Monday, June 28, 2010

At the Movies – July 2010

Must See in Theatres:

Inception (Christopher Nolan) – Sci-Fi – Jul 16
The film is about a man whose job it is to steal secrets through dream invasion (and that is all you should know going in, I promise, it is better this way). There are a number of reasons why this is likely to be the best film of the summer and probably the year and therefore the must see of the year – first it is directed by Christopher Nolan, possibly the best working director today. Four of his last five films were Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight – beat that (the fifth, Insomnia is alright, by no means bad, the difference between this film and the others is Nolan did not write it, but still as the director he is responsible). Second the crew is amazing with editor Lee Smith, producer Emma Thomas, composer Hans Zimmer, cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Guy Dyas, and a script by Nolan, essentially the same team Nolan used for the last three films (minus Guy Dyas). And third the film has the best cast of any film this year (probably) – Leonardo DiCaprio stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page co-star and it features performances from Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine, Lukas Haas, Dileep Rao, and Talulah Riley. Nolan seems to get great people to be in his films. Plus, the film is projected to be a best picture nominee at the Oscars. Prepare to have your mind blown – check out the trailer.

Fun Movies:

The film is about Bella who, graduating from high school soon, is forced to choose between her love for the vampire Edward and her friendship with the werewolf Jacob – whose clans are mortal enemies – all this while a string of mysterious murders sweeps Seattle. In an attempt by fans and/or studio executives to make the films more appealing to male viewers by increasing the action and grittiness (as young males make up a much bigger demographic of cinema goers historically), director David Slade, coming from a background in action-horror (30 Days of Night) and thrillers (Hard Candy), was brought in to make a more action packed Twilight film for men and women. However, Melissa Rosenberg (despite the fact that the first two films were not too great, she has done fantastic work on Dexter, leading one to wonder if the producers or directors are gumming up the creative works, or maybe the source material just does not translate well – but I think it is the former, even having never read the books) returns for the third time to script the adventure (if you can call it that). Joining Slade are series newcomers: wonderful composer Howard Shore and action production designer Paul D. Austerberry. Javier Aguirresarobe returns for the third time to shoot the film (some of his work in the series has been pretty good). And all the cast is back, well other than Rachelle Lefevre who was replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard. Even with Inception, this has a good chance to be the highest grossing film of the month. Hopefully, this will be the best of the series to date (though that would not really be saying much). Check out the trailer.

The Last Airbender (M. Night Shyamalan) – Adventure – Jul 2
Based on the manga series (for which there is also a cartoon series), the film is about the adventures of Aang, the young and sole successor to the long line of Avatars who possess much power. Now faced with this power, he must forget his childhood games and face the serious threat from the Fire nation whose evil grip would enslave the Water, Earth and Air nations (OMG!!!). (Not knowing all too much about this myself, I wonder how many targeted viewers even know what this is or care?) The film is directed by M. Night Shyamalan (the one time golden-boy who only makes awful films now), who tackles source material for the first time, though he did solely adapt it for the cinema with an original story. The other big change for Shyamalan is that this film (as far as we know) is not predicated on the big surprise reveal at the end like all his other films. Shyamalan has assembled a good team to work with him on the film including: production designer Philip Messina, wonderful cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, composer James Newton Howard, and producing partners (and hit-makers) Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (so even if the movie is bad, at least it will look and sound good). The cast is filled with relatively unknowns, save Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire and the excellent Skins series) and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine and Three Kings), though younger viewers will recognize Jackson Rathbone from the Twilight films. (While I may have no faith in Shyamalan) This could be the return to form for the once great director (he made The Sixth Sense after all) or just another in the long line of subpar films he has put out over the last decade. Either way, it looks to be epic and probably will play well among young male viewers. Check out the trailer.

Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) – Animation – Jul 9
The film is about a trio of orphaned girls who are sent to live with a relative – who happens to by a criminal mastermind. The film marks the feature debut for both Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, however Renaud did work in the art/animation department on Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown and Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Horton Hears a Who!. Hans Zimmer will compose the score for the film. But it is the cast that makes this the most interesting and potentially awesome animated films of the summer (not made by Pixar). Steve Carell stars, and there are voice performances from Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Will Arnett, Ken Jeong, Kristen Wiig, Danny McBride, Jemaine Clement, and Julie Andrews – practically a who’s who of comedy. This is the first film from Illumination Entertainment and it looks to be a good start. The film should be very funny and sweet at the same time. Check out the trailer.

