I’m Not Trying to Sell You Anything, But Jude Law Is

Jude Law, short film, photo, advertisement, Johnnie Walker Blue

Jude Law stars in The Gentleman’s Wager for JOHNNIE WALKER BLUE LABEL Blended Scotch whisky

It is not often I feel the need to do a post about an advert (or as Ralphie Parker* would say, “A crummy commercial”), but this one came to my attention today and while it may be simply because it stars Jude Law, whom I’ve been thinking about more than usual of late, but I find it so unusually impressive, I feel the need to talk about it.

The ad is nominally for Johnnie Walker Blue Label, which, if you’re going to drink a blend, as opposed to a single malt, this is a good one. I say nominally, however, because the makers of what can only be called a short film, are not doing the hard sell here.

The film has a title. It’s called A Gentleman’s Wager, and along with Law it stars Giancarlo Giannini (whom most of you probably know best as Rene Mathis, in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, which is too bad. It means you’ve missed, among other things, the films of Lina Wertmüller.)

The film tells the story of a wager between two men striving for personal progress through the quest for a truly rare experience. The Gentleman’s Wager sees Law in the role of a man who, despite having it all, challenges himself to strive for something he wants that money can’t buy. The film begins with Law and Giannini sipping Johnnie Walker Blue Label on a gorgeous hand-crafted boat as they look out across a stunning ocean seascape. We hear Law’s character state that he wants to buy the boat, but it is not for sale and the only way he can get it, is by putting on a truly unique performance. The wager begins.

What makes this short remarkable is its pedigree. Sure, there have been any number of high-profile advertisements in the past decade, featuring both A-list actors (Clive Owen, Brad Pitt) and directors (Guy Ritchie, Michael Mann), the latest of which was the “It’s Good to Be Bad” campaign for Jaguar featuring Mark Strong, Tom Hiddleston and Sir Ben Kingsley. But not many have the talent both onscreen and behind, that Johnnie Walker has assembled.

A Gentleman’s Wager is directed by Jake Scott. If the first name isn’t familiar, it probably will be soon, but the last name should be. He’s one of those Scotts. He’s the son of Sir Ridley and nephew of the late Tony. His own resume includes Welcome to the Rileys and Plunkett and Macleane (with Jonny Lee Miller and which I liked. Don’t judge) as well as a slew of big-name rock-docs.

It was shot in The British Virgin Islands, Caribbean and London by John Mathiason, who was the cinematographer on Ridley Scott films like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood as well as Phantom of the Opera and X-Men: First Class. Production design was by Joseph Bennett, responsible for the look of HBO’s “Rome”. Costumes are by Scott regular Janty Yates, in conjunction with London bespoke mens outfitter, Mr. Porter. The film was produced by Jules Daly (The Grey, Assassination of Jesse James) and Tracie Norfleet of Scott Free.  That’s a lot of stops that were pulled.

Commenting on his role and involvement in the film, Law says: “The film is about improvement and progress and this is something I try to do in my work and my everyday life. I had to learn new skills shooting this film and that combined with the places we visited and shot in, alongside working with Jake and with Giancarlo, made it a truly rare experience.”

Take the above with a grain of salt or a slug of Johnnie Walker. I’m sure Mr. Law was paid a boatload of pounds sterling for his “rare experience”. Oh well. A Gentleman’s Wager is still a classy and entertaining little bit of footage.  And if it were up to me, I might give Jake a shot at the next Bond film. Whenever Sam Mendes decides to pack it in, of course.

*A Christmas Story (1983)

Benedict Cumberbatch & Co. Work to Win the War in 1st Trailer for The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing, movie, photo, The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game – photo via KinoGallery

Undoubtedly, one of this year’s most anticipated films (and no, not just by me) is The Imitation Game in which Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the genius mathematician who helped devise the Nazi-code breaking Enigma Machine.

We finally have a first trailer, coming just as it is announced that the film will open the BFI London Film Festival in October. Appropriate to be sure, since judging from this trailer alone, the film will be a British acting master class.

While the trailer obviously focuses on the Enigma project and his team of crack code-breakers, it is no spoiler if I tell you that Turing’s “secret” is that he is homosexual, a “crime” for which he is persecuted (and prosecuted) by the laws and society he helped to save.

Based on the real life story of legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, the film portrays the nail-biting race against time by Turing and his brilliant team of code-breakers at Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, during the darkest days of World War II.

The Imitation Game also stars Mark Strong, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Steven Waddington, Tuppence Middleton and Charles Dance. Graham Moore‘s screenplay topped the annual Black List (the list of the best un-produced Hollywood scripts) in 2011. Directed by Morten Tyldum (Headhunters), making his English-language debut,  Harvey and The Weinstein Company will release the film in the UK 14th November and in the US one week later on November 21, and it is already being given awards consideration.

Mindscape Becomes Anna

Anna, Mindscape, movie, poster, Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Brian Cox

Remember when I told you about a little film called Mindscape that we were eagerly awaiting because it starred one of our favorites, “serial mischief maker”* Mark Strong? Sure you do. It’s the one about a man with the ability to enter peoples’ minds and memories, directed by Jorge Dorado and produced by the director of  the über-creepy Orphan, as well as the still-playing Non-Stop with Liam Neeson, Jaume Collet-Serra.

