Saturday, August 30, 2014

REVIEW: Ida


After years of working in the British film industry, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski returned to his homeland to direct the post-World War II drama Ida. Filmed in black-and-white, the film captures the solemn aftermath of the Holocaust to stunning effect. It’s an austere piece of filmmaking that vividly illustrates the lingering darkness and painful secrets of the past.

Read more at The Awards Circuit

Friday, August 29, 2014

#FF Fall/Winter previews, Quentin Tarantino and more...


As you may or may not know, I recently joined the team at The Awards Circuit. We've got lots of great writers over there and recently we all came together for an extensive preview of movies for the fall/winter season. You can find the link for that below, as well as some other interesting reads from the past week:

The Awards Circuit published a list of Top 50 Films You Need to See for the Fall.

Nick also wrote a list of his most anticipated Fall/Winter movies.

Sara from French Toast Sunday examined the directing style of Quentin Tarantino for her latest Trope Talk.

Clayton wrote a personal essay about his recent move to Los Angeles.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, August 28, 2014

AAFCA announces its 2015 Special Achievement Award Winners


The African American Film Critics Association has just announced the dates for their 2015 Awards Ceremony as well as the recipients of Special Achievement awards. The award winners are Donna Langley (Universal Pictures Chairwoman), Stephanie Allain (Los Angeles Film Festival Director), Franklin Leonard (Black List.com co-founder), Susan King (LA Times entertainment reporter) and Debra Martin Chase (producer). Read below for the full press release:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

COMING SOON: The Oscar Slate

The summer gave us it's fair share of cinematic thrills this year but we cinephiles know that most likely, the best is still to come. That's right folks, it's the fall/winter season at the box office which means that the internet will soon be abuzz with Oscar talk. From what we've already seen, Boyhood is the only film with the goods to push for Best Picture, so all eyes are on the upcoming slate of films to deliver. So get yourself ready for an exciting few months ahead. Here are your Best Picture contenders:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: Gone With The Wind (part 2)


Welcome to part 2 of this special edition of Hit me with your best shot. This week we looked at the second half of "Gone with the Wind". Many would agree that this section is less impressive than the previous one, as it's more concerned with the melodrama of the characters rather than the striking cinematography and art direction. There's one particular image that stands out to me though. It's one of those great character entrances.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, August 25, 2014

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Chef


This week's top pick is one of the surprise hits of the summer - "Chef". Directed by and starring Jon Favreau, it's a feel-good comedy that will leave you smiling and salivating over its culinary charms. The film's story may be simple, but it makes up for it with it's big heart.

Jon Favreau stars as the titular Chef Carl Casper, a man who is stuck in a rut. After years of overseeing an acclaimed menu at his Los Angeles restaurant, his output has become boring and uninspired. Eager to prove he's still relevant, he plans to experiment with a new menu, just in time for a visit from a top food critic. Unfortunately, the owner rejects the idea and forces him to stick with his traditional offerings. It ends in disaster, as the restaurant receives a scathing review. A social media meltdown follows and Casper is soon out of a job. Hoping to clear his mind and rejuvenate his passion, he heads to Miami with his ex-wife and son for the summer.

What follows is a journey through the USA as Casper goes back to basics, selling Cuban sandwiches out of his newly acquired food truck. Joining him are his son and former co-worker Martin (John Leguizamo). It's an unusual situation (fast food seems far too menial for an ambitious chef), but it pays off in the end. Indeed, the "food porn" aspects are merely backdrop for the heartwarming road trip adventure at the core.

While there are certainly enough delectable meals to appease the Food Network junkies, the narrative's pleasures are much more elementary than the chocolate lava cake which causes a stir in the first act. There's just a sincere expression of joy that emanates from the film. From the adorable father-son bonding to the communal experience of creating and eating food, it reminds us that our jobs should enrich our lives (rather than just provide a paycheck). It's a desire we can all relate to and it's key to the film's success.

Another major source of delight in "Chef" is the casting. The ensemble features a number of well-liked actors - including Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr. and Bobby Cannavale - and they all seem to be having a great time. It's like a dream guest list to a dinner party.

"Chef" may not be the most ambitious film, but its engaging warmth is acutely felt in every frame. You'll hardly ever find a film that's as easy to watch. It's like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food.

Friday, August 22, 2014

#FF French Toast Sunday, Do the Right Thing and more..


