Warning: There's a lot of raving in this post!
The world is full of cynicism, so much so that you start to have trouble finding the simple pleasures in life. Thankfully, the Muppets have returned, and none of that cynicism seems to have affected them. The only thing they are still interested in is bringing joy to the audiences. Boy, do they succeed!
If I had a power ring like the one's featured in this movie, I would imagine a cross, and then I would crucify this piece of garbage! This film is one of the worst thing to happen to the superhero genre since Batman and Robin!
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
In an age dominated by the Bonds and the Mission Impossibles, seeing a spy film that eschews whiz-bang action in favor of tense espionage and investigation is a real treat. Though it starts off slow, it really delivers, and God Damn! Can someone please just give Gary Oldman and Oscar already? Please?
Midnight In Paris
I've never been a big fan of Woody Allen. Haven't seen Annie Hall or Manhattan, and I haven't dug his last few films, but Midnight in Paris was a joy to watch. Biting humor, a good message, and superb acting from the gifted ensemble is all excellent, but Marion Cotillard... Marion... sorry, what?
The Adventures of Tintin
It's the Indiana Jones movie that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should have been! Superb action! Great humor! Beautiful to look at! Spielberg has proven that he still has it when it comes to big, exciting, blockbuster entertainment.
ONE!!! OF!!! THE!!! BEST!!! DAMN!!! THINGS!!! OF!!! THE!!! YEAR!!!
ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!!!
I don't know. I really don't. It's very good, and Michael Fassbender is fantastic in it. But I have no desire to see this film ever again. It's that depressing. I don't even know what grade I should give it. Decisions, decisions.
Still to come, War Horse, The Descendants, and whatever else I feel like.
Friday, December 23, 2011
With Watson literally hours away from sealing the deal with his lovely bride, Holmes is embroiled in the "most important case of [his] career". A series of bombings has been ripping their way through Europe, and France and Germany are at each other's throats. War is about to break out, and the downfall of western civilization is imminent. Holmes has deducted that all this mayhem is the handiwork of one, Professor James Moriarty, a man with seemingly limitless resources, a hand in every major, worldwide industry, and the only man who can match, if not surpass, Holmes' intellect. Now, Holmes and Watson are sent on a mad chase across Europe as they, with the aid of an enigmatic gypsy, race to stop Moriarty before his maniacal plans come to fruition.
First of all, the plot and overall conflict here is much more interesting than the occult bullshit from the last one. Moriarty is really good villain for Holmes to tangle with, and while the plot does allow for them to watch wits, it spends too much time on elaborate action sequences than any real sort of character development. That's not to say that there isn't character development. There are attempts to flesh out Holme's and Watson's relationship, but it doesn't come off as anything more than forced. The witty banter between the two is nowhere near as prevalent as it was in the first, and that's kind of a drag. It was a real pleasure hearing these two bicker and "flirt" all over the place, and there's actually not a whole lot of that. It all moves along at a decent place, and wraps all very conveniently, but it's nothing all that compelling or interesting. Moriarty is a good villain, but his evil plot is bland and nothing we haven't seen before.
Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law return as Holmes and Watson respectively. Their chemistry is just as good as it was in the last one, even if they don't have as much banter material to work with. Individually though, Downey Jr. falters a bit where Watson succeeds. Since the film tries more to explore the relationship between these two, it calls for more dramatic chops, chops that Law has honed better than Downey Jr.. As it turns out, Downey Jr.'s Holmes doesn't come off quite as charming and fun in this sequel, instead coming off, at times, a little mean and cold here. Law, on the other hand, does very well, bringing a lot of warmth to this relationship.
Noomi Rapace plays the gypsy with a card to play, Sim. Rapace is a good actress, but she is completely wasted here. Her character serves, literally, no purpose, save to provide supposed stakes in the conflict. See, her brother is working with Moriarty, but the film never explores how Sim feels about that. Poor, poor Lisbeth. She deserves better.
|Excuse me. Hi. I'm special!|
Luckily, the villain is top tier! Jared Harris of Mad Men takes his swell time with the role, effectively creating a intimidating and dangerous devil. Mark Strong in the first film did all right, but the film made the mistake of having him and Holmes fight it out with fists and weapons. In A Game of Shadows, it's the exact opposite. Holmes and Moriarty never, throughout the whole run, come to blows. Instead, their confrontations usually involve the two of them staring each other down over a table, and at one point, a chess board. Battles of wills, and that's exactly what it should be. Holmes does enough fighting against goons. Why should he have to do the same with someone who is his intellectual equal? He shouldn't, and the film wisely stays away from that. The battle of wills in this movie are very well done, thanks in no small part to Harris' performance.