Why do I ask, you wonder? Because it would appear that the film is finally going to see the inside of a theater here in the US and to celebrate, it’s gotten a brand new title.  Mindscape will now be known to American audiences as Anna, which also happens to be the name of the character played by Taissa Farmiga. She’s a brilliant, yet troubled sixteen-year-old girl. But is she a victim…or a sociopath?

Leading man Mark Strong plays John Washington, a detective with the unique ability to enter people’s minds and memories (presumably to help people recall event details pertinent to solving cases). Washington takes on the case of a troubled teenage girl named Anna (Farmiga) who is accused of an attempted triple homicide. To uncover the mystery surrounding Anna and her story, Washington will enter her mind and try to find out the truth: is Anna capable of killing, or is there something hidden in her memories that shows otherwise?

Here’s another look at the trailer:

Personally, I’ll be needing “Close your eyes. Let’s begin…” on a continuous loop.

Written by first-time scribe Guy Holmes (which sounds like a nom de plume if you ask me), score by Lucas Vidal (The Raven, Cold Light of Day, Fast & Furious 6), cinematography by Óscar Faura (The Impossible) and also starring Brian Cox (with whom Strong just appeared in Nick Murphy’s Blood),  Indira Varma (“Rome”, “Luther”), Noah Taylor and Saskia Reeves,  Warner Brothers will unleash Anna on theaters and VOD June 6.

Thanks to Bloody Disgusting who got the poster first.

*Creativity Online

Trick or Treat: Trailer or Spoiler Big Deluxe Halloween Edition

Mindscape, movie, poster, Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Jorge Dorado


There’s a bumper crop of new films headed for your multiplex. Luckily I’m here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff with brand new trailers for a handful of those films.  Since it is Halloween, I’ve chosen four with lots of candy supernatural, spooky or fantastic overtones. Okay, so The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t actually have any of those, but it has Leonardo DiCaprio directed by Martin Scorsese (which means it could conceivably be fantastic). I just thought the title looked good with the other three. Sue me.

Okay, so that was a trick, now for some treats: We’ll start with the first English language trailer for the supernatural thriller, Mindscape, about a man with the ability to enter peoples’ minds and memories (see? Spooky!),  who takes on the case of a brilliant, yet troubled sixteen-year-old girl. Is she a victim…or a sociopath? Dun dun dun…

Produced and “presented” by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown), Mindscape marks the feature directorial debut of Jorge Dorado, for which he has assembled a pretty impressive cast. It includes the smoldering Mark Strong (in a leading role, huzzah!) as John, and Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”) as Anna,  with Brian Cox, Indira Varma (“Rome”, “Luther”), Noah Taylor and Saskia Reeves.

Walk this way and have a look at the trailer:

See? Candy. Finely chiseled rock candy…

Admittedly, I’m an easy sell, since this promises to have, ounce per ounce, more Mark Strong than anything else on his big screen resume, but I think the film itself has enormous potential.  It’s being compared to Inception, and it turns out mind-bending thrillers with ambiguous endings are popular if done right. On the other hand, Inception is undoubtedly the gold-standard of the genre and if Mindscape doesn’t get good “word-of-mouth”, that comparison might spell disaster. (Much the way that being compared to “Breaking Bad” did that other Mark Strong-starring project, AMC’s “Low Winter Sun”, no favors either.)

We don’t have any domestic release information yet, but since they’ve bothered to put out an English trailer, I’d say they’ll be forthcoming. Warner Brothers has the rights both domestically and overseas. They’ll open it in Dorado’s native Spain first (fitting of course. It premiered at the Sitges Film Festival as well) on 31st January 2014.  That tells me that since it won’t be opening cold in the dread January doldrums in this country, the WB must have some faith in it.

This first trailer sets up the story in only bold strokes. My interest is piqued, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen the whole movie in two and a half minutes, which, as you know, I consider to be a very good thing,  We’ll see how much we’re given next time, but for now, they’re doing it right.

Moving on to long, tall British Curley Whirley candy

Richard Armitage, Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, movie, still

via imdb

The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

I still don’t understand why the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” got only one movie per book and “The Hobbit” is one book with three movies. I hope it’s because Peter Jackson knows that the world just doesn’t want to part company forever with the hobbits, elves, dwarves, dragons, trolls and wizards that we all know and love, and not so they can fleece us of our hard earned cash. It’s the dreamer in me.  I’m certainly not immune to the draw and I am eagerly awaiting this installment.

While this is the first full-length trailer for The Desolation of Smaug, there has been a version of this kicking around since late summer. We’re all familiar with Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth and with this bit of carefully curated footage, we’re immersed in it once more. The first of the Hobbit series may not have been as warmly greeted as the LOTR trilogy, after all there were all sorts of plot lines going off in a lot of directions (the better to justify three movies), and it was a setup for the next two, but this middle segment looks to pack in a lot more action, as well as getting to some of those portents of events yet to come that we’ve been expecting, since this is still and all a prequel to what we’ve already got committed to memory.

Bilbo lies to Gandalf about his discovery of the One Ring, and for his part, he warns about the rise of Sauron’s forces. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas and apparently has a love interest, Evangeline Lilly‘s Tauriel is an entirely new character created by screenwriter (and the world’s foremost Tolkien expert) Philippa Boyens “to bring feminine energy {to the film}… completely within the spirit of Tolkien”. We also see the Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) as they seek help from their arch enemies, the Elves and their king Thranduil (Lee Pace).

