The arch of this film’s journey is such a nice story,” says a very proud, Hazanavicius. “And it’s still barely beginning.”

This article was originally published in Hour Community.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Best of Black Sheep: THE ARTIST

Written and Directed by Michel Hazanavicius
Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman and James Cromwell

George Valentin (on a title card): I won’t talk. I won’t say a word!

Some critics would be hard pressed to find genuine artistry in the film industry today, but they needn’t look any further than THE ARTIST, French director, Michel Hazanavicius’s homage to another era. It is a fine celebration of the cinema and the art involved in making the movies feel magical. True to the period in which it is set (Hollywood, 1927), the film is black and white, shot in the more box-y 1.33:1 aspect ratio and, perhaps most notably, the film is silent. Somehow though, without a single word uttered throughout, THE ARTIST keeps you hanging on every frame.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the artist in THE ARTIST, believes the introduction of sound into film to be a gimmick, a passing fad. You and I both know how very wrong he was but he held true to the cinema’s authentic and humble origins. His refusal to grow and change with the times finds him falling out of favour with his studio and subsequently continuing to fall, only this time on hard times. Meanwhile, the woman he is in love with, actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo, Hazanavicius’s wife) is being swept up in the emerging success of the “talkies”. Valentin must essentially adapt or die; he must find his voice again in order to finally be heard by his public and the woman he loves. As simple as the plot is, it is its refined execution that makes the whole exercise seem effortless, allowing nothing but great warmth and passion to emanate from the screen.

It’s funny how we take things like dialogue for granted and it’s hard to believe that the movies really were like this at one point in time. As demonstrated in the film’s opening sequence, elegant theatres would be filled to capacity with patrons decked out in their finest wares, anxiously awaiting the latest screen adventures of their favorite Hollywood stars. An orchestra would not only fill the room with music but it would also fill the silence between the actors on the screen. Emotion and intention needed to be clearly communicated without speaking in order for the film to be successful. And while it may at times come off as exaggerated or false, the point was usually made. By honouring the silent film and doing it such great justice, THE ARTIST almost renders the usage of words completely pointless.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Written by John Logan
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Ben Kingsley, Sasha Baron Cohen, Chloe Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield

Isabelle: We could get into trouble.
Hugo: That’s how you know it’s an adventure.

Before any image even appears on screen, master filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, sets his scene with the sounds of his central character, Hugo Cabret’s life. Clocks are ticking, gears are clicking and trains are passing. These are the sounds one knows well when one lives behind the faces of clocks in a grand Parisian railway station. Once Scorsese shows us the images to match his intriguing soundscape, there is no escape. You are instantly taken on a 3-Dimensional journey that floats high above the snow-filled Paris sky and swoops seamlessly into the busy station. The magical ride that is Scorsese’s HUGO has begun and you won’t want to get off.

As Hugo, played by the talented young actor, Asa Butterfield, darts in and around clock gears and busy crowds, it is immediately clear that HUGO features some of the best, if not the best, 3D work to emerge from its current renaissance. In the hands of a skilled and dynamic filmmaker like Scorsese, the levels of depth added to the screen are dazzling. It certainly helps that Hugo’s journey, based on the Brian Selznick picture book, and the setting in which it takes place, are so rich and colorful to begin with. The train station where Hugo lives is populated not only with travelers but quirky, if not somewhat cliched, characters, and his unintentional interaction with them leads him on an adventure he hopes will heal his tormented past. It isn’t long before Hugo soon learns that he’s not the only one whose past haunts him.

While Scorsese’s intuition as a filmmaker lends itself incredibly well to the 3D format, his ability to tell a focused story is somewhat lacking here. Famous for hard hitting gangster films and tortured characters, his first foray into family filmmaking is certainly exciting but somewhat misguided. At times, it isn’t clear whose story he is actually telling. Is HUGO about a boy, orphaned after the recent loss of his father (Jude Law), struggling to find a way to move on, or is it a love letter to the great film masters of the past? Scorsese plays homage to film history throughout HUGO and, in doing so, he accomplishes two things. For one, he honours his influences with great style while bravely bringing film itself forward with his own commendable technique. The unfortunate offshoot though is that he seems to distract himself from the story at hand with his own visual prowess.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


 Written by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Simon Curtis
Starring Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench

Marilyn Monroe: All people see is Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they realize I'm not her, they run away.