That's not to say that there isn't action. There is a crap ton! Too much, if you ask me! There are whole sections where there is nothing but bullets, fists, and explosions. Director Guy Ritchie can direct action. Though Game of Shadows doesn't have the blood drenched grace of Tarsem Singh's Immortals or the over the top, gravity defying aplomb of Brad Bird's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Ritchie does manage to bring in some interesting touches, namely a good amount of well done slo-mo. Though the first few action scenes aren't any special, just hyper energetic punching bouts, the big one is something to behold. The pay off is the mad dash through a forest under a hail of motor and artillery fire that has been featured pretty heavily in the marketing. The build up is a slow burn, sneak into a building and see what's going on, type thing. Stuff gradually escalates, and then it turns into an all out war. The aforementioned pay off is awesome, a elegant, well made, ballet of flame and noise... with liberal amounts of slo-mo.
But that's the only scene worth mentioning. All the other action set pieces are lame by comparison. And, being that the overall conflict isn't that interesting, the movie is actually quite a snooze. The first Sherlock Holmes wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it was never boring. There are good things here. The villain is really good; the big action set piece really delivers, and, for some reason, I liked how Holmes and Watson actually get wounded and display bruises, cuts, and the like for most of the film. They actually look like they got the shit kicked out of them. Dunno, but that was a nice touch. But, everything else is just not worth your time. There's really nothing here that wasn't already in the first one. It doesn't get a condemnation from me, but it doesn't get a full recommendation either. Just the middle ground. And that's just stupid!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
That's a Book of Mormon reference! Look it up!
Anyway, to commemorate this, the 500th post on Films From the Supermassive Black Hole, here's a review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
|Setting the standard of not to be messed with!|
Following a deliciously demonic opening credit sequence, we are introduced to Mikael Blomkvist. He is a journalist for the Swedish magazine, Millennium. Following a lawsuit that leaves him disgraced and with no money, Blomkvist accepts an offer from one, Henrik Vanger, to investigate the decades old disappearance of Vanger's neice, Harriet. As he digs deep in the twisted and disturbing history of the Vanger's, Blomkvist soon finds himself in need of help. Enter Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but odd computer hacker and investigator. She is down on her luck, as her state appointed guardian has just suffered a stroke, leaving her with a new guardian, who turns out to be a sadistic rapist. She agrees to help Blomkvist in his investigation, and together, they uncover a decades old trail of murder, misogyny and corruption, a trail that could claim the both them as it's next victims.
First and foremost, this movie is DARK! Like, seriously DARK! Like, claw at your face and crap your pants DARK! Everything about it, from the visuals, the score, and especially the subject matter, is drenched in foreboding, violence, and suspense. Steig Larsson's books are known for their controversial content, and this adaptation doesn't shy away from it at all. Instead, it elegantly lays out the investigation in ways that only the best detective thrillers can, in addition to including the images of murder, rape, and torture. Coming from the perspective of having never read the book or seen the Swedish film, I was left guessing until the very end who the culprit was and how far reaching his crimes were. While the reveal wasn't a complete shock, it really paid off, thanks in no small part to the slow burn build up. The script moves along at a consistent pace, keeping you on edge for the entire 2 hours and 38 minute run time. Yeah, this movie's epically long, but it sure as hell didn't feel it.
Now, I am aware that there was a campaign to have Noomi Rapace reprise her role as the titular girl for this one, and for all we know, she would have done a good job. I, however, am very happy she did not. Not because I think she would have done that much worse a job, it's because Rooney Mara does that much better a job. I've seen Mara in things before, from Nightmare on Elm Street to Fincher's own The Social Network, and in those she has played relatively innocent, teenage, women. Lisbeth Salander could not a be a bigger, nor more welcome, change of pace. Mara is friggin' incredible in the role, embodying all the traits that we assume of the character. The "don't take shit from anyone, especially men" mentality, the borderline sociopathy, and the overall strength and badassness that Larsson instilled in her. But she also finds the emotional side to Salander, imbuing the character with undertones of warmth that I honestly did not expect. When it comes to star making roles as of late, no one directs them better than Fincher, and no one has performed better than Mara.
