Ides of March is a full of Hollywood’s finest actors and it shows!

First let’s acknowledge the brilliant poster–one of the best of the year–It caught my attention right away and luckily the film delivered on its promise of awesomeness.   Actor/Director George Clooney is cool–he exudes charm and confidence–and obviously he attracts coolness towards him because he has gathered some of the most talented actors to work in The Ides of March and it pays off. 

How could it not?  Hard hitters, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti–each as the Senior Campaign Managers of opposing candidates, are amazing.  Young and promising Ryan Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood–both as enthusiastic, novice campaign members of Clooney’s “too perfect” Presidential candidate–are pitch perfect.  Even small parts to Jeffrey Wright and Marisa Tomei are played strongly .  Yeah, wow!

Then add a strong story from a former political communications director, Beau Wilmon–who also wrote the play the film is based on–Farragut North.  And you got yourself an interesting, compelling political thriller.  A thriller built on carefully chosen words and things left unsaid. 

I will say that Clooney is settling down nicely in the director’s chair.  He takes his time and uses close-ups to show more than words can say, yet it’s the stellar cast,  that makes this look way too easy. 

I walked out, as I do with most political tales, frustrated and a bit sad–not a the movie–but at the state of politics today.  I am a cynic and these stories only help to intensify my convictions. Ah, well.  Whatcha gonna do?  Nothing we can do–except go out –vote and have our voices heard.

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Real Steel is–surprisingly–well crafted and super fun!!

Hugh Jackman in character in a boxing pose in front of a large boxing robot in a similar pose.

Okay, I wanted to see Real Steel from the get-go and I will admit that it was 100% because of Hugh Jackman (He had me at Wolverine!).  But I was not expecting much, to be honest.  I would’ve been happy with 2 hours of watching Mr. Jackman. (I know…very  artistic of me.)  How awesome is it that I ended getting way more than I expected.  A well crafted, perfectly paced, strongly acted, fun family movie–with fantastic robot action and well…Hugh Jackman.  🙂

It has many familiar themes.  The father/son issues.  The guy with potential who loses it all.  The supportive friend that happens to be a girl and in love with the loser dude.  The underdog wanting to triumph arch.  The use of robots to show violent carnage.   Yup, all pretty standard.  But, as I’ve said before, what matters most is the execution of the themes and how fresh it feels and Real Steel feels fresh and original.

I had a blast watching this movie.  Hugh Jackman is wonderful, as usual–he was made to play this part–.  And new rising star mention has to got to Dakota Goyo as Jackman’s son Max.  The kid is a natural and will should have a promising career. 

Yet, the real big stars here are the robots–especially ATOM!  They’re awesome and beautifully rendered.  The look completely real because they are!  Legacy Studios actually built real robots for the film.  And the boxing matches are motion captured and look super cool!

Check out this blurb from WiKi –it makes me giddy–I’m such a geek:

Jason Matthews of Legacy Effects, successor to Stan Winston Studios, was hired to turn production designer Tom Meyer’s robot designs into practical animatronic props, saying, “We have 26-and-a-half total live-action robots that were made for this film. They all have hydraulic neck controls. Atom has RC [radio-controlled] hands as well.”[15] Star Jackman said executive producer Spielberg “actually said to Shawn, ‘You should really have real elements where you can.’ … Basically if they’re not walking or fighting, that’s a real robot.”[16] For scenes when computer-generated robots brawl, “simulcam” motion capture technology, developed for the film Avatar, was used. As Levy described the process, “[Y]ou’re not only capturing the fighting of live human fighters, but you’re able to take that and see it converted to [CGI] robots on a screen instantaneously. Simulcam puts the robots in the ring in real time, so you are operating your shots to the fight, whereas even three, four years ago, you used to operate to empty frames, just guessing at what stuff was going to look like.”[17] Boxing hall-of-famer Sugar Ray Leonard was an adviser for these scenes.[10]

Now I hear they’re thinking of making a sequel–sweet!!  Something else to look forward to–and 2 more hours with Mr. Jackman! 🙂

Warrior will knock you out–It’s that good!

I will admit–I was surprised by Warrior.  I was not impressed with the trailer and thought it revealed too much (TMI rises its head again)–so, I went in expecting to be mildly entertained.  Instead I was so  invested I was cheering!  And although the themes and elements may be recycled material–the execution feels fresh and it works. 

The majority of the credit goes to the cast–Tom Hardy continues to impress–Joel Edgerton is perfect–they are believable as brothers that have taken different paths and are headed towards a collision course.  The supporting cast is strong–with a special shout out to Frank Grillo as Edgerton’s trainer–I loved their relationship.  But the stand out performance belongs to Nick Nolte.  He delivers a memorable, heartbreaking portrayal as the brothers’ estranged, recovering alcoholic father.  I haven’t seen him this good in a long time.  (Nolte deserves an Oscar nod.) 

