Sunday, December 30, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 30

EPISODE 30: 2D Or Not 2D
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It's Episode 30 of In the Mood for Podcast, a British-based film podcast hosted by Calum Reed of Ultimate Addict and Pete Sheppard of In the Mood for Blog. The last podcast of 2012 sees us catch up on releases from the past ten days. They include the dubiously-casted "Jack Reacher," the aca-entertaining "Pitch Perfect," and Bette Midler's return to the screen in family comedy "Parental Guidance." We snubbed the 3D showing of "Life of Pi," but still discuss its visual prowess in length, and also chat about directors with a history of elevating their source material. All of this, plus a discussion about the hotly-contested Foreign Language Oscar race, and a pitch for a Greer Garson biopic.

Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: Discussing the recently announced shortlist of contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar  [2:45 - 17:30]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 
  • "Jack Reacher"
  • "Pitch Perfect"
  • "Parental Guidance"
[20:20 - 49:45]

Closing Segment: Our take on “Life of Pi,” and discussing directors who elevate their source material 
[49:50 - 1:07:35]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*
*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Phoenix, "Rome"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 29

EPISODE 29: Long Day's Journey Into Middle Earth
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It's Episode 29 of In the Mood for Podcast, a British-based film podcast hosted by Calum Reed of Ultimate Addict and Pete Sheppard of In the Mood for Blog. This week we give our reaction to the Golden Globe and SAG nominations, assessing the races as they stand. We find our patience severely tested by Peter Jackson's epic first installment of the Hobbit Trilogy, the first of which, "An Unexpected Journey," fails to be a tale of the unexpected. We catch up with the animated "Rise of the Guardians," but Santa and the Tooth Fairy may not make the ideal dream team for one of us. And while Kristin Scott-Thomas may find herself the only performer in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" without a nomination this week, she may at least take consolation in the fact that she can still rock a designer gown. She takes on the luscious Ludivine Sagnier in trashy french flick "Love Crime" ...
Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: Reacting to the Golden Globe and Screen Actors’ Guild nominations and assessing how that affects the Oscar race  [3:15 - 24:00]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "The Hobbit"
  • "Rise of the Guardians"
  • "Love Crime"
  • "Babette's Feast" (25th anniversary re-release)
  • "Baraka"
[27:35 - 1:05:45]

Closing Segment: Dishing the dirt on 2012 releases we’ve been catching up with: "A Royal Affair"; "Caesar Must Die"; "The Deep Blue Sea"; "The Giant Mechanical Man"; "Vamps"; "Bye Bye Blondie"  [1:05:50 - 1:20:10]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*[Audio difficulties meant that *The Watson Factor* and *The Poupaud Range* failed to record this week -- for interested parties, 1.0 and 1.0.]

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Sigur Ros, Hoppipolla

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Sylvester McCoy, Hugo Weaving
Grade: C - [37]

I consider myself quite a patient filmgoer, but walking into a chance 48 frames-per-second screening of ‘The Hobbit’ seemed to change that almost instantly. Subtitled “An Unexpected Journey,” for no other reason than to differentiate it from the forthcoming parts 2 and 3 of Tolkien’s modestly-leaved novel, there’s very little expectation the film fails to fulfil on a thematic level, but in employing this novel visual technique ultimately does more harm than good. Visual elements are very low on my agenda when reviewing a movie, but when they’re executed in such a frenetic and incoherent way it’s difficult to forgive; “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” looks like a behind-the-scenes featurette, wherein action sequences feel staged and wholly distract from their grander context. 

At one-hundred-and-seventy minutes the film heavily drags, especially in a first act of which 80% could be easily disposed of. Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins is established as a homely fusspot reluctant to venture out, his trademark dry brand of comedy successful in combating the staunch representation of factional warfare at its noblest and harrumph-est. Serkis gets that the film badly needs light spots, too, his and Freeman’s only scene together one of the rare highlights to recall the most accomplished parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A major issue is that there’s very little rapport to the characters, or a sense of importance to their journey, to make this seem like more than a Tolkien retread. And when McKellen’s Gandalf exclaims “And Into the Fire” in response to his dwarf friend’s cautionary bellow, “Out of the Frying Pan,” you really feel like the screenwriters have run out of ideas. Proverbs 1: Cinema 0.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 28

EPISODE 28: Masculine/Feminine
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It's Episode 28 of In the Mood for Podcast, a British-based film podcast hosted by Calum Reed of Ultimate Addict and Pete Sheppard of In the Mood for Blog. Awards dominate this week with discussion of the National Board of Review, LA film critics, and Boston film critics prizes, and predicting the Golden Globe and Screen Actors' Guild nominations. We talk about documentaries "The House I Live In" and "Knuckleball," before finally getting around to arthouse favourite "Tabu." And in straddling major extremes of masculinity, Martin McDonagh's male-dominated "Seven Pscyhopaths" faces off against our second Miley Cyrus film of the year, "So Undercover." The Miley vehicle brings giggles and shame to an otherwise level-headed episode, but we brought it on ourselves...

Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: Discussing the winners from the National Board of Review, LA film critics' association, and Boston Society of Film Critics'. [2:35 - 14:40]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "Seven Psychopaths"
  • "Tabu"
  • "The House I Live In"
  • "Knuckleball"
  • "So Undercover"
[18:20 - 55:35]

Closing Segment: Predicting the Golden Globe nominations, and the Screen Actors' Guild nominations [55:40 - 1:12:10]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*

*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Sky Ferreira, "Everything Is Embarrassing"

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 27

EPISODE 27: Mental Playlists
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It's Episode 27 of In the Mood for Podcast, a British-based film podcast hosted by Calum Reed of Ultimate Addict and Pete Sheppard of In the Mood for Blog. This week sees the old guard return, with Clint Eastwood back in front of the camera in "Trouble with the Curve," and austere Austrian mainstay Michael Haneke bringing his Palme d'Or winner "Amour" to Anglo eyes. Dickens' classic "Great Expectations" and gory Brit-comedy "Sightseers" get a dissection of their own, and after six months Cal has finally seen a 2012 Bollywood production, but is "normal" crime thriller "Talaash" the ideal candidate to ease him in? All this, plus our reaction to the NYFCC winners and a look ahead to the NBR...

Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: Discussing the winners of the New York Film Critics Circle's annual awards, and a brief look at the Golden Satellite nominations. [1:50 - 13:00]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "Amour"
  • "Great Expectations"
  • "Sightseers"
  • "Talaash"
[17:15 - 52:20]

Closing Segment: Our review of Clint Eastwood vehicle "Trouble with the Curve" and our predictions for the National Board of Review.  [52:30 - 1:14:25]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*

*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Army Navy, "Slight of Hand"

The National Board of Review Ensures "Zero Dark Thirty" Stays In The Hunt

It's my annual attempt at predicting something relatively unpredictable, the prizes bestowed by the National Board of Review. The 'freemasons' of the awards circuit, I'm not sure anyone quite knows who sits on this board or how it has gotten to be such a fixture in the season, nevertheless, it's always fun to look at what they choose each year.

[Updated with winners -- prediction score 13/24]

Picture: “Zero Dark Thirty"

Top 10: 
"Beasts of the Southern Wild”
"Django Unchained"
“Les Miserables”

”The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
"Promised Land"

“Silver Linings Playbook”
”Zero Dark Thirty”

Prediction score: 6/11

Prediction summary: You would think the assumed six safe bets for Best Picture nominations are among the 11 (10 + winner) championed by the board, those being “Argo,” “Lincoln,” “Life of Pi,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” After that, it could be a free-for-all; “Flight” and “Trouble with the Curve” fit that middle-of-the-road movie that this group often includes – the latter being basically a Clint Eastwood movie, despite him not officially directing it. “The Master” and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” seem to be on the decline right now, but I’m going to suggest that they come through based on their passionate pockets of fans. 

“Moonrise Kingdom” too, in that regard, although it’s resurrecting awards steam and should be a strong contender for a screenplay nomination with Oscar. You could replace “Skyfall” with “The Dark Knight Rises” or “The Avengers” or even “Magic Mike” in my predictions: it’s that smash hit entrant I figure makes it in like “Star Trek” and the final Harry Potter film did. 

Director: Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty”
Leading Actor: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Leading Actress: Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Supporting Actor: Leonardo Di Caprio, "Django Unchained"
Supporting Actress: Ann Dowd, "Compliance"

Prediction score: 1/5

Prediction summary: Bigelow seems like the perfect choice for Director critics prizes (more so than the film as Best Picture because of the severity of “Zero Dark Thirty”) although this could easily go to Ang Lee, Tom Hooper, or Steven Spielberg instead. I’m expecting Daniel Day-Lewis to sweep, and Hathaway and Jones to start ascending to frontrunner status. As for leading actress, this could go anywhere, so I’m picking Keira Knightley as a semi-outsider pick, based on the classic nature of the role and that they’ve tended to go for younger actresses of late. 

Original Screenplay: “Moonrise Kingdom”
Adapted Screenplay: “Lincoln”
Ensemble: “Les Miserables”
Breakthrough Actor: Tom Holland, “The Impossible”
Breakthrough Actress: Quvenzhane Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Animated Feature: “Frankenweenie”
Documentary Feature: “Searching For Sugar Man”
Foreign Film: “Amour"

Prediction score: 6/8

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Late Show (1977)

The Late Show
Directed by Robert Benton
Starring: Art Carney, Lily Tomlin, Bill Macy
Grade: B [72] 

A wonderfully ironic pastiche of old noir films, this tale of two Roberts (Altman produced it and Benton wrote and directed it) has the nuts and bolts of its private-eye detective yarn screwed tightly together, even if its mystery remains curiously detached from the rest. Benton’s quirky satirical vibe creates a forlorn environment for Tomlin’s idiosyncratic, attractively unrefined comedic tone to thrive, and the notion that Carney’s detective is over-the-hill – while flouted far too keenly – is effective at stripping down the perceived weaknesses of the noir hero (booze and women) and replacing them with insecurities about age and status. Its key downfall is that the linear tale of blackmail and murder lacks inherent drama or interest -- a secondary aim of the film for sure, but one that saps it of the juice it needs to become thoroughly enjoyable as more than a nostalgic genre exercise. Still eminently worthwhile, but ultimately underachieving.