The main event, of course is Bilbo’s first encounter with Smaug,  the dragon who has taken over the Lonely Mountain.

“”Well thief, where are you? Come now, don’t be shy. Step into the light,”

Was that what you imagined Tolkien’s  villainous dragon would sound like? It’s exactly what I imagined. Benedict Cumberbatch nailed it, in my humble opinion, and that for me was the burning question that Peter Jackson had to answer here. Is it a spoiler? Hell no. It’s an enticement, exactly what a good trailer should do. Since this is essentially Smaug’s movie,  and Smaug, a dragon, is going to be entirely CGI, we have to be hooked by the visuals and the sound of his voice.  It seems to me that we can also trust  that the rest of the story he’s wrapped in will be the spectacular visual and visceral experience we’ve come to expect from Jackson.

A batch of new tv spots have recently popped up as well – online, even if they’re not yet saturating the television. I’m especially fond of this one:

“I have the only right.”

Richard Armitage has another one of those great British voices that I could just listen to read the phone book or the back of a soup can. I’m glad he’s getting some exposure, even if he is pretty much unrecognizable.

As luck would have it, five new international posters were released today as well. They feature Bilbo, Gandalf, Elves Legolas, Tauriel and Thranduil, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) and Dwarves Kili (Aidan Turner), Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Thorin. More treats! You can check them out below.

X-Men:Days of Future Past, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Charles Xavier, poster, movie

via imdb

Discussing the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past is, for me, the perfect Michael Fassbender interlude, between having written about the intensity of his performance in The Counselor, and preparing to write about the infinitely more intense performance he gives in 12 Years a Slave. Although quite frankly, there isn’t nearly enough German Irish Crème candy in this trailer.

What there is a lot of, is the older Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the younger (James McAvoy) and as hoped, the twain shall meet. This trailer has been picked over with the proverbial fine toothed comb (more like tweezers) by those more familiar with X-Men lore than I, but even the eyes of this philistine caught a lot that was familiar, including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine (hell after 7 movies, if you don’t know Wolverine, why are still reading this?), Halle Berry’s Storm, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Rogue (Anna Paquin) all from first series and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast from X-Men: First Class. Mercifully, there was no January Jones as Emma Frost. I saw a lot of new characters that look intriguing, like Bishop (Omar Sy), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Blink (Fan Bing Bing), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart), but about which I don’t have a clue. Then there’s villain Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage, whose casting had the fanboys foaming at their mouths from the moment it was leaked online.

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.

The focus in this first trailer is clearly Professor X, but since I’m still not sure what exactly the plot is, other than it will feature “an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future”, which obviously means the two Xs have to work together to avoid some catastrophe (and I really don’t want to think too long on the science or the whole space/time continuum thing), I’d say that’s the mark of a good trailer.  I’m already looking ahead to the next one, thinking that it will give us the Magneto we (or just I) crave.

I do know that the storyline for X-Men: Days of Future Passed comes from the similarly titled comic-book? graphic novel? by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.  XMDoFP will also see the return of director Bryan Singer (After XMFC director Matthew Vaughn passed), who created the series by hasn’t directed an installment since 2003’s X2. The bad news is that it was written by hit-or-miss Simon Kinburg who wrote Mr & Mrs Smith and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, but was also responsible for This Means War and X-Men: The Last Stand, generally considered to be the worst in the series.  Luckily, Kinburg worked from Matthew Vaughn’s story. (If Vaughn had been allowed to go with his initial idea, to make XMDoFP a direct sequel to XMFC, which would have included things like Magneto being responsible for the Kennedy assassination, he would have directed as well.) Keep your digits, paws and flippers crossed for this one.

If you want more, MTV has the trailer with Bryan Singer’s commentary. X-Men: Days of Future Passed is currently scheduled for US release May 23, 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, Martin Scorsese, movie

via imdb

So what’s Leonardo DiCaprio? I don’t know. Given how long I’ve had a crush on him and how good he continues to be, how about an Everlasting Gobstopper? No? What’ve you got?

The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, chronicles the true story of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street wizard living large in early 90’s Manhattan. The flick charts Belfort’s (played by Scorsese muse DiCaprio)  involvement with crime, corruption, an expensive drug habit and the Feds, bumps on the way down from Park Avenue all the way to Taft Federal Correctional Institution, where he spent four years for securities fraud and money laundering (and with his cell-mate Tommy Chong). The penny stock “boiler room” he operated served as the inspiration for the the 2000 film The Boiler Room which starred Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi. The Wolf of Wall Street costars Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey (who has been in the most incredible streak of incredibly good movies, giving incredible performances in all of them), Jon Bernthal (who knew zombies could be so could for one’s career? Then again, just ask Zack Snyder about that one), Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, Joanna Lumley, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin.

That trailer is actually the second one released. Does it give anything away? Yes, but in this case, the particulars are known. We’re not looking for surprises. We’re looking to experience the schadenfreude that comes from watching the “haves” get caught with their hands in the cookie jar and get punished for it. Warner Brothers knows that with this cast and this director, they need only make sure they bang the drum loudly enough throughout middle America, and it will make piles of money. Hence the new trailer.

