It’s been about a decade since I read Uzodinma Iweala’s ‘Beasts of No Nation’ but I remember it being about as heavy as this trailer for the upcoming adaptation looks. Wire alum Idris Elba stars and True Detective helmer Cary Fukunaga directs this Netflix exclusive. Look for this on October 16.
CineFix’s debuted their Top 10 Most Beautiful Movies of all Time list today and it’s a good one. It’s really nice to see Hero, The Fall, Lawrence of Arabia and Samsara (Terrence Malick should be mandatory on this list, so well done on that, too) included on the list. If you don’t have time to watch the video, which you really should to see the stunning cinematography in these films, here is the full list and description of each film courtesy of CineFix.
Russian Ark (2002)
It’s a single, uncut steadicam shot going through the Russian Heritage museum. Sure, the concept is maybe a gimmick. But it’s amazing.
Woody Allen’s love letter to his favorite city in black and white ultra widescreen is every bit as impactful as Allen’s own memory of the city as a child.
Citizen Kane (1941)
There may be nothing more emblematic of how to make a beautiful movie that Citizen Kane.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This entire film is a ballet of heavenly bodies, with carefully composed shots.
The Conformist (1970)
This is, in our opinion, the very best of Vittorio Storaro’s work. And that’s saying something.
The Fall (2006)
Tarsem Singh made a beautiful painting of a film; Colin Watkinson spend 4 years and thousands of miles bringing a child’s imagination to life on screen.
This film, which tells the same story from several different perspectives, (and color coded to match), takes a simple concept both in plot and style, and brings it to the next level.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
70mm film, and every frame of it a still image worthy of framing.
The Tree of Life (2011)
The most beautiful of Terrance Malick’s films, and there’s quite a bit of competition there.
There’s no plot, or dialogue in this film, but it tells a story nonetheless – every image tells its own story, and it’s glorious.
Sicario is neither based off a book or science fiction, which is generally what I try to keep film content on this site limited to, but it is a really effective trailer (and not just because it uses a slight variation of the Prometheus trailer siren/screech), so here we are. I’m a big fan of Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s work in ‘Prisoners‘ and the supremely strange, mind bender that was ‘Enemy‘, so for him to once again team up with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins and cast Benicio, Jeffery Donovan and Emily Blunt instantly makes it must see territory for me.
Admittedly, the rash of cartel material in cinema lately has been pretty uninteresting to me, but the sense of dread in this trailer is just so heavy. It oozes with such a creepy, ominous tone that feels a bit like David Fincher remaking No Country For Old Men. I will be marking my calendar for this one. Sicario hits theaters September 18th.
Ant-Men, double Jake Gyllenhaals, rabbit carrying treasure hunters and an under appreciated western round out my July movie reviews.
Ant-Man – 3 stars (out of 4 stars)
While it may not shock summer audiences quite like Guardians of the Guardians did last year, Ant-Man is a likable superhero flick that proves that good casting can go a long way toward making an almost unfilmable product worth watching. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas and Michael Pena are especially good in this, but heavy doses of wit and a rather uncomplicated plot (as far as Marvel movies go at least) really prevent this from being the train wreck that it could have been (there is something about the template of this movie that reminds me a bit of DC’s Green Lantern movie, except if it wasn’t terrible, so if you want to see the disaster version of Ant-Man, watch Green Lantern as a cautionary tale of what could have been). Unfortunately, Ant-Man still falls into Marvel’s recent trappings of having forgettable and shrug worthy villains (Tom Hiddleston being the exception of course) seen in Corey Stoll’s sneering Daren Cross, whose journey from 0 to 60 on the doing bad things to people who disagree with you at board meetings scale seems completely absurd, but I guess you can’t have everything in a second tier Marvel superhero movie. Ant-man won’t blow you away, but at the end of the movie I was completely on board with seeing more of these characters in the Marvel universe. I have a feeling that Edgar Wright could have taken this to some really interesting places if he had stayed on to direct. Also, consider seeing Ant-man in 3-D for the scale action sequences and staying for the two post credits sequences which actually warrant sitting through seven minutes of computer programmers and stuntmen being thanked.
