Tag Archives: brad pitt

Sam’s Top 42 Films of the Decade

Just for the sake of my own sanity and desperate need to have these written somewhere, I give you my favourite forty-two films of the past decade. There are at least fifty-six other films I would like to put onto a list, but I think I need to forcefully prevent any more decade-based listmaking as quickly as possible. So beneath is the top ten list, along with a sentence or two on each film and then thirty-two, out-of-list-order, films which I had to include.

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MOD Summer Round-Up #2 (July to September)

Sunshine Cleaning Poster

So, in the wake of Transformers revenging the fallen all over our minds, we were in need of cooling down from the sheer anger and exhaustion felt in the studio. Though Sunshine Cleaning should have been a great example of an indie to bring us back onto home turf, it ended up an underwhelming experience. The eminently crushworthy pairing of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, along with the solid Alan Arkin and roles for Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr, just couldn’t quite drive us into anything beyond a tepid lack of satisfaction. Ideas involved were strong, but the execution was half-hearted, even if all of the above tried really hard to elevate the material. Continue reading →

Malick Working on Two Movies

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Terrence Malick, the reclusive and less-than-prolific director, is reportedly currently at work on two IMAX pictures; one his meditative Tree of Life work, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, the other an “ambitious documentary” which, according to The Playlist, is a natural history IMAX piece depicting “the birth and death of the universe”.

Much more is known about Tree of Life, his wildly ambitious project which has drawn comparisons in scope and greater sense of madness to Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. SlashFilm gleaned some factual information on the projects from Wikipedia, stating: “We trace the evolution of an eleven-year-old boy in the Midwest, Jack, one of three brothers. At first all seems marvelous to the child. He sees as his mother does, with the eyes of his soul. She represents the way of love and mercy, where the father tries to teach his son the world’s way, of putting oneself first. Each parent contends for his allegiance, and Jack must reconcile their claims. The picture darkens as he has his first glimpses of sickness, suffering and death. The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth.”

Malick has been renowned for the lack of work he has given to the world but, by his standards, is proving comparatively prolific in the past ten years. His last two, The Thin Red Line and The New World, are both epic in scope and scale but both hugely rewarding to those willing to invest time in their theses. If nothing else, this is the man who gave the world Badlands and Days of Heaven, works of mastery in blending character, landscape and myth, and Tree of Life should prove a challenge to savour for a filmmaker with his gifts.

Tree of Life is seemingly still at least a year away yet but this seems like something to get really excited about, as any project involving the great man should be.

Round Up

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Natalie Portman could end up playing the female lead role in Thor, possibly alongside Alexander Skarsgard…

Sunshine Cleaning enjoyed a startlingly successful per-theater average on its opening weekend, defying all expectations to be easily the year’s most successful on that measurement.

Garret Dillahunt. Somedays there are times when Devin doesn’t need to play advocate to speak the truth.

Brad Pitt’s Plan B company is to produce an adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Night Manager for Paramount.

Sony has picked up the US rights for Coco Before Chanel, the biopic of the fashion industry icon starring Audrey Tautou.

None-too-glorious Basterds

By now, all and sundry will have seen the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s much delayed, heavily anticipated new film, Inglourious Basterds. A very loose remake of a late-70s warploitation picture directed by Enzo Castellari, this has been circulating for some time now but has really kicked into gear in the past six months, first garnering much attention for its idiosyncratic casting and now starting to attract mixed-anticipation from forever apologists on his work and some scorn for certain aspects of what we can see.

Most of the problem I would have with the film is the casting of Brad Pitt in that lead role. Pitt recently won a deeply undeserved Oscar nomination for his performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and seems to have been elevated to a sort of untouchable status in Hollywood where his performances are never really watched with any critical eye by audiences. He seems able to walk into the most coveted roles in the industry without having to display anything beyond basic human charisma. He is a very watchable actor but, as brutally evidenced in this trailer, this is not the film for him. He has to play a grizzled veteran, a man entirely at home with violence and a skewed sense of patriotism. What we get here sounds more like Ben Button getting cranky.

Outside of that, the casting itself seems entirely strange, not only because he cast the hideous, execrable, annoying, talentless Eli Roth in a prominent acting role, but he has also hired the likes of BJ Novak (Ryan on the US version of The Office) and Samm Levine (Freaks & Geeks) to make up the assembled team of Nazi killers. To the Tarantino mega-fan, this will seem like another of his casting masterstrokes, but to me this reeks of constructed eccentricity. There can be nothing worse than creative decisions which seem to have been designed specifically to hit the quirk buttons and this seems very much that way.

Whether this film will be good or not, I cannot tell you at this point, but this looks like another of Tarantino’s films which will veer too far into over-clever pastiche in a way that Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction never did. I’m beginning to strongly desire just a straight film, nothing that recalls or pastiches anything from the past, nothing that’s a generic piece from a genre which only the hipster snoberati will regail in. Please, Quentin, just make something that showcases your talent rather than your ability to recall your past of watching movies all day and night.