Scorsese, one of the producers of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, turned to that show’s creator and head writer (Terrence Winter) for his screenplay. I think we can expect The Wolf of Wall Street to be howlingly good. My description may be lame, but c’mon, it’s already been added to the Oscar “most likely to be nominated” list in the Best Actor, Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay categories. They may think of a new category for Jonah Hill’s teeth.

The Wolf of Wall Street, it has finally been confirmed, will come out on Christmas Day here in the US. Santa is giving movie goers a lot of choices that day, including Labor Day with Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and pure-bred Oscar bait, August: Osage County, to name but a few. So any adult who gives their money to Justin Bieber (who also has a movie opening that day) instead of well made adult fare like this, deserves a lump of coal.

That’s it for this installment. Four trailers done right. Happy Halloween boys and ghouls!

Hae a Taste a’ This: Welcome to the Punch Now on DVD

James McAvoy, Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch, movie

courtesy IFC Films via imdb

It’s  a safe bet that you missed Eran Creevy’s action thriller Welcome to the Punch when  it was in the theaters last Spring, at least here in the US. Luckily, it has just become available on dvd. If you’re a fan of  British crime flicks, the neo-noir stylings of Michael Mann, the frenetic style of crime thrillers by the late Tony Scott (whose brother Sir Ridley exec. produced here) or Asian crime thrillers like Infernal Affairs (Creevy made Welcome to the Punch as an homage to that film), then you’re going to want to check this out, and since one of the film’s stars (and one of our favorites), Mark Strong, is going to be on my tv for the next nine weeks in AMC’s gritty new drama, “Low Winter Sun”, it would seem now is an ideal time to talk about the movie.


Former criminal Jacob Sternwood is forced to return to London from his Icelandic hideaway when his son is involved in a heist gone wrong. This gives detective Max Lewinsky one last chance to catch the man he has always been after. As they face off, they start to uncover a deeper conspiracy they both need to solve in order to survive.

Writer/director Creevy made a bold entrance with his first feature, Shifty, a minor hit in the UK produced for next to nothing and earning a BAFTA nomination. Welcome to the Punch is his ultra-stylish sophomore effort.  Taking place almost totally at night, there are several slick and violent set pieces filmed by Creevy’s Shifty cinematographer Ed Wild against the backdrop of London’s Canary Wharf and colored in various shades of blue. Visually, it reminded me of Heat and Thief (both by the aforementioned Michael Mann), thematically, it’s very much like the former.

Alongside Strong, the hyper-talented cast includes James McAvoy (who between the trifecta of Welcome to the Punch, Trance and the upcoming Filth, might finally be able to leave Mr. Tumnus* behind – at least in my mind), Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, Shifty star Daniel Mays, Jason Flemyng (whose apparent goal is to be in every Brit crime movie made in his lifetime), Ruth Sheen, the fabulous Johnny Harris (who looks like and sounds so much like a younger Eddie Marsan that I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t Eddie Marsan) and Peter Mullan, who should just be in everything. (That he wasn’t Emmy-nominated alongside Elisabeth Moss for “Top of the Lake” is pure sacrilege.)

The film opens with career criminal Jacob Sternwood (Strong) and his gang pulling off yet another high tech, meticulously planned bank heist. McAvoy’s detective Max Lewinsky is on hard on his tail, but ends up with a debilitating bullet to the knee, thanks to Sternwood, who gets away yet again.

courtesy IGN via YouTube

Flash forward three years and it is Sternwood’s son Ruan (Elyes Gabel), who sets the game in motion yet again. We see Sternwood living the life of a retired bank robber in Iceland (and keeping himself mighty fit too, thank you Giacomo Farci**). A phone call from his son shatters the quiet, if not altogether happy or content, illusion of safety he’s created.

Lewinsky, still suffering the consequences, both physical and emotional, of letting Sternwood get away, has a chance to redeem himself by luring Sternwood back to London to save Ruan, who has followed his father into the family business.

Max’s immediate supervisor, Nathan Bartnick (Mays), constantly reminds him that it was his impulsiveness that nearly got him killed. His partner, Sarah (Riseborough) wants to be supportive, but he shuts her out instead of showing her the ropes. Max’s superior and former mentor Thomas Geiger (Morrissey) appears to have his back, but then nothing is as it seems, is it?

The script may be a bit trite,  corrupt police and politicos and the little people who get in their way, but if it doesn’t necessary bring anything new to the table, the presentation is well worth your time.

The modernization of London is a theme so sharply angled construction sites overlook both sleek modern buildings like the bank in which the film opens and the rain-soaked metallic shine of industrial areas, like the container yard central to the plot and from which the film gets its name. The cool blue lighting, both inside a dim and deserted club and outside lit everywhere by neon, works with the muzzle flashes from copious amounts of gunfire to heighten the tension and add to the thrill.

This is definitely style over substance. As I said the plot isn’t going to tax anyone’s synapses too heavily. Creevy even uses Geiger to lay out the entire story for those in need of a catch-up. I will say, however, that he has given his cast a lot of credit and trusts them to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of character development.

A tilt of the head from Strong at the beginning and we know Sternwood’s assessing the risk between leaving Lewinsky hobbled or killing him outright. The fact that he leaves him alive speaks volumes about Sternwood. Even with everything that comes after, it’s not a decision that he regrets.