Slow West – 3 stars
Slow West is an unsurprisingly slow western whose grim tone feels like an odd marriage between the Coen brothers and John Ford. Featuring some beautiful, stark imagery courtesy of New Zealand’s always scenic south island, a quality performance from Michael Fassbender and an undeniably tragic conclusion, this quirky western is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre. It may not wow you with its gunplay and shootouts, but the cinematography sure is a marvel to look at. If you find yourself fading while watching it, do yourself a favor and fast forward to the last twenty minutes. It’s brimming with some beautiful imagery. Also, if you liked Slow West, seek out Mads Mikkelsen in this year’s more visceral revenge tale, The Salvation. Fassbender and Mikkelsen were made for roles like these.
Inside Out – 3.5 stars
Inside Out continues Pixar’s track record of taking material that seems relatively limited in potential and producing very clever and thoughtful films based on those very simple ideas. I don’t think Inside Out cracked my Pixar top five like it has with many critics, but it is still way above and beyond the glut of family entertainment out this summer. And no, you need not worry. Inside Out has all the traditional Pixar staples; the heart warming/wrenching moments, the humor for both kids and adults, a character voiced by John Ratzenberger and a really morbid Chinatown reference (i guess the last one is new). However, the true accomplishment of this movie may be that it makes the audience misty eyed over a character named Bing Bong. Did not see that coming.
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter – 2.5 stars
Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter is a glacially paced film based on the semi-true story of an eccentric Japanese woman who traveled to America after acquiring what she believed to be the treasure map for the suitcase full of money buried in the movie Fargo (I know, it’s a little out there). Kumiko explores everything from mental illness to the subjugation of women in Japan on its strange 105 minute journey. It’s not a film for everyone, but it is shot beautifully and Rinko Kikuchi remains a strong screen presence as always.
Me & Earl And The Dying Girl – 3 stars
A mashup of Be Kind Rewind and The Fault in Our Stars with a sort of Wes Anderson for tweens vibe to it, Me & Earl And The Dying Girl won a slew of awards at Sundance this year before triggering a bidding war for the rights to its theatrical release. Earl is better than most of the high school movies released in the last fews years, but it’s also not without its problems. While I can’t fault a movie where the teen protagonist is obsessed with Werner Herzog, I do think there are about fifteen to twenty minutes where said character becomes insufferable and the movie suffers as a result. Is this insufferable behavior representative of actual teenage behavior? Probably, but it does prevent Me & Earl and The Dying Girl from taking that next step into becoming a classic coming of age story. It’s still a very solid movie though. RJ Cyler as Earl is a standout and the casting of Tammy Taylor and Ron Swanson as a parental power duo has to be commended.
Jurassic World – 6 out of 10 raptors
Jurassic World is rated on an adjusted scale as it is not a very good movie, but it is an enjoyable movie, therefore warranting different consideration. It is a very sloppy product however, riddled with poor writing, flat characters and some pretty impressive displays of child neglect, but the last hour of dinosaur mayhem makes up for these flaws in my opinion. Again, this may not even be a particularly good movie, but it’s entertaining, and that’s essentially its function as a summer blockbuster, so at the very least it’s an effective movie in that sense. And I don’t care what people say, this is still a vast improvement on JP3 in my book.
Enemy – 3 stars
With an ending shot that sent a lot of confused viewers scrambling for explanations on message boards, Enemy firmly cements itself as an art house film in the vein of Under the Skin and The Fountain (aka movies that require examination beyond their initial viewings). Because it was marketed as a bit of a straight thriller coming off Denis Villenue’s well liked straight thriller ‘Prisoners’, I feel many people were blindsided by this film and as a result it didn’t gain much notoriety. But if you’re looking for a creepy cerebral puzzle that requires some piecing together, this might be the movie for you. I’ve been a big fan of Denis Villeneuve since ‘Prisoners’ and really like the look of his forthcoming ‘Sicario.’ His catalogue is worth checking out if you want to see a director in the David Fincher school of filmmaking.