Inglourious Basterds Trailer

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tajari P Henson, Tilda Swinton, Jason Flemying, Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Julia Ormond, Elias Koteas
Director: David Fincher
Writer: Eric Roth

Much talk amongst movie reviewers from the blogosphere in the run up to the 2009 Oscars has centred on the praise and focus being given to Slumdog Millionaire. So little has questioned the startling thirteen nominations given to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a film which has managed to plough through the past few months without ever worrying over getting itself into the key categories in all ceremonies. That’s not to suggest this isn’t a good film, but there seems to be little in the way of questions being asked as to how a film almost universally considered something of a disappointment has managed to so sturdily entrench itself among the best films of the year.

It is certainly ambitious, basing its near-three hour narrative on a short story by F Scott Fitzgerald concerning a gentleman who is aging backwards, and visually stunning. That much seemed true before its release given the trailers and the presence of David Fincher, maybe the most visually proficient auteur working in Hollywood. His presence here both reassures and causes anxiety given the subject matter, something tailor-made for grand American filmmaking in a tradition stretching well into old-Hollywood. He is a brilliant director, capable of understanding the need to project bigger ideas whilst also maintaining a perfect attention to detail, reaching his synergetic apex with Zodiac two years ago. This film seems half perfect for him. The visual aspects and the attention to both period detail and the need for the actors to dive into their portrayals work well for him, but he never seemed right for capturing the deep emotional bonds between the two lead characters and, indeed, this is where the film fails.

This can’t all be laid at the door of Fincher. He does create a spell-binding world for the film to exist in and carries forward the narrative at a reasonable pace, managing to avoid you feeling the length too much. The problem primarily comes from Brad Pitt. He is fine as usual but he works better in films where he has to have a short-attention span and puppy-dog demeanour, even if it’s a particularly deviant puppy dog. Here, he has to carry emotional weight which he is unable to do. It seems somewhat as through he has failed to heed the advice exhibited by George Clooney who understands both his limitations and strengths. Pitt seems to think he has the ability to pull of a role like this when in fact he occupies a similar space to Clooney, only eternally younger. It makes him a very difficult and awkward forty-year-old. Cate Blanchett is better, managing to be quite elegant and strong in her scenes but never exhibits what the charm is that Button so falls for. Easily the best member of the cast is Taraji P Henson as Button’s surrogate/adopted mother figure. She exudes love and motherly compassion for her children, lending her scenes a weight which the writing doesn’t really deserve.

The script from Roth is so close to Forrest Gump – even included a line about his mother, Henson, saying to him that ‘you never know what you’re gonna get’ – that you feel certain sense of déjà vu in places but, in fairness to Gump, that film is visually less exciting but far more emotionally impactful. The big beats in Roth’s script just don’t earn the kind of emotion they seek from the audience and therefore there is little to take from this outside of admiring the brilliance of the technical filmmaking.

That’s not to say this isn’t worthwhile. Fincher’s direction is confident throughout, even if he failed to understand the strengths of his regular collaborator Pitt. A more powerful actor in the lead role would likely have pulled Blanchett’s performance up to scruff too and made a truly emotional, very-near masterpiece. Unfortunately, Roth’s screenplay and Pitt’s performance just don’t have what’s needed to prevent the moments of schmaltz from ruining what should have been something special.

MOD Rating: ♦♦♦1/2

BAFTA Predictions

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So, here in print, are our predictions for this year’s BAFTAs. Please check out the podcast in which we discuss what you will find here. Also, here is the full list of nominations for your perusal.

Best Picture – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Slumdog Millionaire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: Slumdog Millionaire

Best British Film – Hunger, In Bruges, Mamma Mia, Man on Wire, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Man on Wire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director – Clint Eastwood (Changeling), David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Sam: Danny Boyle
Beth: Danny Boyle
Tom: Danny Boyle

Best Actor – Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Sam: Mickey Rourke
Beth: Dev Patel
Tom: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress – Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader), Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)
Sam: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Beth: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Tom: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Supporting Actor – Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder), Brendan Gleason (In Bruges), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Brad Pitt (Burn After Reading)
Sam: Heath Ledger
Beth: Heath Ledger
Tom: Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire), Tilda Swinton (Burn After Reading), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)
Sam: Penelope Cruz
Beth: Marisa Tomei
Tom: Amy Adams

Best Original Screenplay – Burn After Reading, Changeling, I’ve Loved You So Long, In Bruges, Milk
Sam: In Bruges
Beth: Milk
Tom: In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire
Sam: Slumdog Millionaire
Beth: Slumdog Millionaire
Tom: The Reader

Best Foreign Language – Baader Meinhof Complex, Gomorrah, I’ve Loved You So Long, Persepolis, Waltz with Bashir
Sam: Waltz with Bashir
Beth: Persepolis
Tom: Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated – Wall-E, Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis
Sam: Wall-E
Beth: Wall-E
Tom: Wall-E

Orange Rising Star – Michael Cera, Michael Fassbender, Noel Clarke, Rebecca Hall, Toby Kebbell
Sam: Michael Fassbender
Beth: Toby Kebbell
Tom: Michael Fassbender