I actually like that we don’t know the exact nature of Max’s relationship with Sarah. Sure, they’re partners, but has it always been strictly professional? Would one or both of them like it to be otherwise? Again, it’s what isn’t said that gives us the clues.

Johnny Harris’ heavy Dean Warns could have been a mindless thug and gotten the job done, but he spits out a particularly memorable line of dialogue and from those few words, layers of the character peel away. We may see mayhem and violence, but he sees honor and duty.

Sadly, Peter Mullan doesn’t have a lot to do, but then I’m just greedy. His Roy Edwards is Sternwood’s partner in crime and BFF. He does get one of the best lines in the movie: (to Sternwood) “I can shave this {goatee}, but you’ll still look like a bag of smashed crabs”. Funny, but imagine it said in Mullan’s whisky and cigarette smoke-shrouded Scots burr.

The movie of course belongs to McAvoy and Strong. McAvoy very convincingly conveyed his desperation and determination to capture Sternwood and his frustration at being hobbled by the constraints of his superior officers as well as his physical limitations. His howl of pain when he isn’t able to literally pursue his quarry is gut-wrenching.

As for Mark Strong, it should come as no surprise that he very ably gives us a man who is both capable of cold, calculated violence and of being a worried and loving father.  We, like Max, feel his anguish and know his tears and his pain are genuine when he learns of his son’s death, as well as the guilt for having led him down the path to that morgue. What is the real treat here is that Strong is the co-lead. It’s rare that we get so much of him in one film. As his profile has increased, Strong’s film roles have taken him all over the world. He nearly missed the birth of his youngest son because he was in Morocco making Body of Lies, so he takes smaller roles which mean less time away from home. Welcome to the Punch was made in his backyard. (As far as I’m concerned, if it means we get more Mark Strong, all movies can be British movies.)

Welcome to the Punch had a larger budget than Creevy’s first film, so of course, the expectations were higher. If Punch didn’t exceed those expectations, neither did it squander Creevy’s evident potential and I look forward to his next film. In the meantime, Welcome to the Punch is a fun little thriller whose cast is so good that the movie will bear repeat viewings just to watch them work.

JMHO, but I give it 3 & ½ hobbes 2 (out of 5).   What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me hear it.

*Mr. Tumnus was an anthropomorphic faun, McAvoy’s character in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

**Giacomo Farci is Mark Strong’s personal trainer

And the BAFTA Goes To…


Tonight, Sunday February 10, the 2013 EE British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs).were announced during a glitzy ceremony held at London’s Royal Opera House and hosted by Stephen Fry.

Before we get to the meat, let’s be shallow and talk fashion. (I’ve included a few pics at the bottom.)  I’ll start with one of my girl-crushes, Jessica Chastain, who killed it in a Roland Mouret dress, the color of which matched her eyes and looked flawless with her red hair and porcelain skin.

Anne Hathaway played it safe in a studded and British black Burberry number. Also in black and white (but with feathers), Elizabeth Olsen in Chanel Couture. Andrea Riseborough and Marion Cotillard chose blinding lemon yellow, the former in Vivienne Westwood, the latter in Dior Couture, the style of which was very similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s Golden Globe dress with it’s weird hidden layers. Lawrence chose Dior Couture this time as well, but it was a simple gem-studded strapless gown. (Poised, savvy, funny, scary-talented with 2 Oscar nominations to her name -hard to believe she’s only 23).

Fashion bloggers praised Gemma Arterton’s one-shouldered column Celia Kritharioti, but I thought she looked like an anemic bee. Amy Adams looked far older than her years in black lace Elie Saab while Thandie Newton looked like she got her black lace Louis Vuitton from the Frederick’s catalog. Speaking of Elie Saab, Sarah Jessica Parker, WTF were thinking?

Ben Affleck’s better half, Jennifer Garner looked gorgeous in a black and white Rolan Mouret that perfectly complimented Ben, his beard and the satin lapels of his tux. Speaking of power couples, Helen McCrory in a pale robin’s egg blue vintage Givenchy from 1963 that matched the darker blue of hubby Damian Lewis’ velvet tux. (*girly sigh*) Eddie Redmayne probably spent the ceremony throwing up because Lewis as well as Luke Evans pulled off the velvet thing better than he has. (He actually had the flu – I'm not being gross) Then there was the Prince and Princess of Wacky, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. (I’m disappointed she hasn’t repeated the mismatched shoe thing!)

Last but not least, I must mention the incomparable Helen Mirren. I love and adore this woman, but even more than ever for her pink hair, the twinkle in her eye and the fact that she twirled…TWIRLED…on the red carpet. That’s how I want to do 67, too.

One more thing: Someone needs to explain Paloma Faith to me. I realize she’s the British flavor of the month but 1. Why was she singing INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” while a montage of the year’s films (not just nominees) played behind her  and 2. WTF was on her head? The red carpet wasn’t bad enough then she plunked some sort of shrubbery slash chandelier on the top of it. Apparently this sort of fuckery is a thing with her. She’s like Lady Gaga crossed with LaVay Smith by way of the Andrews Sisters. Or something.

On to the main event: I mentioned that Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, led with ten nominations, ahead of Les Miserables and Life of Pi, which both had nine. I also made the observation that in the weeks between the BAFTA nominations and the ceremony, Lincoln appeared “almost dead in the water”. I think the results bore that out. The only award it went home with was the only sure thing of the evening: Daniel Day-Lewis for Leading Actor.