If you follow me on twitter you're probably aware that I recently spent a weekend with the awesome French Toast Sunday gang (see above) in Baltimore. I had a really great time hanging out with them and exploring the city (future #LAMBMeetup?). You should definitely follow them and listen to their podcast. On last week's episode, they had a fun discussion on Movies We Recommend But Wouldn’t Watch Twice. Check it out among all these other great links from the past week:

French Toast Sunday did a redux podcast of Movies We Recommend But Wouldn’t Watch Twice.

Kyle from Movie Mezzanine examined the use of the song "Fight the Power" in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing.

Alex gave us an update on his feature film Wait.

Jason wrote short take reviews for Ernest & Celestine, Omar, Outside the Law, The Lego Movie and Suddenly, Last Summer.

Shala made a playlist of 10 Songs that Remind Her of Indie Films.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: Gone With The Wind (part 1)


This week brings the first part of a special 2-week edition of Hit me with your best shot as we tackle the seminal classic - "Gone with the Wind". Nathaniel had us dedicate this first post to the first half of the film (pre-intermission) and it gave us many glorious images to choose from. No matter how you feel about the film, there's no denying its visual grandeur.

Set around the American Civil War, the film shows the fall of the highly romanticized Southern way of life. It depicts these events in a very cinematic way, with stunning views of impressive plantations and the opulence associated with them. It's almost enough to make you pity those seemingly "harmless" Confederates.

For my best shot then, I wanted to capture the visceral power of the film.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, August 18, 2014

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: A Most Wanted Man


This week I only managed to catch one film while on vacation, but it was a significant one. "A Most Wanted Man" is one of the final films (in addition to the Hunger Games franchise) of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and it's a strong reminder of the incredible talent we've lost. In this spy thriller from director Anton Corbijn, the actor shows off his knack for delivering rich, engaging performances.

The story takes place in the shadow of the 9/11 attacks. Following reports that terrorist groups were operating out of Hamburg, a secret spy group has been formed to intercept any future terrorist plots. The group is led by Gunther Bachmann and they are put to the test when a mysterious half-Chechen, half-Russian man named Issa Karpov turns up in Hamburg. The heir to a large fortune from his corrupt father, suspicions arise as to his intentions in Germany. As tensions build, a tug of war ensues between Bachmann, the CIA and a young lawyer (Rachel McAdams) who is determined to protect her client from wrongful extradition.

Adapted from a John le Carre novel of the same name, the solemn tone of the film is similar to his previous adaptations like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy". As with Gary Oldman's performance in that film, "A Most Wanted Man" defers much of its gravitas to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the brooding leader of the central spy agency. It's another superlative performance by the actor, effortlessly transforming himself into the character. He dons a deep voice (with an often indecipherable accent) and employs his trademark slouch when the plot gets really heavy. When he's on screen, the rest of the cast seems to modulate their performance in an act of subconscious reverence for the man and the character. It's truly a showcase role.

Aside from Hoffman though, the rest of the film falls short of greatness. As a former British intelligence agent himself, le Carré certainly knows about the inner workings of a spy operation. The story from the novel involves a lot of planning and hypothesizing as the players gather intelligence, which likely reflects the real nature of the job. In making the transfer to cinema however, screenwriter Andrew Bovell seems to have stuck too closely to the source material. The discussions and political maneuvering surrounding Karpov's links to terrorism are interesting, but there weren't enough suspense and thrills to compliment the drama. With such a stellar cast on hand (particularly Robin Wright, Nina Hoss, Homayoun Ershadi and Willem Dafoe), they could have been better used in order to raise the stakes. This is something that was done with the all-star cast of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" to great effect. Instead, this film is a very slow burn that never really catches a fire.

"A Most Wanted" may not be as thrilling as it should be, but it features a lead performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman that should not be missed. He was an actor at the top of his game and this a shining example of that. May his legacy live on through his incredible filmography.

Friday, August 15, 2014

BEST ACTOR ROUNDTABLE: Spencer Tracy + Wrap-up


Well, we've come to the end of our Twice A Best Actor roundtable series. It was a pleasure to discuss all these performances and I'd like to once again thank Drew for inviting me to the panel. For our final discussion, we examined a pair of Spencer Tracy's early performances.

Click here for the Spencer Tracy discussion

Click here for the final wrap-up post