Run All Night – 2.5 stars
Run All Night is basically a knockoff of Paul Walker’s ‘Running Scared’ and every movie Liam Neeson has been in since Taken. There’s a lot of running and shooting and Ed Harris looking unhappy. I have no idea how at 63, Liam Neeson has become one of the most consistent action stars in Hollywood, but he continues to be awesome, so I don’t care that he’s entered some odd plagiarism loop where he will only play mild variations of his Taken character. Long live over protective dad Bryan Mills. Just try to date his daughter. I dare you.
Pirates – 2 stars
Korean blockbusters don’t quite rival the quality of their country’s more thought provoking dramas, but if we’re being fair that could probably be said of any country’s studio system, especially our own. Still, the quality of Korean blockbusters is drifting towards being more watchable, and even though Pirates is not the greatest thing ever committed to film, there are some comedic moments that land surprisingly well. There are still about forty movies I would recommend ahead of this one if it was your first foray into Korean cinema, but I suppose you could do worse for browsing Netflix on a Tuesday night (ie: see Anacondas 2: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid. It may essentially have the same plot as Deep Blue Sea, but it’s certainly no Deep Blue Sea).
Big Game – 2.5 stars
Goonies meets Die Hard in this Finnish blockbuster starring Samuel L. Jackson as the President who must be led out of the wilderness by a thirteen year old hunter after terrorists shoot down Air Force One with bazookas. You already know whether or not you’re going to see this movie based on that synopsis, so there’s not much more to be said. I enjoyed it. This is what Snakes on a Plane should have been.
Good news for fans of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller series. The once worrisome Fox TV adaptation of the bestselling fantasy series is no more. The option with the studio has lapsed, putting the franchise back on the market where it was reportedly in high demand with a number of studios at Comic-Con this past weekend.
This is great news in my opinion. The TV adaptation of this series always troubled me. It most likely wasn’t destined to get the budget and treatment Game of Thrones enjoyed on HBO and this is a series that always seemed better suited for film, where it likely would get the time, care and cast it deserves. Here’s to hoping that when the dust settles on the bidding war over the rights, it lands with a studio that is interested in making a quality product and not just a well timed cash grab with the release of the final book ‘The Doors of Stone.’
Today is high profile second books Tuesday, with Harper Lee’s long awaited ‘Go Set a Watchman‘ and Ernest Cline’s ‘Armada‘ set to debut. Lee’s ‘Watchman’ is obviously the more anticipated release since it has been fifty five years in the making and was initially met with some suspicious and controversy when its release was announced. ‘Armada’, Ernest Cline’s long delayed (not really that long when compared to Harper’s hiatus) follow up to his sci-fi bestseller ‘Ready Player One’, doesn’t quite have the same controversy and critical expectations surrounding its release, but sci-fi and genre fans have been anxiously awaiting its release nonetheless.
While neither ‘Watchman’ or ‘Armada’ are receiving glowing reviews out of the gate, I’m sure fans of both authors are still going to buy these new entries in mass, consume them ravenously and form their own opinions about them, which is the great things about books. It doesn’t matter what others say about them. If it works for you and connects on some level with your experiences, that’s all that matters. If you get around to checking out either this week, let me know what you think.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit Comic-Con today and continued to build excitement past any healthy level when they unleashed a behind the scenes sizzle reel with some familiar faces and some completely new ones (Simon Pegg has a cameo as an alien? Amazinnngggg). I seriously cannot wait for this movie. Take all my money. All of it. Just take it.
In what has to be the best bit of casting news this week, martial arts superstar Donnie Yen has reportedly been cast in Star Wars VIII. Yen may not be a household name in America like fellow Hong Kong stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li, but his work in Ip Man, Hero, Blade II and Shanghai Knights should lend him some familiarity with stateside audiences.
If not, you should really seek out some of his work (along with the previously mentioned films, Iron Monkey and Flash Point are good ones) and see what you’ve been missing. His ten man fight scene in Ip Man is still a classic of modern martial arts cinema.