Emmanuelle Riva’s win for Leading Actress, probably the biggest shock of the night, actually works in Jessica Chastain’s favor in terms of the Academy Awards. Riva had won a couple of critics groups but Chastain, despite her loss of the Screen Actors Guild Award to Jennifer Lawrence, had won many more. If BAFTA had gone for Lawrence, I think it would be clear the Academy would too, hence my thought that Chastain is still in it. Just my humble opinion, of course. Conventional wisdom says BAFTA equals Oscar for actresses who haven’t won much else. Eg: Marion Cotillard in 2008 and Meryl Streep in 2012. We’ll see.

I gave you my picks (which are marked with ** a few days ago in this post.  Let’s see how I did, shall we? The winner is highlighted in yellow.


**ARGO Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

LES MISÉRABLES Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

LIFE OF PI Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

LINCOLN Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

ZERO DARK THIRTY Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

Ben Affleck’s little film-that-could has now unquestionably become an unstoppable juggernaut on a trajectory for an Oscar win. (Hyperbole? Perhaps. We’ll see on February 24.)


ANNA KARENINA Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Ol Parker

LES MISÉRABLES Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh,

William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin

**SKYFALL Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

As I said, “All of these are worthy. I’d love to see Seven Psychopaths take it but I have to go with Skyfall. It’s a massive global hit, but it’s also intrinsically British and they are very proud of the Bond franchise. It’s also damn good.”

Director Sam Mendes, upon accepting the award from Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper said, “On behalf of the 1500+ people who made this {film} we're accepting this. We had high expectations of this film and it surpassed them all. I also have to single out the man around whom we built this film, and that's Daniel Craig.”


BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) The Imposter

DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) McCullin

**DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) Wild Bill

JAMES BOBIN (Director) The Muppets

TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) I Am Nasrine

As I said, Dexter Fletcher was purely a sentimental choice. LOL


**AMOUR Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz

HEADHUNTERS Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn

THE HUNT Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann

RUST AND BONE Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux

UNTOUCHABLE Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent



THE IMPOSTER Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

MARLEY Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel

McCULLIN David Morris, Jacqui Morris

**SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn



**BRAVE Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman


PARANORMAN Sam Fell, Chris Butler

“Awards season favorite Wreck-it Ralph isn’t even nominated so I think this goes to Brave.”


Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Ben Affleck ARGO

Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED


Kathryn Bigelow ZERO DARK THIRTY

It’s no secret that his skill as a director has rejuvenated Ben Affleck’s career. In his acceptance speech, an effusive Affleck said “This is the second act and you’ve given me that. This industry has given me that. So I’d like to dedicate this award to anyone else who’s looking for their second act.”  Ben Affleck – Class Act.


Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED

Paul Thomas Anderson THE MASTER

Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola MOONRISE KINGDOM


As worthy as all of these screenplays are, there was no question it would be QT’s.


Chris Terrio ARGO


David Magee LIFE OF PI

**Tony Kushner LINCOLN


I almost changed my prediction to Argo after it’s late win at the Scripter Awards Saturday night, just on hunch, but decided to let Lincoln stand. I would have been wrong either way. This is another category that’s too close to call for Oscar night at this point. Silver Linings Playbook, Argo and Lincoln all have some critics association wins. We’ll know more on Feb. 17 when the Writers Guild hands out their prizes.



BRADLEY COOPER Silver Linings Playbook


HUGH JACKMAN Les Misérables





JENNIFER LAWRENCE Silver Linings Playbook





CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained




As I said, I stepped out on this one. Oh well. I think this seals the deal on another Oscar for Waltz.


AMY ADAMS The Master

**ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables

HELEN HUNT The Sessions




Dario Marianelli ANNA KARENINA

Alexandre Desplat ARGO

**Mychael Danna LIFE OF PI

John Williams LINCOLN

Thomas Newman SKYFALL

Mychael Danna is the relative newcomer on this list. His score for Life of Pi was beautiful and he did win the Golden Globe, John Williams could scoop it though. Alexandre Desplat was nominated for the wrong film, he should have been nominated for Moonrise Kingdom).




**Claudio Miranda LIFE OF PI

Janusz Kaminski LINCOLN

Roger Deakins SKYFALL

This was presented by Mark Strong – better than being right.


ARGO William Goldenberg


LIFE OF PI Tim Squyres

SKYFALL Stuart Baird

**ZERO DARK THIRTY Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg


**ANNA KARENINA Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

LES MISÉRABLES Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

LIFE OF PI David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

LINCOLN Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

SKYFALL Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock


**ANNA KARENINA Jacqueline Durran

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Beatrix Aruna Pasztor


LINCOLN Joanna Johnston



**ANNA KARENINA Ivana Primorac

HITCHCOCK Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater


LINCOLN Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou


DJANGO UNCHAINED Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges,

Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward

**LES MISÉRABLES Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John


LIFE OF PI Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill

SKYFALL Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers


THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher


**LIFE OF PI Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer


PROMETHEUS Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth


HERE TO FALL Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’M FINE THANKS Eamonn O’Neill

THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson


THE CURSE Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

GOOD NIGHT Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

**SWIMMER Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

TUMULT Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews


“I picked Swimmer because it’s directed by the same Lynne Ramsay that gave us We Need to Talk About Kevin, as well as the upcoming western Jane Got a Gun with Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Joel Edgerton and Rodrigo Santoro, making it the only short film I’ve heard of. Subjectivity at its finest LOL  Ramsay, like a lot of feature film directors, got her start in shorts, too.”

