Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 26

EPISODE 26: A Little Bromance
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It's Episode 26 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're warming up for awards with discussions of Oscar lineups from 1942, 1952, 1962, and 2003, as well as forecasting this year's nominees. The big release is David O'Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," of which the focus is firmly on Jennifer Lawrence, while buddy-cop drama "End of Watch" has the job of setting this week's pulses racing. The girls of hotline comedy "For a Good Time, Call.." get our inner-chick mode going, before Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz strip for "Gambit."  A late squabble about Indian cinema sets Jake and Michael's bar-setting bromance down some notches, but this was a fun one...

Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: The contentious results of the Leeds Film Festival's audience votes, and championing films and performances that won’t make our year-end lists [2:05 - 14:00]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "End of Watch"
  • "For a Good Time, Call..."
  • "Gambit"
  • "Lawrence of Arabia" (50th anniversary re-release)
[18:20 - 57:55]

Closing Segment: David O'Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook": considering the awards chances of its cast, offering examples of actors Oscar-nominated for the wrong films, and predicting next week's New York Film Critics Circle prizes. [58:00 - 1:17:10]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*

*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Ellie Goulding, "Anything Can Happen"

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Black Stallion (1979)

The Black Stallion
Directed by Carroll Ballard
Starring: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr
Grade: A - [83] 

A picture postcard of early adolescence, “The Black Stallion” is everything Spielberg’s “War Horse” should have been: majestic, effortless, forged with sentiment but rarely overflowing with it. It’s a beautiful story of a boy-horse bond that’s underpinned but, crucially, allowed to breathe, Ballard capturing the shipwrecked duo’s learned mutual trust with a ten-minute wordless sequence alive with grace and profound feeling. This somewhat simple journey takes a different shape when Oscar-nominated Mickey Rooney enters the picture, but in replacing the horse’s temporary purpose as a paternal figure, the film enlightens the adaptability of animals and our use of them to great effect. Despite the obvious similarities to “War Horse” it finds a depth and scope displayed infinitely better in Bresson’s “Au Hasard Balthazar,” and yet can be identified as a wonderful family movie, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wanderlust (2012)

Directed by David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Kathryn Hahn, Malin Akerman, Alan Alda
Grade: C+ [53] 

”Wanderlust” is a comedy that works on a purely theoretical level: Cultural depictions take opposing extremes; identities and purposes get muddied and melded, and everyone lives happily ever after. The film manages to create humour without being offensive, amusing when approaching ideological inconsistencies and the flexible nature of liberation, and charming in the way that the theme-driven elements of the piece recall simple, old-fashioned funnies like “The Egg and I.” Still, while Wain’s social commentary is crystal clear, the mechanics around it are disingenuous and forced (perhaps that’s what comes with painting so many characters as bare-faced hypocrites?) and a dubious finale undoes some of the good work, too. It’s a pleasant change to see a basic conceit mined for all of its worth, but there isn’t really enough in “Wanderlust” to justify investment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 25

EPISODE 25: Tricks of the Trade
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A mini milestone is passed in Episode 25 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 our attentions are divided between nutritious world cinema and meaty awards chat, as The Hollywood Reporter's annual roundtables prompt us to gossip about the females of 2012. From there we move onto reviews of "Mental," "Jab Tak Hai Jaan," "Happy Happy," "A Better Life," and "On Air," before returning to process Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," well-publicised as having sent critics spinning. We're less concerned with the weight of the film than Amy Adams' elbow grease, which proves just too rich a source of innuendo for some...
Discussed on the podcast: 

Opening Segment: We chat at length about The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable, the participants of which were Amy Adams, Marion Cotillard, Sally Field, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, Naomi Watts, and Rachel Weisz. Who came off best, and which ladies are the frontrunners for awards? [2:40 - 18:10]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "Mental"
  • "Jab Tak Hai Jaan"
  • "Happy Happy"
  • "A Better Life"
  • "On Air"
[21:10 - 51:55]

Closing Segment: Our thoughts on Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” and discussing the art of balancing double features. [52:00 - 1:11:35]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*

*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: New theme music!
Outro Music: Missy Elliot, "One Minute Man"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Argo (2012)

Directed by Ben Affleck
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy
Grade: C+ [55] 