Predators (Nimrod Antal) – Action – Jul 9
This film is about a group of elite warriors who are transported to an alien planet so that they can be hunted by Predators (aka, The Most Dangerous Game – Predators edition). (Really the first question to ask about this film is did we really need a new Predator movie, if no: move on to the next film, if yes: continue) It is the third Hollywood film by director Nimrod Antal and is produced by Robert Rodriguez. The crew includes: gifted cinematographer Gyula Pados, first time production designer Caylah Eddleblute, but she worked in the art department on many previous Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino films, and Iron Man 2 composer John Debney (not my favorite). Headlining the cast are two very unlikely action stars Adrien Brody and Topher Grace – neither really brings to mind ‘elite warrior’, especially when compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers. But, the cast is nicely rounded off by Danny Trejo, Alice Braga, Laurence Fishburne, and Walton Goggins (from The Shield). It is not like the Predator franchise as a whole has a high bar to live up to or anything, but still this does not look to be a great new addition, but it could surprise (at least me) and be a lot of fun, thrilling and make for a good summer film. Check out the trailer.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jon Turteltaub) – Adventure – Jul 16
Based on Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s poem Der Zauberlehrling (or for many of us, the scene from Fantasia), the film is about a master sorcerer who recruits a seemingly everyday shlub to help him defend New York City from his arch-nemesis. The film is directed by Jon Turteltaub and reunites him with his National Treasure star, Nicholas Cage, for the third time. Initially, seeing Cage’s name in the credits would have been groan worthy, but after his great performance in Kick-Ass earlier in the year, maybe he can bring the same magic to this. Along with Cage, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci and Jay Baruchel star – making it a fairly solid cast (Cage and Baruchel should have some good moments sparring, and Molina does make a good villain). The crew features a decent D.P. and composer and an excellent production designer in Naomi Shohan, which is vital for a film like this to work well. The film will probably not be great or even good, but it should be a lot of fun and entertaining. Check out the trailer.

Salt (Phillip Noyce) – Action – Jul 23
The film is about a CIA officer who is accused of being a Russian spy by a defector and must now go on the run. Directed by action-thriller specialist Phillip Noyce and written by genre pro Kurt Wimmer, the film has a good pedigree to be a fine summer action packed thrill ride (just to get the summer blockbuster lingo out of the way). To go along with the action heavy-hitters, James Newton Howard (worked on The Dark Knight) is composing, Robert Elswit, a fantastic cinematographer, is shooting and J.J. Abrams’s production designer Scott Chambliss is making the sets look cool. Following the actioner motif, the film stars Angelina Jolie, but for the two principal supporting roles Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor were cast, not really action stars themselves, though they have been in films with action, they do however add a lot of acting talent to the film (especially Ejiofor, one of the best working today). Originally the film was written for Tom Cruise, but he backed out and the script was reworked for Jolie. All parts together, the film looks to have a lot of potential, though the trailer is a bit generic. There is too much action talent here for the film to not make for an entertaining genre piece for fans. Check out the trailer.

Dinner for Schmucks (Jay Roach) – Comedy – Jul 30
Based on the French film The Dinner Game, this is about an executive trying to get a promotion who must find the craziest, most goofy dinner guest he can to bring to his company’s annual dinner competition – his career may depend on it. The only real comedy comedy of the month, the film is directed by genre veteran Jay Roach, who did the Austin Powers trilogy, the first two Meet the Parents films and the very good Recount. Roach enlisted skilled cinematographer Jim Denault and production designer Michael Corenblith to make the film visually interesting. But really, what matters here is who is in it – and this one has some great comic talent including: Kristen Schaal (The Flight of the Conchords), David Walliams (Little Britain), Andrea Savage (Step Brothers), Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover), and Jemaine Clement (also The Flight of the Conchords) in support, while comedy geniuses Steve Carell and Paul Rudd start. Lucy Punch, Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston (awesome) also co-star. So much comedy in one place, it is hard to imagine this not being funny. If there is one blemish on the film, it is the fact that the principal screenplay was turned in by David Guion and Michael Handelman, whose last script was The Ex, which was awful. But with director/producer Roach leading the way and all the talent in front of the camera, this will likely turn out well. Check out the trailer.