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public):






“A case could be made for any of the four actresses …Both Riseborough and Temple are British. I’m going with Riseborough because I’ve been a fan since “The Devil’s Whore” with Michael Fassbender. (Look at that, I managed to get in two Fassy references.) She’s incredibly talented and has been “on the verge” for a long time. She deserves the push.”  Juno Temple gave a fantastic performance in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe opposite Matthew McConaughey and was in The Dark Knight Rises for about a minute. Still wanted Riseborough to get it.

BAFTA gave their Fellowship Award (the equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award) to Sir Alan Parker, acclaimed director of such films as Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone, The Committments, Mississippi Burning and Evita. (He also wrote a song for the soundtrack of Halloween III)

All in all, I didn’t do too badly.  14 right out of 24 categories.  That’s 58%. Eh. I've done better.  I’ll meet you back here in a couple of weeks to talk about my Oscar predictions.

 Pics are *clickable*


I Have a Lot To Talk About, pt 1

Once again, I’ve been neglecting this blog. It’s not from a lack of desire to write. I’ve just been writing other places and spreading myself thin. I took this week as vacation with the goal that I would rectify this situation. It’s Saturday and I’m just sitting down to do this. Okay, enough…I have a lot to get to. It’s been some time since I did an honest to goodness movie post, and I’ve seen quite a few films since that I, of course, have some thoughts on.

Let’s start with The Green Lantern. What can I say that hasn’t already been said by now? While I do feel that, for the most part, it was a lot of fun, I also think it was so much less than it could have been.

The Green Lantern, who has been around since the 1940’s in one form or another, could still actually be considered a second tier superhero. He doesn’t have the same brand recognition as a Superman or a Batman, except to a loyal core of comic book geeks. The wide world of web engulfed the making of this film in so much hype from the outset. As with other recent web phenomena like Scott Pilgrim vs The World, if you only read web movie sites, you’d think ot was in the bag and the movie would have been a huge hit from day one. But JMHO, the Scott Pilgrim example proves just how small and insular the film community on the web actually is. That film struggled to find an audience and had the promoters backtracking with statements like, "we knew it was a cult film all along." The challenge was always for Warner Bros. and DC comics to expand the movie’s appeal beyond just the fanboys who were salivating for it. The publicity machine went into overdrive to do just that. Millions were spent on promoting it with tv spots, trailers and product tie-ins.

The problem is, the movie they were throwing all of that promo power behind was weak. Critics almost universally panned the film. JMHO, it was more often than not just ticking boxes for variations of a set-list from other denizens of the Marvel and DC worlds. The best thing about it, is that there is enough humor to make us believe they aren’t taking themselves too seriously, something their star Ryan Reynolds is famous for. He always looks as if it’s taking a lot out of him to keep from winking at the camera. But basically, the movie is just more of the same in terms of the genre it represents.
The special effects should have been, in a word, special. Even more so since the filmmakers, while on the publicity tour, all pointed out that the technology had to catch up to be able to bring The Green Lantern to the screen. His exploits most often take place in outer space as opposed to the earthly pursuits of Batman or Spiderman, for example. There had been reports of  ‘techno’ troubles in post-production for months, probably stemming from the fact that the film was retro-fitted for 3D and not filmed that way. The funny thing about that, is that reportedly most filmgoers preferred to see it in 2D.

Back to Reynolds. He wasn’t ‘bad’. He was as believable a superhero as anyone else has ever been, I suppose. And he did look good in his CGI suit. It will probably surprise no one that the performance I had the most trouble with was Blake Lively’s as Carol Ferris. Yeah, she’s pretty. Big deal. I still don’t see how she keeps getting major film roles. Her role in The Town probably got her this gig and my thoughts on that performance are on record. I just never believe a thing that comes out of her mouth. Although in this film, she does get the best line of the movie, “You think I don’t recognize you because I can’t see your cheekbones?” This is the film’s best self-deprecating moment and a definite poke in the ribs to Superman et al. Lois doesn’t know Clark is Supe because he wears glasses? Really? I’ve never understood that.

Peter Sarsgaard must have had a mortgage payment or something. Don’t get me wrong, he was very amusing as nerdy scientist Hector Hammond. I’m just always mystified by what motivates an actor to take a role. My usual rationale is that what they read in the script, get excited about and sign on for is very often not what we see on screen. This film was full of really good actors in teeny, tiny parts, like Tim Robbins and Jon Tenney (What? Yeah, I know. Blink and you’ll miss him.) Temeura Morrison is a good actor, not only that, but he has a distinctive look and voice. I don’t understand why actors with such traits are hired for roles that require them to be completely unrecognizable. The same could be said of Clancy Brown’s Parallax, although I guess the case could be made for them as well as the inclusion of Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan, which I have less of a problem with, that they’re all just voicing cartoons. But seriously, wtf was up with Angela Bassett’s David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust hair? Having never read the comics I don’t know, but does that scientist really run around in sky-high Louboutins?