The next reason is Gavin O’Connor‘s direction.  He takes his time building characters and expertly creates tension and excitement during the fight scenes.  There were moments where you feel like you are in the cage and it is pretty intense–in a good way! 

You will not be disappointed–actually you will walk out excited about being pleasantly surprised!

Dream House spoiled by TMI trailer :(

This is a perfect example of why my hatred for TMI trailers has intensified.  And let me say first, that I LOVE TRAILERS! I love being excited about a film and being able to take a peek–my recent fb post of Spielberg’s War Horse  trailer proves that–but you know what I am talking about–there are some trailers that pretty much show every funny/cool/action shot the movie has to offer or worse…the moneyshot!  The scene you wish you would’ve experience while watching the movie! I hate that!  I have begun to close my eyes and cover my ears during certain trailers (Drive is the most recent–and I’m glad I did because I heard they showed a lot of the cool scenes).  I want to be enticed, not be forced to see a short summary of the entire PLOT!

Well, obviously now you know what my problem was with Dream House.  I knew all the twists.  I knew all the surprises.  Except the surprise that this was directed by Jim Sheridan who, I guess, should stick with Irish stories.   Unfortunately, the weak execution of what could have been a cool idea creates a forgettable film–mainly because it did not know what it wanted to be…psychological thriller?  Ghost story? It’s a shame because it was strongly acted.  Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts are all doing solid work–but they do not have much to work with. 

So, here is the trailer–if you wanna watch it and not bother with paying to see it.  But if you don’t and have never seen this trailer, you might just enjoy the movie. 🙂

Fantastic Fest 2011–It was truly FANTASTIC!!

fantastic-fest-2011-poster

Wow! What a week!  As a Fantastic Fest  first time badge holder, I kept hearing that this is many of the veteran festival attendees “favorite week of the year!”  And now I understand why.  Fantastic Fest is a genre film festival that is a film geek’s dream–I should know because I am said geek.  It showcases independent films from all over the world–(70+)–that focus on the strange, sci-fi, action and horror forms of entertainment.  One of their taglines is ” A film festival with the boring parts cut out.”  And that is the truth. 

First of all, it is held at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on South Lamar in Austin, TX–which happens to be my favorite theater house.  You get to eat delicious food and drink while watching movies–can it get any better?  Yeah–add 8 days of awesome movies! 

Another thing I loved was the casual atmosphere that promoted conversations and allowed you to mingle with everyone from film guests to the fans.  And the coolest part is that we were all similar–why else would we be there?  Starting debates and discussions was easy and fun.  I actually made a few friends and look forward to keeping in touch. 

Besides movies, the special events were super fun and a nice break from being in a darken theater.  We enjoyed the Opening Party–Karaoke Apocalypse–Prom Night–and the Closing Night Superhero Carnival.  We missed some events  to watch movies–and did not regret that decision since watching movies was our main directive.  But next year, (yeah–gotta do this again!) we might check out the Debates, which include some boxing matches–crazy fun, so I heard.

I watched 26 films and a block of animated shorts.  Interestingly enough, I liked most–loved a handful–thought a few could have been better–and disliked only 3.  That is pretty cool and stands as a testament of how good the festival programmers are in finding quality films. 

I am not going to review each film–that would take a while 🙂 — instead I will list them and rate them with stars–5 stars being the best, of course.  I will try to find trailers and/or links so you can check it out for yourself and keep an eye out if they get US distribution and/or American remakes, which some of them have. 

Overall, I did have one of the best weeks and may have to join the chorus…It has become one of my favorite weeks of the year!  Now, I get to look forward to Fantastic Fest 2012!!

 An American Werewolf in London  (US)  ***** –Nice to see this classic on the big screen!

Aardvark (US)  **

Blind (Korea)  ****

Borderline (France)  ****

A Boy and His Samurai (Japan)  *****  — # 1– Absolutely wonderful!

The Corridor (Canada)  *** 

The Day (US)  **** 

The Devil’s Business (UK)  ***

Extraterrestrial (Spain) ****

Haunters (Korea) ****

Headhunters (Norway)  ***** — # 3

The Innkeepers (US)  *****   — # 5

Juan of the Dead (Cuba)  **** — # 10

Last Screening (France) ***

Let the Bullets Fly (Hong Kong)  ***

A Lonely Place to Die (UK)  *****  — # 4

Melancholia (Denmark)  **  (Sorry Von Trier fans–did not like this…)

Penumbra (Argentina)  ****

Retreat (UK) ***

Sleep Tight (Spain)  *****  — # 7

Sleepless Night (France)  ***** — # 6   (optioned for a US remake)

Snowtown (Australia)  ***

The Squad (Colombia)  **** — # 9

Take Shelter (US)  *****  — # 8

You’re Next (US)  *****  — # 2  (picked up by Lionsgate–will be released in  2012–which is awesome!) 

Animated Shorts (Various Countries)  ***** Favorites… Lazarov (France) –Bedtime for Timmy (US)–The Last Norwegian Troll (Norway)–Create (US)