Eleven in ’11: Double shot of Soderbergh

January 5, 2011

Like anyone who has a modicum of taste, I started wailing uncontrollably when I read this. Then I remembered that the maker of sex, lies and videotape (note the correct lower-case spelling, yo – I do draw the line at spelling SEVEN with a 7 in place of the V, though), the OCEAN’S trilogy and OUT OF SIGHT (quite possibly my favourite movie of the ’90s) has threatened to quit before yet keeps on keeping on. I’d be bummed if Soderbergh called it a day, although even if he does wrap it up after his proposed MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E movie he’s still got one of the best bodies of work out there, one that lends itself to regular rewatching.

Before all that, however, he’s got two films coming out this year, both of which sound more than a little interesting. CONTAGION sounds like he’s applying his ensemble-cast, multi-storyline TRAFFIC approach to a killer-virus storyline a la OUTBREAK, and he’s assembled a terrific line-up of actors that includes Matt Damon, Gywneth Paltrow, Jude Law (TALENTED MR RIPLEY reunion!), Marion Cotillard, WINTER’S BONE badass John Hawkes and BREAKING BAD’s Bryan Cranston.

Prior to that hitting cinemas in December, though, Soderbergh is trying something a little different, an action movie titled HAYWIRE with mixed-martial-arts champ (and novice actress) Gina Carano in the lead.

Here’s some footage of Ms Carano kicking arse and being kinda cool (‘Bad Reputation’, though? Time for a moratorium on that song, yes?):

The film, which has Carano’s secret agent blacklisted or burn noticed or bad reputationed and out for revenge against the people who screwed her over, has reportedly been described as “a Pam Grier movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock”, and Soderbergh himself has cited FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and John Boorman’s POINT BLANK as inspirations, which I think you’ll agree sounds completely rockin’.

What’s more, dig the supporting cast: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Matthieu Kassovitz, Michael Fucking Fassbender and Antonio Banderas to name just a few. And if that wasn’t enough, Lem Dobbs, who wrote Soderbergh’s THE LIMEY, did the script and David Holmes, who provided the what’s-cooler-than-being-cool-ice-cold soundtracks for OUT OF SIGHT and the OCEAN’S movies, is doing the music.

And if you don’t trust my judgement, maybe you should listen to THE SOUP’s Joel McHale, who recently Tweeted that he saw a cut of HAYWIRE and was suitably impressed. So maybe you should be too.


Eleven in ’11: BOSSYPANTS by Tina Fey

January 3, 2011

So here’s the plan: over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be running down a list of 11 upcoming releases, events and thingies from the world of pop culture (and maybe even just the world in general) that I’m excited about in 2011. Of course, I may find in the course of my investigation that there aren’t even 11 things worth getting psyched about over the next 12 months, in which case I apologise for getting your hopes up. But as with most journeys, I begin this one with unbridled optimism and a sense of hope. Then GREEN LANTERN will turn out to be an absolute turd and regular programming will resume. (That was a hypothetical, kids! I personally think GREEN LANTERN has the potential to be a marvellously tasty slab of cheese a la FLASH GORDON or HIGHLANDER.)

Anyway, my first fanboy sequel of delight for the year comes courtesy of Tina Fey:

The creator and star of the truly ace 30 ROCK has written a book! Of essays and such! Not much has been revealed about it at this stage, but the fine folks at Amazon.com have said it’s about “some questionable haircuts, some after-school jobs, the rise of nachos as a cultural phenomenon, a normal childhood, a happy marriage and joyful motherhood”. I for one am looking forward to reading Fey’s musings on nachos.

Also: those arms on the cover. I dunno how I feel about them. I’m torn.

In this section, I was gonna include HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER, Sloane Crosley’s follow-up to her terrific debut I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE (Crosley’s got a winning way with titles), but I recently discovered it’s been available in Australia for some time. Which makes me (a) a chump, and (b) a happy chump because now I don’t have to order it from the US (probably from the fine folks at Amazon.com) and instead can start reading it ASAP.


2010: Parting Glances

January 1, 2011

Because you need to see yet another list of 2010 movies in which it’s explained why THE SOCIAL NETWORK and WINTER’S BONE were so good, here’s mine. (By the way, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and WINTER’S BONE are good. You should see them, as well as a few of the other movies mentioned here.)

THE RESPECTED:

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Making an incredible feature-film debut, writer-director David Michod quietly but decisively blew away many of the clichés of the crime movie, making the law-breaking Pope family a dysfunctional mob ruled by manipulation, misguided loyalty and fear. Grim and gripping. And for another top look at the turbulent lives of professional crims, check out Ben Affleck’s THE TOWN.

FANTASTIC MR FOX

Roald Dahl’s tale of a crafty, crooked fox got the Wes Anderson treatment and became a wry and whimsical story of manning up and facing your responsibilities when all you really want to do steal chickens, make wisecracks and dance a jig. Between this, the moving TOY STORY 3 and the exhilarating HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, it was a great year for big-screen animation.

THE GHOST WRITER

Roman Polanski was back in the headlines for a couple of reasons this year, but let’s try to accentuate the positive: the veteran filmmaker showed he could still put the screws to the audience with this tense, twisty thriller about a writer uncovering the deep, dark secrets surrounding a former prime minister.

THE HURT LOCKER

You bet it deserved the Best Picture Oscar.