For a film situated in the midst of a complex era for American-middle Eastern relations Affleck’s “Argo” bathes in simplicity, spurning insight into the period for a by-the-numbers rescue mission narrative. A ‘thriller’ without the thrills, it’s a sort of bedraggled descendant of Spielberg’s “Munich,” with less of the genuine peril or interesting character work which that film – for all of its faults – had in spades. Gleefully aware of its lack of earnestness and celebratory of Hollywood’s mysticism as a weapon against uniformity and protocol, the film-insider knowledge in the opening act works best in gaining a rapport for this lovingly novel conceit. It's less successful when becoming a primarily dramatic text, somehow underwhelming despite its sensationalist approach to a logistical, suspense-geared culmination, underserving both its audience and its intriguing real-life source material.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In the Mood for Podcast: Episode 24

EPISODE 24: Disrupt the Peace
You can Listen online or

It's Episode 24 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 Ben Affleck's awards juggernaut "Argo" lands on British shores, but does it live up to the considerable hype? "Transformers" scribe Alex Kurtzman is the latest to lure Michelle Pfeiffer back to the screen in the family drama "People Like Us," while the established pull of Chris O'Dowd is tested in Wayne Blair's "The Sapphires." Pete endures Kevin James in "Here Comes the Boom," and Cal sits in for daunting "Dogtooth" director Giorgos Lanthimos's eery follow-up, "Alps." All this, and an opening segment on Wong Kar-wai's upcoming "The Grandmasters," which goes a little awry when an unexpected intruder stymies Pete's reverent flow. Well, not everyone liked "My Blueberry Nights"...

On the podcast: 

Opening Segment: Discussing the week's news, reactions to the first trailer for Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmasters," and some fond thoughts about the filmmaker's career thus far. [1:10 - 15:30]

*Preconception Corner*

Reviews of: 

  • "The Sapphires"
  • "People Like Us"
  • "Here Comes the Boom"
  • "Alps"
[18:50 - 54:25]

Closing Segment: Discussing "Argo," crazy real-life stories adapted for cinema, and looking at early betting odds for the Best Picture Oscar. [54:30 - 1:13:05]

*Shag, Marry or Kill?*

*The Watson Factor*
*The Poupaud Range*

Intro Music: Faye Wong, "Dream Person"
Outro Music: The Supremes, "The Happening"

Skyfall (2012)

Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris
Grade: B [71] 

It wasn’t particularly reassuring when Sam Mendes became the latest A-lister to tackle the Bond franchise, his failure to register a worthy follow-up to debut smash “American Beauty” having lasted for more than a decade now. Thankfully, “Skyfall” is a return to form for the British filmmaker, its flag-waving patriotism omnipresent but on this occasion diluted with the dense, loaded political context of a Christopher Nolan film (Mendes himself has admitted Nolan’s influence), and an inherently personal motive for its villain beyond megalomania and terrorism. Like “Quantum of Solace” this feels like a transitory entrant in the 007 series (one would hope that the next installment be considerably more fun) but the use of literary roots adds dimension to an otherwise excellently-staged action adventure, and Craig continues to impress in his stint as the agent. It feels as though the character badly needs a boost, but in the stakes of entertainment “Skyfall” is yet another slam dunk for fans of this ever-adapting world of espionage.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rust and Bone (2012)

Rust and Bone
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corinne Masiero
Grade: B [69] 

For a film about drawing strength from physical adversity, “Rust and Bone” isn’t half as uplifting a time as its slushy, aquatic trailer would have you believe. It’s rare that a romance comes along so eager to purge its characters of traditional forms of grace, and still express the rich, interdependent courage that exists between them. The imposing performances of Cotillard and Schoenaerts punctuate Audiard’s themes well, and the coarseness of their romance lends something uniquely powerful to the experience. It’s somewhat soured when some heavy-handed plotting sweeps in to enforce an epiphany in the final act, but the effect is more dispiriting than ruinous. When even Katy Perry’s “Firework” is utilised to profoundly moving effect, you have to figure that this is a somewhat successful exercise in spinning straw into gold.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

Silent Hill: Revelation
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harrington, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell
Grade: D [22] 

After Christophe Gans’s artistic prowess loomed assuredly over 2006’s initial adaptation of the popular video game, this sequel is content to replace practical effects with characterless technological frippery, and pack oodles of badly-written, baffling back-story onto an already obscurely-plotted series. Discussion of spirituality is shelved for a minor romance, a vague kidnap plot, and mostly worthless attempts at cheap thrills, while Mitchell and Bean are consigned to bit-parts around the vapid figures of Clemens and Harrington. Somewhere along the way the unique qualities of this grand horror-of-the-unknown have been muddied and lost, either by rashly conceiving of a follow-up designed to make a quick buck at the box-office, or by the limitations of the material itself. I’m inclined to go with the former.