Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My New Film Site, "Questionable Motives"

Thank you everyone for returning to the site after all this time. I was in Osaka, Japan for the better part of the year and just returned a couple of months ago from studying. I love Blogger and they've been running a fantastic site but I've decided to start a new film blog over at Tumblr. There are already plenty of new posts over at the new site so join me in bringing the film conversation over to QUESTIONABLE MOTIVES thanks to Tumblr.
I still visit this site from time to time and I don't want to delete because I still get several hundred hits for all the posts I have archived. Tumblr offers a different look and atmosphere that I really am attracted to and that helps me deliver film news and updates in a sleeker way. Again, head over to QUESTIONABLE MOTIVES and start talking film.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Man do I love puppets. And I love puppets even more when they're used to parody something. In this case, TWILIGHT. Not only is the romance in this short film done more skillfully and more believably, but I'd even say that the special effects contend with those of the feature film. You decide.
In other news, Catherine Hardwicke was removed as director of the TWILIGHT franchise which I see as a great move in a better series of films. I still admire her for her status in filmmaking today but I absolutely do not believe she is right for this series. Her direction in this film was awful if I might say.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thoughts on Criminality and Morality in Film; WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU and DUPLICITY trailers

Though most of us still appreciate a good ol' crime drama in the vein of GOODFELLAS or CASINO or any number or Scorsese films, I've been finding it harder and harder to appreciate this genre of film. It's not the writing (though at times is lyrical) and it's not the direction (at times visually ornate), it's my reaction to the world that the characters inhabit. Though, I still can admire the chops that go into making a PARANOID PARK, the writing of a BLOW or BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD, or even the brutal explorations of a NO COUNTRY, I'm no longer inspired by the criminals that some films glorify. Like the boy looking up to Outlaw Jesse James.
Now, there's a difference between inspiration and impression. A keen mind is a keen mind but all knowledge is not necessarily good knowledge. Criminals or those who take part in criminal activity are still human beings, but we all make decisions and the justification that, some don't know any better, is no longer justification enough. We live in the 21st century. Education starts from when one reads the tube of toothpaste in the morning to when one shops for khakis and to when they drive home from work listening to the news flash in between songs on the radio. Criminals themselves are to blame for predicaments they find themselves in and are responsible for any and all consequences.
Having just finished the final episode of THE SHIELD, the word consequence doesn't seem to carry the weight it once did. The protagonist (or antagonist, depending on how you view him) Vic Mackey, is not only one of the sharpest minds on the police force, he's also one of the dirtiest. I find myself rooting for the clever thug all the while hoping he gets the justice that's coming to him. I love it when Ocean and crew get away with the loot in the end but their suavity doesn't negate that fact they're cons and criminals. It may seem like I'm taking the fun out of the film but look at the situation on a universal level. What are the reasons so many youngsters think they have what it takes to be a criminal; the reason they turn to criminality? Right, there's too many.
I'm almost banging on a muted drum here but think about the role criminality and the morality of it in films you see in the future and even ones you may revisit from years past.
Now comes the trailer for Brian Goodman's WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU. I'm not making any negative comments towards the film but consider the film taking what we've discussed above. The story is fairly authentic as it is based on events and the life of the writer/director.

We all know Tony Gilroy right? He's only written some of the best screenplays in the last decade including THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE and the BOURNE films and as of 2007, directed one of the best movies of the year, MICHAEL CLAYTON. His new film is in fact, yep you guessed it, a con film. DUPLICITY, starring the Clive "The Driver" Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. It does look mighty fun though, doesn't it?


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trailer for ADORATION

I hadn't heard about this film until about three weeks ago. It played earlier this year at Cannes and received a skittles bag of mixed reviews. Adam and Matty spoke about the film, last week I believe, on their podcast Filmspotting and both had fairly positive feelings about the film. Directed and written by Atom Egoyan, who also brought us THE SWEET HEREAFTER and WHERE THE TRUTH LIES to name a couple. Anyhoo, I'm interested, to say the least. Although this film doesn't open until early 2009, we're reaching the end of the year, "Oscar season" films, and I'd group this with those, not so much a contender with films like MILK and BENJAMIN BUTTON, but more "in the vein of."


Friday, November 21, 2008

Trailer Ketchup/Catsup/Catch-up

Oh so many trailers. How many trailers, you ask? Enough to feed all of New Mexico with. I'll start quickly with one that comes from writer director Greg Mottola. You might not have seen his first film THE DAYTRIPPERS but you mostly did see his other, SUPERBAD. His new film, ADVENTURELAND, stars indie star Jesse Eisenberg and of TWILIGHT infamy, Kristen Stewart who seems to actually give a damn unlike in her performance in TWILIGHT. I still can't get over the disappointment! Anyhoo, ADVENTURELAND looks really darn sweet and looks to have the samn sentiment that gave JUNO heart. Look for ADVENTURELAND March 27th of 2009.