In 1956, one of the biggest stars and sex symbols the world has ever known travelled to England to make a movie with one of the world’s most respected stage actors. Somewhere in the middle of the inevitable chaos and drama that ensued, a young man named Colin Clark was embarking on his first job in the movie business. The star was Marilyn Monroe; the actor was Sir Laurence Olivier; and the movie was THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL. Clark’s budding film career never took off but his unique experience would one day become a book (“The Prince, the Showgirl and Me”), which in turn has now become a movie called, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN.

The shoot itself actually went several weeks long but when it comes to spending time with Monroe, the experience is so fleeting that it can feel like an instant that has ended long before it should. There was nothing Clark, portrayed here by fresh faced, Eddie Redmayne, could have done to prepare himself for the magnitude of Monroe’s magnetism. And as the splendid Michelle Williams demonstrates with her finely nuanced performance, there was very little Monroe could do to tame that pull either. Though Clark is just a glorified gopher on set, his innocence and honesty grab Monroe’s attention and before long she latches on to him to use as a shield from the multitude of things that frighten her in general. Her near crippling fear and anxiety in turn threatens the success of the shoot, which causes a serious rift with Sir Laurence, who is played with great exuberance by Kenneth Branagh.

Director, Simon Curtis and writer, Adrian Hodges, both relative unknowns in the world of Hollywood feature filmmaking, infuse MY WEEK WITH MARILYN with a delicate subtlety that allows for simple but sympathetic insight into the mind of the infamous starlet. Bolstered by the almost always brilliant Williams, Monroe comes across here as part frightened little girl, lost in a world she barely understands and part experienced woman, aware of her position and unafraid of abusing her power if it means alleviating her own distress temporarily. She enjoys the attention but also doesn’t know what to do with it when she has it. Most importantly, she is aware that she is more commodity now than person, yet seems more or less content to play along. This might perhaps be because she has no idea how to change the direction of her life or it might be because she no longer remembers who the real Marilyn is anymore.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller
Directed by James Bobin
Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper and Kermit the Frog

Kermit the Frog: Maybe you don't need the whole world to love you. 
Maybe you just need one person.

The first Muppet movie in over 10 years, simply called THE MUPPETS, was tailor made for people just like me – fans of the show that long for simpler times, when frogs both ran theatres and away from pigs. With the threat of losing their long abandoned Muppet Theatre, the whole gang – joined by Amy Adams, brand new Muppet, Walter, and co-writer (and new personal hero) Jason Segel  – band together to put on one more show to prove to the world, and themselves, that they still have what it takes. At the risk of giving it all away, I can assure you, The Muppets definitely still have it.

In today’s fast paced world of crude humour and low attention spans, The Muppets run the risk of being perceived as no longer relevant. Segel, and co-writer, Nicholas Stoller (director of Segel collaboration, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL), weave this danger into their plot. The setting is the present and, as we Muppet fans know, there has been very little Muppet presence in the media for some time now. Fans have not forgotten but they have long since moved on. Segel plays Gary, a character that mirrors his real life devotion to The Muppets. Together with his brother, Walter (a Muppet voiced by Peter Linz), they use their deep rooted appreciation for The Muppets to convince them to come out of retirement. It remains unknown as to whether contemporary audiences will still care but the sense of nostalgia that permeates every moment of this film draws fans in and gets the whole audience rooting for the comeback they so truly deserve.

In that sense, it is brilliantly written, modernized without feeling inauthentic. If you were a fan of The Muppets, you will be inundated with warm memories and fuzzy feelings throughout this film. From a strictly critical perspective, there are a few musical moments (written by Bret McKenzie, one half of the Flight of the Conchords duo) that drag, a few plot holes that could have saved their theatre without having to actually put on a show and a few cameos (from Sarah Silverman to Neil Patrick Harris to Jack Black) that were clearly longer to begin with, but when you’re caught up in this much fun, these kinds of things hardly matter. When it comes down to it, I laughed; I cried; and I wanted to watch it again as soon as it ended. THE MUPPETS is without question the family movie of the year!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Best of Black Sheep: SUPER 8

Written and Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard

Charles: It looks like a disaster movie, doesn't it?

J.J. Abrams, the man behind the polarizing television series, “Lost” and the stellar STAR TREK reboot from a couple years back, longs for simpler times in his latest adventure, SUPER 8. The film has been shrouded in secrecy and mystery since it was announced, which I imagine excited Abrams a great deal, and it is finally time to see what all the fuss is about. Is it another big budget thrill ride from start to finish? Or will it be a long, meandering mess of confusion that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere at all? With Abrams, you never know what you’re going to get until you get it and people are never really in agreement once they have it either. With SUPER 8 though, you’re going to get something altogether new for the director – a fun time for all.