Charlie St. Cloud (Burr Steers) – Drama – Jul 30
The film is about a young man so overwhelmed with grief at the death of his younger brother that he takes a caretaker job at the cemetery his brother is buried. The good part is the film is directed by Burr Steers who made Igby Goes Down, the bad news is he also made 17 Again, and that was his latest and it also starred Zac Efron (so 2 to 1 negative…). Joining Efron (aka, I took this movie in a bid to be a serious actor) in this (seemingly depressing) film is Amada Crew, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, and Donal Logue, not really a cast that screams ‘see this film’. The film’s primary crew is also an odd bunch to be working together with mostly rom-com composer Rolfe Kent, indy cinematographer Enrique Chediak and action production designer Ida Random. But hey, maybe it will all work out. Burr Steers has made a very good film in the past, and has done good work on TV. It is also a little strange that Universal is releasing this during the summer, maybe they think it is good counter blockbuster programming, or they see Zac Efron and see dollars signs regardless of the project. Check out the trailer.

Art-House Watch:

Love Ranch (Taylor Hackford) – Drama – Jul 2
The film is about a married couple who opened the first legal brothel in Nevada. The director of Ray is back, Taylor Hackford, and he’s brought Joe Pesci out of retirement and Helen Mirren with him to make this film. Additionally, the film features performances from Bryan Craston, Scout Taylor-Compton, Gina Gershon, Ling Bai, M.C. Gainey, Taryn Manning, Rick Gomez, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta (all in all a good group, especially Cranston – p.s. go watch Breaking Bad). The cast and logline alone make this worth seeing at some point, be it in the cinema or at home. Check out the trailer.

The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko) – Drama – Jul 9 [limited]
The film is about a family with two lesbian mothers each inseminated by the same donor sperm producing a girl and a boy. Now grown up, both kids seek to get to know their donor father, much to the dismay of their mothers. The film is a performance driven piece by Lisa Cholodenko, much like her last feature. She also co-wrote the script. Being that the film lives and breathes with its characters, the cast is important – and this film has a great one. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening play the mothers, Mia Wasikowska (a projected breakout actor for 2010) and Josh Hutcherson the kids and Mark Ruffalo the dad (well done casting). The crew behind the camera is not great in name, but has done good work, while the score will feature original music by Carter Burwell, among others. The film was a little polarizing in its festival tour, but most viewers seem to love it. Check out the trailer.

Get Low (Aaron Schneider) – Drama – Jul 30 [limited]
The film is about a mysterious Tennessee hermit who had a funeral party for himself while he was still alive in the 1930s. Aaron Schneider’s feature film debut is a mix of folk-tale and real-life legend combining elements of comedy and drama. To help him out on his first film he has enlisted Oscar-winning composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek and gifted TV cinematographer David Boyd (he worked on Firefly, Deadwood and Friday Night Lights). Schneider also put together quite a good cast with Robert Duvall staring and Bill Murray, Lucas Black, Sissy Spacek, Gerald McRaney, and Bill Cobbs supporting. The film has garnered lots of positive buzz through its festival tour and Duvall is being considered an early contender for a best acting Oscar. Check out the trailer.

Twelve (Joel Schumacher) – Drama – Jul 30 [limited]
The film is about a young drug dealer whose high-rolling life is destroyed in the wake of his cousin’s murder, as his best friend is suspected of committing the crime. The film is directed by Joel Schumacher (yup, the same dude that brought you the myriad of awful films – yet he sneaks in a decent one here and there like Falling Down and Veronica Guerin) and features work by a fairly low-budget crew, aside for a score from Harry Gregson-Williams (maybe they saved all the money to pay Kiefer Sutherland to give his voice to the film but not really be in it…again). Starring Chace Crawford, the film has a decent supporting cast (and also 50 Cent) including: Emma Roberts, Rory Culkin and Ellen Barkin. The film got fairly positive buzz out of Sundance (but maybe that was relative to the other films in the Schumacher catalogue) and should make for decent counter summer cinema going. Check out the trailer.