INCEPTION/SHUTTER ISLAND

Leonardo DiCaprio delivered a knockout one-two punch with this mind-bending pair of thrillers that covered similar territory. Both Martin Scorsese’s striking thriller and Christopher Nolan’s big, bold adventure explored the nature of regret and redemption, giving the audience plenty to ponder while taking them on a wild ride.

LET ME IN

An American remake of the much-loved Swedish horror movie LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was always going to have its critics, but this haunting story of a bullied boy and the vampire next door wasn’t lost in translation. In fact, in some ways it even bettered the original.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

Definitely the best time I had at the movies this year, this story of a slacker taking on seven “evil exes” in the name of true love is bursting with energy, invention and wit. And for a much more lurid and bloody (but no less fun) coming-of-age story, you might want to take a look at the awesomely disreputable KICK-ASS.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK

More compelling and thought-provoking than you’d imagine a film about the creation of Facebook had any right to be.

UP IN THE AIR

The kind of smart, sophisticated, heartfelt and funny mainstream comedy-drama Hollywood should be making all the time, with a career-best performance by George Clooney.

WINTER’S BONE

This one crept under the radar for a lot of viewers but if you get the chance to see this tense tale of a teenage girl’s quest to track down her wayward father in the dirt-poor North Carolina backwoods, don’t miss out. If anything, you’ll be able to say you caught star of the future Jennifer Lawrence in one of her first roles.

THE REJECTED:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

If anything good comes out of this deathly dull re-imagining of the classic fantasy story, it’s that Tim Burton might have finally got all the useless whimsy and quirk out of his system. Maybe now he’ll start making movies again. Personally speaking, my tastes run to something a little grittier, like the cool sword-and-sorcery throwback SOLOMON KANE.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER

In a year full of screen couples with little chemistry, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler have the dubious honour of displaying no affinity for one another whatsoever. The movie surrounding them was pretty weak too. Drew Barrymore and Justin Long did it much better in the underrated GOING THE DISTANCE.

THE EXPENDABLES

Sounded great on paper but Sylvester Stallone getting the band back together for one last action movie the way they used to was a tired, lumbering waste of time and effort. For the good version of this story, watch THE LOSERS.

GROWN UPS

Hey, Adam Sandler, thanks for charging us to watch home movies of you and your pals trading stale wisecracks. I’m glad you guys had fun, though, because I sure didn’t. For a funnier and more resonant dose of male bonding, check out HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET

The most cheap and cynical cash-in on a name brand since the last horror-movie remake these guys did. Give something a little more original a whirl by taking a look at DAYBREAKERS.

THE UNJUSTLY NEGLECTED:

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP

What starts as a documentary about street art cunningly shape-shifts into a look at what art actually is, and the result is a funny, eye-opening movie that’s as trippy and thought-provoking as INCEPTION.

CENTURION

Why this lean, mean and bloody action movie about a band of Roman soldiers running for their lives from the brutal enemy they underestimated wasn’t a huge hit is a mystery.

FOUR LIONS/IN THE LOOP

Two edgy, scathing and hilarious comedies from the UK, the first doing the near-impossible by making a band of would-be suicide bombers likeable and funny, the second mercilessly dissecting the mundane day-to-day of international politics.

THE MESSENGER

Without a shot being fired, it’s as devastating as any war movie of recent times, with two powerful performances by Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as the men bearing bad news to the families of US soldiers killed overseas.

CITY ISLAND

This marvellously messy story of a dysfunctional but loving family makes the most of a tremendous cast that includes Andy Garcia, THE GOOD WIFE’s Julianna Margulies and Alan Arkin.

2010’s MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS:

COLIN FIRTH

Firth is one of those guys who does his job so well and so subtly that it’s been all too easy for years to admire him without really appreciating the fine combination of technique and soul that goes into his acting. His heartbreaking performances in A SINGLE MAN and THE KING’S SPEECH are terrific bookends to the year.

MARION COTILLARD

It’s not easy for European actresses to break into Hollywood, even if they have an Oscar to their name like French actress Cotillard. But the star of MA VIE EN ROSE brought such grace, passion and elegance to her work in the ambitious misfire NINE and the blockbuster INCEPTION that she seems here to stay.

JACKI WEAVER and BEN MENDELSOHN

The ensemble cast of ANIMAL KINGDOM has been praised, and rightfully so, but there are two standouts – as the criminal clan’s malignant mum, Weaver’s cheeky, cheerful persona has never been used to such great effect, while Mendelsohn’s unnerving portrayal of a loose-cannon crook with a head full of bad wiring was the stuff of nightmares.

ANNETTE BENING

Bening doesn’t do flashy. She doesn’t grandstand. Or pose. She just acts honestly and eloquently, shining a light on the flaws and foibles of her characters while instilling them with an unmistakable humanity. Lucky for us, she did it twice in 2010 in the underrated MOTHER AND CHILD and the slightly overrated THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.

CHLOE GRACE MORETZ

Tremendous child actors are springing up all over the place these days, delivering performances rich in emotion and expression. And 13-year-old Moretz is helping lead the charge, showing amazing range this year by creating the foul-mouthed, homicidal and totally awesome Hit Girl in KICK-ASS before shifting gears and bringing sadness and fury to her eternally young vampire in LET ME IN. By the way, her LET ME IN co-star, young Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, was every bit her equal.