It is 1979 and a handful of geeky kids are set for the summer of their lives in Lillian, Ohio, making a zombie movie with their super-8mm camera. Their naiveté draws the viewer into their world and suddenly Abrams’ longing for a time when kids were perfectly amused riding bikes and playing with model trains, is ours as well. The tricky thing about child-like innocence though is that you never know when it will be taken away. Joe Lamb (played by impressive first-timer, 15-year-old, Joel Courtney) already knows how it feels to have his world crash like a massive train wreck, having just lost his mother in a freak accident. So by the time he actually witnesses an actual derailment, he is better prepared than his filmmaker cohorts to deal with the wreckage. There is no way he could be ready to deal with what they find amongst the debris though. And believe me, there will be times when you won’t know how to deal with it either. It’s quite scary.

Most people expected SUPER 8 to be simple homage to the film’s executive producer, Steven Spielberg, king of the family adventure film. While the influence is undeniable, the execution contains a more modern understanding of emotional communication. Films like E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND are event pictures that commanded attention but the depth in SUPER 8 is at times completely flooring. For instance, Joe has a crush on a girl he shouldn’t, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning). Their fathers (Kyle Chandler and Ron Eldard) are messed up and can’t stand each other but these two can’t help but gravitate towards each other. In one scene, while watching footage of Joe’s deceased mother on a projector, Alice says through her tears, “I know I don’t know you at all, even though it feels like I do.” It is as if they’re discovering themselves and healing their hurt right before our eyes. It is truly moving.

SUPER 8 can be called a tribute and be proud to wear the moniker but the truth of it is that Abrams’ latest is a unique experience unto itself. It is often frightening and tense, surprisingly touching and contains some of the most massive special effects extravagance I’ve seen. Perhaps what it shares most in common with Spielberg’s earlier works is that it too demands to be seen and experienced in theatres, sitting amongst family and friends. It is an event that is utterly thrilling and yet somehow manages great insight and comfort as well – a rare feat as I’m sure we can all agree. In the end, watching these kids come of age made me wish my eyes were still just as wide as theirs. Thanks to SUPER 8, for a couple of hours, they actually were.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Black Sheep interviews George Miller

You’d think that in 2006, the film world would have had enough of penguins. After all, they had been inundated with the lovable creatures for an entire year already. In 2005, the touching documentary, THE MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, charmed audiences around the world and that was followed by the New York City zoo comedy, MADAGASCAR, which featured a merry band of mischievous, and often hilarious, penguin cohorts.

By the time George Miller’s HAPPY FEET made its way to cinemas, it seemed at first that people might finally have had their fill, but their penguin love was apparently insatiable. The film would go on to take in nearly $400 million around the world and beat out Pixar by taking home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. All the same, the film, in which a young penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) learns that his sick ability to tap dance makes him a unique breed and not the pariah he always thought himself to be.

As much as I enjoyed HAPPY FEET, I didn’t see any need for a sequel. I guess you had to be there though. “The first film took so long to make, about four years, and as we were coming into the last year, we were already starting to formulate this new story,” writer/director, Miller, tells me when we meet on his HAPPY FEET TWO press tour. “That’s never happened to me before. I have never been working on a film and thinking of the next one at the same time. I cannot think of any story to tell after this movie though.”

So no "Happy Feet Three" then? “Not at this time. I’ve got another 'Mad Max' movie to make and have been wanting to do that for a decade now,” Miller admits candidly. After looking at his recent success with this series and his previous success with the adorable talking pig movie series, BABE, it’s easy to forget that Miller once directed the "Mad Max" films. He will miss animation though. He explains, “It’s like creating a painting and painting over the top. You can make mistakes because correction is very easy and relatively cheap so the film tends to be a lot tighter and the story more well told.”

That leaves only one danger for a perfectionist filmmaker like Miller. “I haven’t seen the film with an audience yet but I’m going to wait a week or two because I know I’ll want to change something.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley and Judy Greer

Matt King: I’m the back-up parent, the understudy.