Movie of the Week - American Psycho

This week’s movie is American Psycho (2000).

The film is about the 80’s and an investment banker who lives on the verge of insanity due to the artificial material obsessed nature of the time and culture to which he is a part of – desperately trying to fit in but alienated at the same time. The film is brilliantly directed by Mary Harron, who at the time was compared to Martin Scorsese stylistically (it is a shame she has not been able to get more feature projects funded and off the ground), based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. Harron co-wrote the script with her friend Guinevere Turner, who also has a small role. The film features a wonderfully chilling score from John Cale (a member of The Velvet Underground) and career best work from production designer Gideon Ponte and cinematographer Andrzej Sekula. The cast is also fantastic, featuring a breakout performance by lead Christian Bale and lots of interesting and good supporting bits from Justin Theroux, Josh Lucus, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, and Cara Seymour. What makes the film great is how funny and absurd it is while shocking and scary in the next moment, and sometimes at the same time. The film will play completely differently depending on the mood or who is watching. This is a must see for fans of black comedies. Check out the trailer.

American Psycho [Blu-ray/DVD]

Monday, June 21, 2010

Toy Story 3 (2010) – Review

Toy Story 3 is a good film, full of very funny moments, sweet and sincere, but also has action and more adult overtones that make it enjoyable for all viewers – a kids’ film also made for adults. And yet, as good of a film as it is, there is still something slightly amiss. The film is a bit heavy handed with its emotional sequences leading to a disconnect for the audience – at times it is too strong or forced leading to viewers feeling that their emotional connection to the characters and film is fabricated and not genuine, which then effects the pacing of the film, it drags when the emotionally exposition is overly blatant. This narrative issue could be due to the film’s inherent structure relative to its core audience, being kids, thus making elements of the film repetitive and obvious so that younger, less experienced viewers can equally participate in more of the full experience of the film – in a sense, the film is handicapped by its target market. However, this is not fully correct, as the past two Pixar films (WALL-E and Up) were able to both succeed fully with all audience members – though bringing different things to different viewers (but that is true for any film). Therefore, Toy Story 3 is guilty of dramatically trying to be all things to all people – something that never succeeds completely when attempted, and thus often misses the mark in some area. While this narrative misstep is apparent, it by no means ruins or even profoundly damages the film overall. There is an abundance to like. The animation is superb. The humor is great and there are jokes for all audience members to appreciate on different levels. The new characters bring a lot to the mix, and are fine additions to the core (much like with Toy Story 2, though Lotso did remind me a bit of Stinky Pete the Prospector in his narrative use, and not as fresh of a villain). The action sequences are exciting and surprising in their mini-structures (they seem to constantly be building upon themselves). And most importantly, the film is able to connect the audience with the characters (aside from the minor hiccup). Even though they are animated toys, the viewers still see parallels between the characters and themselves that allows for a bond to form and for the audience to have a stake in the outcome, which makes the film immensely enjoyable as it plays out. Director Lee Unkrich has done a fine job with screenwriter Michael Arndt and the Pixar writing team in putting together a fluid meaningful story. He succeeds the most in giving each of the characters moments in the story, while maintaining the whole tread throughout, no easy task (I feel like the emotional weight of the film would be more striking for the genre if not for Pixar’s last two films). The prologue scene really set the mood and what was at stake for the characters, it was a great contrast to what happens next – and such juxtaposition effectively plants the emotions of the characters visually into the audience. Randy Newman provides a good score to the piece, laced with nostalgic references to the first two films (though, personally I would have been happy to see someone else tackle the film, paying homage but coming up with a new score to fit the drastic change in the lives of the characters). The film is full of wonderful voice work throughout. There are no weak performances, and the newcomers are great and hold their own. The standouts were Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Michael Keaton, Javier Fernandez Pena (aka Spanish Language Buzz), Timothy Dalton, and Kristen Schaal. Toy Story 3 hits all the right notes and is a fine addition to the series and another fantastic Pixar film. 8/10

Movie of the Week - Cradle Will Rock

This week’s movie is Cradle Will Rock (1999).