Of course, Mark Strong’s Sinestro was the best part. Much has been made of the fact that Sinestro gets little screen time and Mark Strong is underutilized (which is said of just about every film he appears in. There’s never enough. I’m still incensed over The Eagle), but even I, as a big MS fan, realize that they are missing the point. This Green Lantern is an origins story and it spends a great deal of time on exposition. Its purpose was to get the ball rolling for what is to come and it sets up Sinestro for the next film. We now know who and what he is and where’s he’s “been” so we know where he’s going.

If the next film gets made, and from recent reports Warner Brothers is going ahead with it despite softer than anticipated box office receipts (although I suspect it will make piles via the home market), Sinestro will have a much bigger role. So much will have already been established that the film will be able to focus on the tug-of-war between Hal Jordan and Sinestro as he goes to the dark side (or yellow side as it were.)

Okay, that was far more space than I intended to devote to this subject, but as per usual, once I get rolling…all bets are off. Bottom line: I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was a good excuse to sit in the dark and eat popcorn and that is very often the only barometer I need (provided I’ve only paid for a matinee.) That and I don’t immediately wish for those two hours of my life back. So overall, this was a win.

Swinging wildly in another direction is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. I’m not even sure where to begin to discuss this one. I can’t recall a film that has those who’ve seen it so firmly entrenched in one of two camps. They either love it, thinking it’s one of the best films ever made, certainly of this year, or they hate it as a contrived, two and a half hour piece of self-conscious claptrap that belongs on a year-end “worst” list. This film was both loudly ‘booed’ at it’s first screening, and then ultimately awarded the highest honor, the Palme d’Or, at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I think it all depends on what you’re looking for.

Having said all that, I lean toward the former camp, but I’m not a zealot. The film is incredibly ambitious, but then that’s pretty much Malick’s stock in trade. He’s a filmmaker for whom the word meticulous was invented. Between 1973 and 2011, he’s directed five films. Five. All of them have inspired strong opinions if not outright controversy. Tree of Life is probably the most extreme example.  Visually it’s absolutely stunning and if you are going to see it, then I highly recommend that you do so at the cinema. Unless you’ve got one of those massive home theater setups with 14 speakers and an 82” screen, this will definitely lose something in the translation to dvd. For me, while I was watching the exquisitely beautiful images of natural phenomena, all gorgeously captured by Academy Award nominated cinematographer Emmanuel Lubeski (I think he can safely expect a fifth nomination for Tree of Life), my mind kept turning to Koyaanisqatsi, a 1982 film (that I saw in college and I cannot guarantee that I was not without chemical enhancement of some kind when I did) that is really just a series of images set to the haunting music of Phillip Glass . While there is, by design, no plot in the traditional sense, there is a definite scenario about all life on this planet. The film’s title means ‘life out of balance’. The meaning of the images is meant to be interpreted by the viewer.

I think to some extent, this is what Malick intended here. Bookended by the choreographed images of natural events like volcanoes and rock formations or a fertilized egg slowly traveling to embed itself in the wall of the womb, which are set to one of the most transcendent scores I have ever heard, (Alexandre Desplat utilizing Bach, Berlioz, Couperin, Mozart, Mahler, Smetana, Gorecki, Respighi, and Holst among others,) there is little in the way of straightforward narrative, but it’s very heavy on philosophy and whispered appeals to a higher power. At its core however, the film is a personal reflection by Malick on the relationships of fathers and sons that then expands to include the larger questions of the nature of man’s existence.

With reference to the ‘story’, I can tell you there is very little dialogue. It concerns a family: Father, Mother and three sons. We see them from the birth of the oldest until he is about twelve or thirteen, focusing primarily on the last summer spent in the house (in 1950’s Waco, Texas) that he was born into. The tone is set with the voice over by young Jack (the oldest of the 3 and played beautifully by Hunter McCracken as a boy and in what amounts to a cameo, by Sean Penn as a middle aged man) who tells us that there are "two ways through life, the way of nature and the way of grace," the former represented by Father, the latter by Mother. "Nature is willful, it only wants to please itself, to have its own way." Grace, on the other hand, "is smiling through all things," instilling in us the idea that "the only way to be happy is to love." Yin and Yang reduced to its most basic message. The actors are essentially asked to react to and interact almost silently with the world around them. There are a lot of close-ups of fingertips as they feel blades of tall grass rustling in the breeze of a late afternoon or cool water splashing over bare feet in a yard. I think very deliberately Malick is asking a viewer to “feel” in a far more visceral way than one would by listening to dialogue. I had never seen Jessica Chastain on screen before, but she is one of the reasons I wanted to see this film. She is, in a word, luminous. This is a word I have long associated with Vanessa Redgrave and I cannot wait to see them together in Coriolanus. I can only imagine, if she brings that same quality to that film, how incandescent the two of them could be.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that Brad Pitt has never been better. Even the New York Times described his performance as “graceful”, but this part of the film belongs to Hunter McCracken. None of it ‘works’ in the traditional sense unless we’re able to see the world through his eyes and in his skin.

The narrative concludes with a final mournful voiceover, "Father, mother, always you wrestle inside me. Always you will" before showing us all of the loved ones of a person’s life, in this case Jack, gathered on a beach with what I can only assume are angels. Cut to black.

JMHO, but this is not a film that can be easily digested with one viewing. Basically I just sat there in awe and let the movie swirl around me.

So since once again I have gotten rather long winded, this is

 to be continued…