Daniel Craig dials back the charm and piles on grizzle for Blomkvist. It is nice to see Craig in a role that requires a good deal more than fist-i-cuffs and rock hard abs, and he performs admirably. He displays a winning chemistry with Mara, doing his part in creating a believable partnership. Indeed, in a movie this cold, their relationship provides some of the few warm moments. On his own though, Craig is more than capable of carrying the film, and easily adds another compelling and well performed character to his resume.
|I know you don't like the coffee, but come on! Work with me here!|
Christopher Plummer does excellent work as Henrik Vanger, and Stellan Skarsgård does very well as Martin Vanger, whose motivations are never quite clear. Robin Wright does well in her small role as Blomkvist's co-editor, with whom he is having an affair.
Special mention must be given to Yorick van Wageningen as Bjurman, Salander's sadistic guardian, for he fearless performance. Anyone who's read the book or seen the Swedish version know what happens, and the scene is a skin crawling, traumatizing experience. Wageningen himself was so traumatized from shooting that scene, that he spent a whole day afterwards crying in his hotel room. Good on him!
Speaking of that one scene; it is only one in a veritable ocean of violence, torture, bloodshed, and other, incredibly disturbing elements. There's a torture that occurs about halfway through that is sooooo intense, it almost becomes unbearable. As Blomkvist and Salander continue to investigate, the things they begin to uncover are so heinous and stomach churning, you just have to applaud the characters for sticking with it. And the confrontation of murderer in the end is incredibly tense and violent. Also... well, let's just say that something awful happens to a certain domestic animal. The film's being touted as the feel bad movie of christmas, and by God does it earn that tagline.
And I would not have it any other way! As of late, David Fincher has been delving into more, dare I say, friendly territory. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was about as far from Fight Club as you could get while still having Brad Pitt as your star, and The Social Network is, to my knowledge, the only Fincher film that doesn't have a dead body somewhere. And I have no problem. I love The Social Network, and I like Benjamin Button. But my favorite Fincher films are the ones that delve into absurdly dark and violent territory, with the cream of the crop, in my opinion, being the ones that deal specifically with serial killers. Se7en and Zodiac are masterpieces of their time, and everything that made those movies great, from the unbearable sense of menace, to the cold and unfeeling color palette, to the bursts of quick but extremely brutal violence, is here, and better than ever. Like a certain blogging friend of mine, I have to wonder how the film would look in black and white.
And then there's the music. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, hot off their Oscar win for The Social Network, return, and their restrained, menacing sound is even more at home here than it was with Mark Zuckerberg. The music swells at all the right moments, adding atmosphere and tension to the scenes, but never overpowering them. It's in the background, never letting on what the audience should be feeling at any given moment. It's window dressing, but it's damn nice window dressing.
Also, the cover of Immigrant Song just will not get old!
I really friggin' loved this movie. This time of year is defined by dumb action movies, and overly sentimental family fare. So, it's a real pleasure to see a film aimed hardcore at adults, especially one that looks poised to be a big hit. Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, from Reznor and Ross's brilliant music, to Fincher's unique and memorable direction, to the performances, capped off by live wire, star making performance from Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one film you should not miss. Feel bad movies shouldn't be this good!
ON A WHOLE NEW LEVEL!!!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
So, this one is gonna be two fold, as I had the good fortune to see the 6-minute prologue in front of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol this weekend, in addition to see the trailer that came out yesterday.
First off, the prologue. SPOILERS!!!
Much like the Dark Knight sequence that was shown before I Am Legend, depicting the Joker's opening bank robbery, the prologue to TDKR introduces to Bane, and the force that he is. Also starring Aiden Gillen, the sequence shows Bane as he hijacks a plane in order to kidnap a Russian scientist. This involves thrilling, practically made, aerial stunts and chaos. Bane is a ruthless adversary, savagely beating his foes, and having the plane dragged through the air by... another, bigger plane.
The sequence is so full of "HELL YEAH" moments, and looks awesome in IMAX. Christopher Nolan has proved that he can shoot IMAX action, and he looks to be pulling out all the stops for his final foray with Batman. If there's something bad to say about the sequence, if you can call it a bad thing, it's that I couldn't really understand what Bane was saying. I got that everything he was saying is very important, but the combination of the vocal choices by Tom Hardy, coupled with the mask... well, anyway. It was difficult to pick up what he was saying. Here's hoping Nolan and crew fix the audio, cuz then there'll be no problem.
The footage ended with a sizzle reel, showing off all the other characters, most of which made it into the new trailer. Speaking of which...
Love it! While it didn't make quite as a big an impression on me as the Dark Knight trailer revealing the Joker, it's still awesome. While I don't really understand how the League of Shadows comes into play, or how Bane facilitates it all, it seems that there's an undertone of class inequality to this one, with Selina Kyle's cryptic dialogue, and all the scenes of that posh masquerade.