The film is about politics and art in 1930s America, focused around a liberal musical drama and the attempts to stop its production. Directed by Tim Robbins (its sort of a follow-up to Bob Roberts thematically), the film is a mix between comedy and drama with musical numbers. What makes this film great is its cast and scope. There are wonderful performances throughout, but the film is highlighted by Angus Macfadyen’s Orson Welles and Cary Elwes’s John Houseman constantly arguing. John Cusack plays Nelson Rockefeller, Ruben Blades as Diego Rivera and many other fine performances capture real people (check out the full credits), while there are also fictional characters, like Bill Murray’s vaudevillian ventriloquist, coming to the realization that his era is ending – mirroring industrialist capitalists facing the advent of unions. The scope of the film is vast, encompassing the mood on multiple levels of the time period. The film also features great numbers from the musical it is centered by, along with original music from David Robbins and wonderful cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier. For those interested in the period, it is a must see. Check out the trailer.

Cradle Will Rock [DVD]

Monday, June 14, 2010

The A-Team (2010) – Review

The A-Team is a summer movie – high on outlandish action, full of humor, low on meaningful plot – but hey good summer movies are a lot of fun, and this is a good summer movie. The film succeeds on its characters. For a movie like this to work, the audience has to relate to and ultimately like the protagonists. Here, they do. Each character, while short of depth, has a unique quality and an absolute likability to them, which benefits the film in two ways – first the audience generally likes them and backs them and routes for them and second each viewer will have a favorite, and the film gives each character their moments. The film is unapologetic in its structure. It knows exactly what it is and who it is meant for, and this is a strong attribute to the film. It does have great sequences of action, implausible but wholly enjoyable stunts and feats. There are some dramatic threads in the piece, but they neither predominate nor bog down the film. They are there merely for plot, which is fairly straightforward, but does it need to be anything more? The film also succeeds on its humor. There are a number of very funny moments and lines that offer a good break from and a complimentary aspect to the action. Another aspect to the film that works well is having the characters grounded in reality. While the action and stunts seem to be completely insane and impossible (though these guys are the best of the best and theoretically can do stuff that others cannot, but still some of the stuff is pretty crazy), the characters themselves are grounded and have stock in real life emotions and cares that are relatable. Again, this endears them to the audience and is fundamentally why the film works as well as it does – if the viewers do not care about the characters (much like any movie really) the film would just be silly meaningless action. However, while the film is good for what it wants to be, it does not offer a lot in terms of powerful meaningful drama. The characters are all shallow and their interrelationships are not explored in any kind of depth. Their emotional journeys are fairly cliché, but that works here for this film’s purpose as it allows for the audience to associate with them without much work. Director Joe Carnahan shows here that he can deliver a fun action film that both incorporates some reality and grittiness, while being completely bombastic and extreme (sort of a composite of Narc and Smoking Aces). Carnahan also does a good job with the narrative structure. The film is constantly moving forward – while the intro does seem long, it plays more as a prologue than as part of the film, overall the structure holds tight and keeps the audience engaged. Alan Silvestri’s score is good at times and disappears at others. Charles Wood’s production design is passable, but most of it is shrouded in darkness for many of the scenes, and it is more due to the locations and cinematography that the film looks good than his work. Mauro Fiore’s lighting and camera work is good (not as great as his work on Avatar, but comparable to The Kingdom). He is able to get the most out of the locations and keep the focus of the action and actors. The greatest attribute of the film was its performances and they were good across the board. Jessica Biel and Brian Bloom are good in supporting roles, while Patrick Wilson is great in his part. Quinton Jackson, having probably the most iconic of the roles to live up to, is good in the role and seems to fit it well. Bradley Cooper has a lot of charisma and Liam Neeson is spot on. However, it is Sharlto Copley who steals the show. He is hilarious and kooky (and with just two films under his belt, I cannot wait to see him in lots of stuff to come). Big action, loud effects, funny jokes, and great characters – these are what makes The A-Team work and an entertaining summer movie. 7/10 

Movie of the Week - The Illusionist

This week’s movie is The Illusionist (2006).