Next up, the one, the only, the chosen one, Potter, Harry. The latest international trailer was released a week or so ago and it's...exciting alright. Since we were swindled into watching TWILIGHT this month instead of HARRY POTTER as originally planned, we now get to wait all the way until July 17th. Yay.

Darren Aronofsky should already be etched into our film lexicon and THE WRESTLER should only force us etch it deeper. Aronofsky reminds me of those early auteurs much like our current generation's Shyamalan or Wes Anderson. But Aronofsky falls into a different category altogether, not auteur but not journeyman either. If you didn't see the jump from PI to REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, then surely you could see the jump from REQUIEM to THE FOUNTAIN. Did you see THE FOUNTAIN? Why haven't you seen THE FOUNTAIN yet? And now, we have THE WRESTLER. Micky Rourke plays wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson whose days headlining during the 80's have now turned into short stints in small gyms and community centers. After a serious heart attack Randy is forced to retire and finds his already hollowed life now further in disarray. Never one to keep relationships for long, Randy must fill the gaps in his life whichever way he can befriending a stripper (Marisa Tomei) and re-connecting with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Woods). Since its premiere early this year at festivals, this film has been getting all sorts of praise. December 19th.

Now, let's journey back to before the Starfleet Enterprise, before Captain Kirk, to when officers of the Enterprise were just lowly control bridge ornaments, well not really. STAR TREK. May 8, 2009.

And lastly tonight, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. The new film by Sam Mendes starring DiCaprio and Winslet tells the story of youth, love, and adulthood with all its bells and whiplashes. A beautiful trailer for a surely beautiful film, and not in the pretentious way. A Christmas film indeed. December 26th.


TWILIGHT; Quick thoughts

Oh goodness, I'm not sure where to start with where this film went wrong. Actually, I do...the beginning. Automatically, horrible casting for whoever played Phil because he couldn't even say his one line right, "Alright, everyone in the car, we're getting late." With production values that contend with Discovery Channel dramatizations and a cast that collectively botches every line of the film thanks to directing that seems to be given by a student filmmaker. I refuse to believe that this is the same Catherine Hardwicke who also directed THIRTEEN and LORDS OF DOGTOWN. And give me four weeks and I will churn out a better spec script for TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, ECLIPSE and BREAKING DAWN than screenwriter Rosenberg who I wouldn't have trusted with this material anyway seeing as she's only written one other film, and to its defense I have yet to see it, but that's STEP UP. Being a fan of the books, I have no love for this film which doesn't know it's undistinguished tone from it's shotty editing. And seriously, Kristen Stewart, Rob Pattinson, are you kidding me guys? That's the best performance both you leads could conjure up?...Seriosuly?! I could've gotten better performances out of Helen Keller and Ice Cube. I think the best part of the film was Anna Kendrick who plays Jessica in a supporting role. She was previously also in ROCKET SCIENCE in which she's supposedly great in as well, but apparently I'm not the only who sees promise in her because Jason Reitman (JUNO, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING) just cast her in his new film UP IN THE AIR as of twelve hours ago. C'mon Hollywood, I've got the eyes, ears, and mind of a producer, fly me out there.
As excited as I was to be there with some friends at the midnight showing, I felt embarrassed for us upon leaving the theater though we were still surrounded by pubescent emo girls and sexually frustrated housewives who proudly would choose this poor romance over some incredible ones such as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, BEFORE SUNRISE/SUNSET, or even ATONEMENT. Honestly, I'm just really upset that I waited a year through casting, shooting and post-production for a straight-to-VHS I would have most likely tossed aside at a movie rental store in 1994.
NEW MOON will start up production in a few months and I have some advice for Summit Entertainment. First off and most importantly, hire Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith to write the screenplay. They're other films include 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, LEGALLY BLONDE, and THE HOUSE BUNNY. They have rom-com background which might actually be refreshing though they'll have to tone it down some. Another writer pairing that would work is Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais who have previously written FLUSHED AWAY, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and THE BANK JOB. I'm talking about bringing on some actually weight to this film which Summit seems to have completely neglected with TWILIGHT. Second, I'm sorry Catherine Hardwicke, I still will watch whatever you do next but you're out for the second film. Enter David Slade of HARD CANDY and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT fame. It has little to do with the fact he directed a vampire film and more to do with the style. NEW MOON introduces several new elements of action. I'm not going to watch huskies battle it out on camera with a stuntman running around as a vampire. I want CGI heavy werewolves and I want to see some actual production value, not whatever it was that we got in this film. Slade definitely works well with lighting and colors and can tell a story without having the camera linger much longer than it needs to. Obviously we can't change up the cast but it's acceptable because we're actually going to have them rehearse and act this time which means fixing Robert's facial expressions and getting Kristen a speech therapist. I don't want to rush production especially when we'll need two to three months of solid post-production but we could have it out by Christmas 2009 but with AVATAR releasing then we'd be better off looking for a February/March 2010 release.