Crazy things happen in this trailer. Tumblers scream down the streets. Explosions are everywhere. Massive riots erupt. Batman has an aircraft. And Bane kills a football team by... blowing up the field. AWESOME!! Also, JoGo's in it. Can this movie just happen already?
Also, I think I've figured out what Marion Cotillard's character is all about. Won't tell you about it here, lest I bring the wrath of the nerds down on me. Want to talk? You know where to find me.
on occasion of the exhibition
Monday, December 19, 2011
So, if there was a trend that I could put my thumb on for this cinematic year, it would odd yet interesting choices for the director of a big budget action movie. We had Kenneth Branagh, bringing his larger than life and Shakespearian Thor. We had Tarsem Singh, infusing gonzo violence with high art in Immortals. And now, we have Brad Bird, the man behind such animation classics as The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. What's he directing? Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the first M.I. movie since JJ Abrams reinvigorated the series five years ago. Abrams returns as a producer, but the main point of interest is seeing how Bird, fresh to the live action style, fares. And while Ghost Protocol fails where all other Mission Impossible movies have usually failed (lack of interesting plot, a main character who doesn't grow, and an over reliance on action set pieces over espionage), it does manage to showcase that Bird definitely has the chops to make in the live action world. M.I.G.P is tightly paced, very tense, with a ton of great action and set pieces, and a sensational use of IMAX format. It's not setting the world on fire anytime soon, but for holiday thrills, this one more than suffices.
|Just chilling. Waiting for the mothership...|
Ethan Hunt and crew are back at it again, going around the world, saving it from crazy people with crazy plans. All's hunky dory, until a routine op goes terribly wrong, and the Kremlin is blown up, and as far a failures go, having the center of Russian authority go up in flames is pretty much the worst you can do. IMF is slapped with the blame, and Ethan and his whole team are disavowed as the President initiates ghost protocol. So, Ethan and his team, without any backup or help, set out to discover who set them up and why. This leads them all around the world as they try and stop a nuclear extremist from, you guessed it, blowing up some nukes.
Now, on paper, that sounds pretty cool. Mixing up the formula and having Ethan go at it with nothing more than his brains and brawn would be a nice change of pace, one that would bring a more cerebral feel to this traditionally one note franchise. Unfortunately, even though the entire IMF has been shut down, Ethan and his team still seem to have limitless resources, accessing the latest technology, chartering jets like nobody's business, and always looking so incredibly dapper. Like, seriously! Those suits can't be cheap! So, the whole idea of completing the mission with nothing more than a toothpick and a cool pair of shades is, at the most, hinted at, and nothing more.
There's also attempts to explore the character of Ethan, and it works about as well as it has in the other three movies. That is to say, not at all! The villain is lackluster, especially when he has to follow the great work that Philip Seymour Hoffman did in the third one. And none of the other characters, with one exception, really say or so do anything all that interesting.
Tom Cruise returns to his iconic role, and does about the same he always does. Not bad. Not exceptional, but not anything to hate on. I will say that his chemistry with his team is the best it's ever been, but that could have more to do with them and not so much with him, but whatever. Give credit where credit is due.
Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton are the new additions to the franchise. Patton doesn't do much of anything outside of the realm of, "look hot and kick ass" but she does it quite well, so... yeah. Renner on the other hand is given a lot to do. This may have something to do with the rumors that he will inherit the franchise, but regardless, his is the most interesting character, with the most compelling arc. I wish Ethan was as interesting, but you can't have everything in life.
Other players include Josh Holloway in bit part as an unfortunate IMF agent, and Michael Nyqvist is underwhelming as the villain. In reality, the guy who steals the show is Simon Pegg as the team's quirky tech whiz. He's the source of most of the humor, and, since he's Simon Pegg, he really delivers.
|Now, this is some guy's fantasy!|
But, lack of interesting plot and characters aside, I have to say this is probably my favorite Mission Impossible movie to date. The first one was way too slow paced for me. The second one was too stupid and had too many doves. The third, while certainly the best up to that point, tried to hard to bring out some emotion and focused too much on Ethan's married life. Ugh. Here, the action is center stage, and it is incredible. Though he gained his stripes in animation, Mr. Bird knows how to direct action and how to stage set pieces. A multi layered sequence that has Ethan scaling the side of building while the rest of the team races to intercept multiple targets would be thrilling by itself. Toss in the inclusion of a slowly approaching sandstorm, and you have action movie gold.