The film is about a magician who falls in love with a woman above his social standing in turn-of-the-century Vienna. He is also in conflict with the Crown Prince who is both corrupt and committed to forcing the magician’s love to marry him. Thus, the illusionist must use his abilities to not only win his love away but also thwart the evil Crown Prince. The film has a wonderful cast with extraordinary performances from Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell. Jessica Biel and Eddie Marsan co-star and are good too. Along with the great performances the film features fantastic technical work from cinematographer Dick Pope (master work really), another classic score from Philip Glass and visually interesting set design and artistic work from production designer Ondrej Nekvasil. What makes this film great is director Neil Burger. He is able to garner strong performances, utilize his technical assets to their highest output, while creating a stylistically superb film (the narrative is great too). The film harkens back to early cinema in its visual style, which fits the time period of the film well. The film is a must see for cinema fans (it is a bit like that year’s film The Prestige). Check out the trailer.

The Illusionist [Blu-ray/DVD]

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Robert D. Yeoman – Movies Spotlight – June 2010

Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman (Bob) is well known among fans of independent film – having worked with directors Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith and Gus Van Sant. Yeoman’s work has a keen visual sense of composition but is grounded in reality (it is not overly superficial and glossy looking). He shot this month’s film Get Him to the Greek directed by Nicholas Stoller.

Getting Started:

Yeoman started his career in high school taking black-and-white photos of people and architecture for fun in Chicago, where he grew up. He did not aspire to have a career in film until later in life. While attending Duke University, he began to become interested in film, specifically documentaries like Harlan County U.S.A.. So, he decided to go to USC film school for his masters to learn more. He first tried his hand at directing, but found cinematography to be a much more appealing medium for him – partially because many of his classmates continually asked him to shoot their films. Starting in the business, much like everyone else starting in Hollywood, he was a personal assistant to a commercial director working for no pay hoping and begging to get a chance to shoot something. In the mid 80’s he found himself broke and questioning his career choice when he finally got a break. Robby Muller, the D.P. on To Live and Die in L.A., was looking for someone to shoot some test footage for the film. He hired Yeoman, liked his work and brought him onto the production to shoot B-roll and second unit. Before the film was complete, Muller left due to other commitments and Yeoman stepped in to finish the film. From there, he got additional camera work on films like Once Bitten and Wanted: Dead or Alive before getting his first job as director of photography on Rampage.

Independent Film:

Breaking into shooting feature films, Yeoman took jobs on just about anything, B-movie schlock, poor teen comedies, but it was his collaboration in 1989 with director Gus Van Sant on Drugstore Cowboy that first established him as a fantastic D.P. – both due to the success of the film in artistic and critic circles and Yeoman winning the best cinematography award at the Spirit Awards (funny enough beating out Robby Muller). Despite the acclaim for his work on the film, Yeoman continued to get subpar work for the next five years. Then he made a film with Wallace Wolodarsky called Coldblooded, the film is of little consequence, rather it is who he became affiliated with as a result that is – being Wes Anderson. Anderson and Wolodarsky are friends, and in 1995, Yeoman having just shot Coldblooded for Wolodarsky was hired to shoot Anderson’s first feature Bottle Rocket (a film which Martin Scorsese considers one of the best of the decade). The film was a cult and critical success and Anderson and Yeoman developed such a good working relationship that Yeoman has shot ever one of Anderson’s live-action films to date. Next Yeoman shot some more subpar Hollywood B-movies before returning to work with Anderson again on the stylishly visual Rushmore and then was hired by Kevin Smith to shoot Dogma, as Smith and Miramax (who then passed on distributing it, thankfully Lionsgate stepped in) thought that the scope of the film needed someone to visually elevate Smith’s straightforward (dialog before art) style (and he did). Yeoman next worked with Roman Coppola, also another friend and co-collaborator of Anderson, who hired him to shoot his feature film CQ (which Yeoman did excellent work on), the two having previously worked together on the second unit of The Rainmaker. Then he did two more Anderson films, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, an ambitious film for them both that shot almost entirely on location. Anderson next produced his friend Noah Baumbach’s film The Squid and the Whale (Baumbach co-wrote The Life Aquatic and later Fantastic Mr. Fox) and due to their great working relationship Yeoman was hired to shoot the film, giving it, texturally, sort of the same look  as The Royal Tenenbaums. Yeoman then worked with Anderson on his two-part short/feature Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited. He also shot Menno Meyjes’s (the once Spielberg prodigy) Martian Child and Manolete that year too. Finally, the latest indy film he has worked on was Drew Barrymore’s directorial feature debut from last year Whip It.