Friday, November 14, 2008

New WATCHMEN trailer and quick thoughts on QUANTUM OF SOLACE

Woah, where did I go? Work, school, the movies, yeah I've been around. Um...~right?
Well, I just got back from QUANTUM OF SOLACE and my thoughts are all kinds of positive. Forster has a completely different style than Campbell and from his CASINO ROYALE. Honestly, and I said this during the film, "Wow, this film just doesn't let up." Just when the narrative slows and we begin to recover from the last amazing set piece, we're thrown, just as well as Bond, into another head-on collision, so to speak. There's very little time to actually catch your breathe.
Reflecting back upon it now, I'm realizing just how different from ROYALE this film actually is. Near completely. CASINO ROYALE had us following Bond up close and intimately and we felt the relationship develop in front of us between himself and Vesper. We saw the storm wreak havoc at the end of that film upon James and how he immediately dismissed his emotions. Here, we see a drive. We see the aftermath left by that storm and we absorb its shock waves. Bond dives fingers first into a sugar bowl of the unknown and together we journey through the reality of deception and untruths.
I'm looking forward to watching the film again very soon because they really do pack quite a quantity into this film, too much even. Whereas ROYALE took us back to who Bond really was, it managed to keep it all very contained. QUANTUM is an air horn to ROYALE's French, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It almost feels like this film goes back previous Bond films with its excessive Michael Bay-esque explosions and boat/plane/car chases but Forster manages to somehow ground them much like ROYALE and, I hate to use this comparison but, the Bourne films. Like I said, I'm ready to go watch the film again and I'm definitely already looking forward to the 3-disc special edition Blu-Ray because I'm going to want to see how the hell they shot some of the incredible sets and you're going to want to, as well.


Friday, October 31, 2008


For those of you that don't know, I also write film reviews for a street team here in Tampa for the Tribune and I wanted to just paste my quick thoughts on the film from which can be found in the print version of the Tribune as well as online here at The Tampa Tribune Reel People page.

What I liked: No, Eastwood hasn’t lost it yet like many thought he would after the successes of MYSTIC RIVER, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA. But in keeping, he has returned and brought us one of the best films of the year. Although Eastwood may not seem to shine techniaclly, it is really the subtleties that make CHANGELING what it is.
And of course we are not forgetting the leading lady, A. Jolie, who many tend to forget is an actress first, and then a celebrity. If A MIGHTY HEART didn’t assure you that she’s worthy of the screen, then this definitely will. I have not seen Jolie as emotionally invested in a character as she is as Christine Collins here. There are some great supporting performances by Jeffrey Donovan as Police Capt. Jones in charge of the investigation as well as another remarkable performance by Amy Ryan whose breakthrough role in GONE BABY GONE last year impressed us all.

What I disliked: Honestly, CHANGELING is brilliantly smooth around the edges and whereas the 140 minute run-time may seem like too much, Eastwood leaves us with little time for detachment.

Would I recommend it?: The Oscar Race is well underway and I’ll be surprised if Jolie doesn’t receive a nomination. Eastwood weaves this non-fictional tale through several genres, least of all drama and suspense, but above all else, horror. Parts of this horrifyingly true tale can be some what compared to aspects of ZODIAC, SNOW ANGELS, GONE BABY GONE and even LA CONFIDENTIAL. CHANGELING is not only a great film but a truly extraordinary story of determination and hope. Get out and watch, now.

Score: 9 out of 10
- Nizar Babul

So...yeah, I did really enjoy the film. Really, the near two and a half hours don't hit you as hard as you think they would. Although the story does breakaway from Jolie's character Christine Collins for a while sometimes, Eastwood doesn't at all lose us and that is many times very easy to do when attempting to cover several different events.

Here in CHANGELING, we have the good, the bad, and the killers. Essentially, the tale leaves for very few characters with any grey to show and as calm as Eastwood is in letting the camera and editing nudge us in any which direction, the dialouge certainly beats us with it. Most characters stay constant throughout and give little thought to the opposing mentality.

I do have to point out that there are several great performances including Jolie's. Amy Ryan has a brief stint as a prostitute locked up in a psychopathic ward. And the most disturbing performance goes to Jason Butler Harner. Managing to extract grief and rage towards him, his performance alone brings this film to one hell of an finale.

I'd say, head out this weekend and check it out. Make it a double-feature with ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO. And then prepare for the next two months of spectacular films including November 14th's QUANTUM OF SOLACE. Thanks.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

International trailer for HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE; start lubing up your wands and broomsticks

Man, oh, man...they definitely shouldn't have shown us the international trailer so soon because now I am kind of pissed that it's not coming out in a month, where as I didn't really care before. Well, you saw it, what do you think? The trailer was most likely cut a couple of months back when it was still supposed to come out in November (so don't get your hopes up, we still have another eight or nine months to go). Still, November is to be the primer for the month of December. I just saw CASINO ROYALE again the other night for the sixth or seventh time and it was still just as great as ever. I thought this was a post about HARRY POTTER? QUANTUM OF SOLACE opens wide November 14th.