Yen’s inclusion in the franchise (along with members of the Raid being cast in Star Wars VII) is a refreshing bit of casting that demonstrates a clear attempt to include some stars of Asian cinema. It’s entirely possible that this is just an attempt to tap the growing Asian market and make the movie more marketable to an international audience, but either way, it’s nice to see some diverse stars in the franchise now with Yen, Iko Uwais, Lupita Nyong’o, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker and John Boyega hopefully poised to take large roles in their respective films.
Fresh off climbing a volcano and watching an inspiring US Women’s World Cup win, I thought I would get back into the swing of things on the blog. I’ve been working tirelessly on the book writing side of things this year, but have been neglectful on the blogging side, which admittedly, if I had to choose between the duties of a contemporary writer, is how I would prefer it. But now that I’ve finished manuscript duties for the time being, I suppose it’s time to return to contributing to the overall betterment of culture and society by posting Nicholas Cage mashups and soccer videos on my blog.
I’ve also had some people email me asking about when the Exiles of the New World is going to be back in print. That’s something I’m hoping to have an answer to in the next few months. I have to wait and see what happens with this WIP before going ahead with Exiles. Even if this manuscript gets pushed back, Exiles should be back on the market at some point this year. Until then, please do not attempt to buy any of the gouged used copies being sold on amazon. Email me for more reasonable alternatives before buying a $60 copy online.
Anyway, moving on. This week’s writing links features the AV Club’s best in print so far for 2015 (including Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Half a King’ and Noelle Stevenson’s ‘Nimona’, both of which I’ve read a bit of and enjoy greatly), some July must-reads from Flavorwire (including Harper Lee’s much anticipated Go Set a Watchman), Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s reassuring advice to struggling writers and some cool maps of fictional literary places.
I’d like to quickly swing back to Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and talk a little bit more about that novel. I have read some of Abercrombie’s stuff in the past and liked it, but have admittedly preferred the style of his fantasy contemporaries like Rothfuss, Martin and Lynch just a bit more. However, having recently read some of Half a King, I must say it is quite good. The first chapter is a masterclass on writing a very tight, involving opening that grips the reader from page one without plaguing them with exposition or resorting to the more popular crutches of YA fiction like a burst of immediate contextless action or using a prologue or zombies or zombie prologues. Either way, if you were struggling with your opening, regardless of what genre or age group you’re writing for, try to track down that first chapter. It’s a good one.
Speaking of Nicholas Cage mashups (just let this abrupt transition happen), did everyone see the Nicholas Cage as Game of Thrones character mashup? It’s amazing and I love almost everything about it, but my only problem with it is that I honestly thought this post would represent the literal end of the internet. Like I always imagined that if Jeff Bridges’ character in Tron kept driving his blue light bike out of the mainframe and eventually found the end of the internet many years later, it would just be this picture of Nicholas Cage as Bran Stark floating in the nothingness of space, kinda like when they found the edge of the universe in Dark City. Unfortunately that doesn’t appear to be the case, as this mashup exists and more internet content continues to be produced. Disappointing to say the least, but we must be strong and forge on.
Anyway, check out some other good writing links below and feel free to share your own.
PS. I have a new release date for Doors of Stone. It’s never.
Just kidding. I’m sure it will come out at some point, but not in 2015 as Rothfuss stated in a tweet, so Doors of Stone watch has officially been pushed back to at least 2016. I’m sure it will be worth the wait though. Can’t wait to check it out.
This Week’s Writing Links:
– Best in Print of 2015 so far (avclub)
– 10 Must Read Books for July (flavorwire)
– Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona (amazon)
– Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world (theguardian)
– Matthew Weiner’s Reassuring Advice for Struggling Artists (fastcompany)
– Nicholas Cage as Every Game of Thrones Character (io9)
– Cool Maps of Fictional Places (joehill)
– Review of the Paper Towns Film Adaptation (thewrap)
– 7 Books to Read Before Seeing the Movie (kirkusreview)
– Every Time Travel Movie Ever Ranked (io9)
– Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness Avaliable as an ebook (sfsignal)
– How I Got My Literary Agent: Rebecca Phillips (writersdigest)
– How To Tell If Your Manuscript is YA (katebrauning)
– Hank and John Green’s new podcast (hankandjohn)