Hollywood Film:

After Rampage, Yeoman shot the teen sports comedy Johnny Be Good and then after a few B-movies and his breakthrough film, Drugstore Cowboy, he did another low budget Hollywood film about video games, The Wizard. Again, despite the praise from Drugstore Cowboy, he did not get much quality work in Hollywood. His first hit came with 2005’s Red Eye, directed by Wes Craven. However, he did get additional photography work on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker, Secondhand Lions and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the 00’s Yeoman was getting a lot more quality indy work, which allowed for him to cut back on the not so great Hollywood stuff. After 2001, he only shot three Hollywood films for the rest of the decade: Red Eye, Yes Man for Peyton Reed and this month’s release Get Him to the Greek (director Nicholas Stroller also worked on Yes Man as a writer, which is likely where he met Yeoman).

Bob Yeoman Box Set (Selected Filmography/Career Highlights):

1.) Drugstore Cowboy (1989) – for Gus Van Sant [DVD]*
2.) Bottle Rocket (1996) – for Wes Anderson [Blu-ray/DVD]
3.) Rushmore (1998) – for Wes Anderson [DVD]*
4.) Dogma (1999) – for Kevin Smith [Blu-ray/DVD]
5.) CQ (2001) – for Roman Coppola [DVD]*
6.) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – for Wes Anderson [DVD]
7.) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – for Wes Anderson [DVD]*
8.) The Squid and the Whale (2005) – for Noah Baumbach [DVD]
9.) The Darjeeling Limited (2007) – for Wes Anderson [Blu-ray/DVD]*
*Editor’s Picks (from a cinematography prospective)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Get Him to the Greek (2010) – Review

Get Him to the Greek is very funny, a little sweet and enriched with mocking, yet endearing, commentary on the music business. At its heart the film is a road trip comedy focusing on getting a Wildman rock star from London to a gig in LA in 72 hours, but the film is so much more, setting it apart from many similar comedies. There is quite a lot of satire in the film at the expense of the music industry – the film seems to initially completely buy into the mythos of the music business and that of rock stars (as seen in the opening montages for London and New York – playing classic local music, if not absurd in its over use, aka London Calling, and peppering the screen with local music venues, which was also cool, and in the lead character’s (Jonah Hill) excitement and admiration for Aldus Snow), but this fades as the lead character comes to terms with the façade versus the reality of his idol. The film loses the music themed montages and dives deeper into what a shallow and overly superficial lifestyle that many rock stars lead and its affects both on them (looking at why they do it or subscribe to such a lifestyle) and on those around them. True, this is not revolutionary or new territory, but the film’s take on the experience, while prominently to humorous ends also looks into the humanity of the characters, and it is the mixture of these seemingly at-odds devices that makes the film stand out, elevating it above just another raunchy comedy or rock star satire (this is a general theme to much of producer Judd Apatow’s work, looking for comedies that have heart – to put it plainly and clichéd). The film ultimately succeeds both on the performances of its leads and the keen storytelling of director Nicholas Stoller. He is able to give the audience all the out-there wild rock star shenanigans that they expect but still ground the characters and their emotional experiences and journeys in reality allowing the viewers to connect and care about the characters – not an easy task. Jonah Hill and Russell Brand are both hilarious and perfect in their respective roles. Brand especially is just so in tune with his character (and while the character is not too far off his own comedic styling, it is still a wonderfully crafted performance). The other supporting characters are fantastic as well and each contributes good work to the film: Rose Byrne is outrageous, Sean Combs is great (maybe surprisingly), and Elisabeth Moss is funny and very sweet, yet strong in her role (while she is excellent on Mad Men, seeing her here makes me hope she gets more cinematic and comedy work in the future). Colm Meaney, Aziz Ansari and Carla Gallo are also good in smaller roles, along with a number of great bit parts. The crew also provided good work to the film. Cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman and production designer Jan Roelfs’ work complements the world of the rock star well, from the club sets to the musical performances, their work both personifies and pokes fun at the lore of the film. The soundtrack is also filled with funny and ridiculous songs written by Mike Viola, composer Lyle Workman and co-producer Jason Segel. The film is not just a fun companion piece to the brilliant Forgetting Sarah Marshall; it is its own entertaining stand-alone film. 8/10