It has been seven years since Alexander Payne’s last feature film, SIDEWAYS, charmed critics and audiences alike. The long gestation period has allowed him to make what I would describe as his most satisfying film to date, THE DESCENDANTS. Considering how much I love his earlier films, like ELECTION and ABOUT SCHMIDT, calling his latest his greatest is not a compliment I extend lightly.

At one point in THE DESCENDANTS, a character refers to Matt King’s (George Clooney) current predicament to be one heck of a “unique dramatic situation” and he is not kidding. Payne's witty screenplay finds every single important tie in Matt’s life tangled together and he can no longer move forward until he figures out how to loosen the ropes that are tightening around him. As the executor of his family’s estate, he is responsible for deciding what to do with a fine piece of Hawaiian real estate his ancestors left to him in trust, which has drawn much scrutiny from the locals. More importantly though, his wife is in a coma from a speed boating accident and he has two daughters (Amara Miller and breakout, Shailene Woodley) he barely knows to comfort and console. When he learns that his wife was cheating on him before her accident, it becomes pretty clear that the life he knew is now finished.

As particular as THE DESCENDANTS is, Payne infuses it with his special brand of humanity, sensitivity and humour. Payne has an uncanny knack for bringing his audiences right into the troubled minds of his characters, leaving both their pain and their potential exposed for all to see. In this case, all that heart and heartache seeps from every element of Clooney’s fine performance. With so much on his plate, you can constantly see the wheels turning in his head as he drifts off into thought in the gorgeous Hawaiian skyline.  He acts as a filter of sorts for everything coming before this moment in his life, now faced with the task of passing on only the best parts to his two beautiful daughters. In doing so, THE DESCENDANTS only passes on the best that contemporary drama has to offer to us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Best of Black Sheep: MELANCHOLIA

Written and Directed by Lars von Trier
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland and Alexander Skarsgard

Justine: The Earth is evil. We don’t need to grieve for it. Nobody will miss it.

Leave it to one of the world’s most infamously melancholic directors, Lars von Trier, to open a film with Earth as we know it coming to an abrupt demise. Dead birds drop from the sky, roots come out from the ground and people sink into the dirt beneath their feet. As disturbing and dark as this grandiose overture is, it is also incredibly beautiful to behold and thus defines the paradox that is Lars von Trier. He gives us nothing but sadness but sees everything, on film anyway, for all its incredible magnificence.

MELANCHOLIA, which von Trier also wrote, tells the story of how a planet of the same name crashes into Earth and destroys mankind. It then rewinds a little to take a closer look at two sisters in the days leading up to the end of the world. First, we get to know Justine (Kirsten Dunst). It is her wedding day, which we all know should be the happiest of her life, but happiness is a constant struggle for Justine. As it becomes clear to her that the end is coming, she becomes less interested in pretending she is in good sorts. Her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), lives a good life with her rich husband (Keifer Sutherland) and passes her time by fussing over details. She is the rock of her family and likely just as depressed as her sister, but incapable of letting that show. As they band together to brave the end, they do great justice to the many faces of misery.

Von Trier, who has dealt with depression for most of his life, not only explores the harsh lows of the disease in MELANCHOLIA, but also its lighter side and, more importantly, its futility. Is fighting against the inevitable the best course of action? Or is it better to just give in to your despair and give up all hope for happiness? Von Trier does not pretend to put forth an answer because there is no one answer that matters. The world will end and every single emotion or thought we’ve ever had will cease to exist. Von Trier seems to understand that this is not damnation but rather liberation - that only when we accept that life is meaningless can we truly be free to create the life we want. That’s pretty optimistic coming from a world renowned downer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Written by Dustin Lance Black
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Leonard Dicaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts and Judi Dench

Annie Hoover: Edgar, I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son.

Considering Clint Eastwood has lived to witness most of what he chooses to depict in his J. Edgar Hoover biography, simply titled J. EDGAR, it is an awful shame that so much of it feels lifeless and false. Eastwood’s Hoover accomplishes great things, like taking fingerprint technology nationwide and forensic science to new heights, but he does so with very little fanfare, subsequently inspiring even less interest in his audience. Fortunately, incredible performances by Leonardo Dicaprio and Armie Hammer, as the notorious FBI director and his rumoured romantic partner of many years, Clyde Tolson, elevate the picture high enough to overshadow the drab, washed out stiffness of Eastwood’s former America. Dustin Lance Black’s script is smart not to focus solely on Hoover’s sexuality, but unfortunately, the film only truly comes alive when it does.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Written by Steve Kloves
Directed by David Yates
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Alan Rickman
and Ralph Fiennes