That sequence is the stand out of the three big ones. The first takes place at the Kremlin, and is more of a tense "sneak in, sneak out, BOOM" type thing, while the third takes place in India and is all running and punching and doing crazy things with cars. But neither of those reaches the lofty heights that the middle sequence does.
You probably all saw the trailers, so you know of those shots that show Ethan clutching the side of an enormous skyscraper, but you haven't seen it unless you've seen it on IMAX. Let me tell you, you need to see the spend the extra money for this one. This movie demands IMAX. The sequences are so epic and well put together that to see it any other format would just be criminal.
Ok, fine. The main I reason I saw it in IMAX was to see the Dark Knight Rises prologue, but the movie is absolutely worth seeing in the format, even though the TDKR prologue is soooo full of all kids of HELL YEAH, and... ok, sorry. I'll talk about that tomorrow.
Awards won't be coming in, and you won't leave the theatre in tears or reeling at the emotion on screen. There is no emotion on screen. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a largely soulless endeavor. But, technically, it is astounding. Props to Bird and his team for crafting one of, if not the most thrilling action flick of the year. See it in IMAX. This review will self-destruct in 5... 4... 3...
Ian Hamilton Finlay
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
artist book Paul van Dijk, published by Peter Foolen Editions, is chosen among 20 photography books from 2011 to be part of Photography Books Marathon at Huis Marseille.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Alan Charlton – Ulrich Rückriem – Niele Toroni
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Sean Kelly Gallery is delighted to announce the opening of Peter Liversidge’s new exhibition, Where We Begin. The opening will take place on Thursday, December 8th, from 6pm until 8pm. The artist will be present.
Where We Begin will be Liversidge’s premiere exhibition with the gallery. From the earliest stages of his career, the genesis of Liversidge’s creative process has been the conceptually-based practice of developing proposals for artworks across a wide range of mediums, including performance, drawing, photography, video and neon. Liversidge types his proposals on an old, manual typewriter; complete with typographical errors and handwritten annotations, the proposals for Where We Begin describe ideas from the practical to the purely hypothetical, which, when viewed in totality, create a unique narrative specifically related to the forthcoming exhibition and the beginning of his relationship with the gallery.
While all of the proposals for Where We Begin will be displayed in the exhibition, the artist has chosen to realize only a select group. In many cases, these realized proposals relate to found objects that Liversidge encountered on his recent visits to New York. Banal, everyday materials are repurposed for his use, in this case stripped of their original intent by being re-made in materials most often associated with fine art: a stack of old tractor tires found on the roadside in upstate New York will be shown as a classical marble sculpture; small twigs from a tree that fell near the artist during a morning walk in Soho will be cast in aluminum; and a commercially-available help wanted sign – found at a local five and dime – will be enlarged to five times its normal size and screen printed on aluminum.
Liversidge’s work often requires the presence of the viewer and their unique interpretation of the proposals to complete the aesthetic experience. The artist’s active engagement with each space and community for which he creates proposals is at the center of his varied and dynamic practice. In one such work for the exhibition, Liversidge has invited the gallery’s postal carrier to create an arrangement of found objects – rulers, t-squares and protractors, among others – that the artist has sent through the mail from London. The arrangement of these objects, displayed on a shelf in the exhibition, will be at the sole discretion of the mail carrier and can be rearranged by her during the course of the show as she sees fit. Other proposed performative actions will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition, some involving gallery staff and others requiring the participation of professional musicians such as Elizabeth Mitchell, who will perform in the gallery on the afternoon of December 17th. Visitors to Where We Begin are also invited to participate in the exhibition by creating artworks through actions outlined by Liversidge within the proposals.
Liversidge has worked with a diverse range of institutions, including the Tate Liverpool in 2008, the Centre d’art Santa Mònica, Barcelona, in 2008, Bloomberg SPACE, London, in 2009 and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, in 2010. He has also developed projects for the Europalia Festival, Brussels, in 2007, Art Basel Miami Beach in 2009 and Edinburgh’s sculpture park, Jupiter Artland, also in 2009. Upcoming exhibitions include Travelling Light, Whitechapel Gallery, London, December 2011 through February 2012 and Proposals for Helsinki at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, in 2012.
A catalogue containing the complete set of proposals for Where We Begin will accompany the exhibition and will be available for sale. For press inquiries, please contact Maureen Bray at 212.239.1181 or email@example.com for more information. For sales inquiries, please contact Lauren Kelly at 212.239.1181 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11am until 6pm and Saturday 10am until 6pm. Please check the gallery website for holiday hours.
Press release Sean Kelly Gallery, NY, December 2011