Harry Potter: Is this all real or is it just happening in my head?
Professor Albus Dumbledore: Of course it's all in your head, Harry, but that doesn't mean it isn't real.
As you may or may not already know, I have only ever followed the literary icon, Harry Potter, on film. When the character made his first movie appearance, I watched simply because I was curious to see what everyone else was obsessing about. I even saw the next few films that followed for no other reason other than pure fascination with the incredible spell they cast over their fans. Fantasy has never been my favorite genre but I have always appreciated its grandness and imaginative nature. Despite this though, my interest in Harry Potter changed somewhere along the way (most likely when David Yates took over as director) and I went from mere observer to eager participant. And now that it’s over, I simply wish it weren’t.

As a stand-alone film, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO is not the strongest of the series. In succession with the first part though, it is extremely satisfying. Honestly, how could it not be though? When Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) face off for the last stand to end all subsequent stands of any kind, it is inevitably transfixing. This moment has been coming for years now and even though we all know how its going to play out, whether you’ve read the books or not, there is still a desperate need to see Harry rise to the ultimate occasion of his life. Structurally though, the final installment is somewhat shaky at the start, feeling more like an afterthought instead of the greatest conclusion of all time. It also lacks the whimsy that has always been present in past Potter pictures, no matter how bleak the scenario seems. There is arguably no room for it here but the heaviness can be sometimes too much to bear.

Once HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART TWO lays everything on the table though, it is relentless. In fact, Yates has no interest in holding any casual viewers’ hands for this last outing. It is an emotional journey that must sink deeper and deeper into despair before any hope of success can be found. The battles are epic and characters from the many years at Hogwart’s return to either perish or flourish within those battles. And then there is Harry himself, alongside his two closest allies, Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson). Their growth as both actors and characters has perhaps been the most consistent and compelling aspect of the entire series. Watching them come into their own and develop new understandings of their characters and of themselves has been the series’ secret weapon all along. As they leave the nest, they leave us with one of the most bittersweet farewells at the movies in as long as I can remember.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor
Starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto

With most of Wall Street and the world’s major financial sectors being occupied by protestors and ordinary citizens, who can no longer sit idly by while the global economy is destroyed from within, there could be no better timing for J.C. Chandor’s first feature film, MARGIN CALL, to hit theatres. An all-star cast, ranging from veterans like Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons to relative newbies like Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgly, make this debut a memorable and effective contemplation on what seems more and more like the inevitable collapse of the financial system. If you’re feeling a little lost about the world’s financial woes at the moment, occupying Margin Call should clear up those last lingering questions for you.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


Written by Richard LaGravenese
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz

 Based on the popular and much loved novel by Sara Gruen, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, as adapted by Richard LaGravenese, the writer responsible for romantic weepers like P.S. I LOVE YOU and THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, tells the tale of a young man (Robert Pattinson) who is lost to the world and found by the circus. The action under the big top is bustling with trapeze acts, wild animals and, much to my dismay, plenty of exaggerated, over the top performances that make this show a far cry from the greatest on Earth.

Francis Lawrence, the director of I AM LEGEND, works hard to dazzle the crowds but this is not an easy task when you have all the wrong acts on your roster. The unfortunate thing about Pattinson starring vehicles is that they draw far too much attention to how hollow a performer he is. It doesn’t help matters that his very talented co-stars, Academy Award winners, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz are entirely miscast as the husband and wife team behind the circus. The looks on their faces suggest they would rather be anywhere else and it wasn’t long before I was feeling the same way.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Written and Directed by Mike Mills
Starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent

Oliver: Our good fortune allowed us to feel a sadness our parents didn't have time for.

We might bounce along through life thinking that we have certain things figured out, only life has an amusing way of reminding us that we are constantly starting from scratch. Mike Mills’ second film, BEGINNERS, explores this bewildering facet of life with great brilliance and charm. Vaguely based on his own relationship with his father, Mills examines love in its many forms and applies what he has learned to the patterns in his own life. Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a version of the director on screen, and exhibits a firm emotional understanding of the journey he is set upon when his 75-year-old father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), comes out of the closet. It is as though Hal is reborn and seeing his life for the first time, a sentiment that exudes from Plummer with great sensitivity and depth. Playing witness to this in turn informs Oliver's new relationship with Anna (Melanie Laurent). BEGINNERS may be a very personal story but its message of acceptance and closeness is universal, making it entirely irresistible.