Sunday, 30 May 2010

New Flick's Flicks

The last one before Flick goes away to have her baby!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

Dennis Hopper passed away today in Los Angeles. His career encompassed almost all the facets of the Hollywood system, from the big studio era (in films like REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) to single-handedly starting the New Hollywood movement (directing and starring in EASY RIDER) to cult status (Frank Booth in BLUE VELVET) to baddie du jour in 90s action flicks (SPEED, etc).
He'll mostly be remembered for EASY RIDER, but my favorite Hopper moment has to be his zonked out photo-journalist in APOCALYPSE NOW. He played that part without learning his lines (as documented in the fabulous doc HEARTS OF DARKNESS) and mostly stoned, but somehow captures and bottles the crazy perfectly.
He was also an obsessive art collector and was responsible for much of the success of the art scene in New york in the 1980s, and was an acclaimed artist himself.
Despite his hard living, with drugs and alcohol a big part of his life, it was cancer that ultimately got him. He was a presence throughout a large part of the history of cinema for the past 60 years, and his absence will be deeply felt.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Eyes Wide Shut Review

“When ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ came out, it was severely misunderstood, which came as no surprise. If you go back and look at the contemporary reactions to any Kubrick picture, you'll see that all his films were initially misunderstood. Then, after five or ten years came the realization that ‘2001’ or ‘Barry Lyndon’ or ‘The Shining’ was like nothing else before or since.Martin Scorsese

Stanley Kubrick’s final work was one of the most anticipated films of modern times, thanks to its high-powered stars, the secrecy and length of its shoot, and the fact the director hadn’t delivered a film to Warner Bros since 1987’s ‘Full Metal Jacket’. ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ was never going to have an easy time living up to those expectations, at least in the short term. But like all of the director’s movies, its layers are revealed to us with subsequent viewings, its mystery and intensity growing over time.

Kubrick had previously tackled in his previous films such big subjects and genres such as the Vietnam war (‘Full Metal Jacket’), epic horror (‘The Shining’), youth violence (‘A Clockwork Orange’) and space exploration (‘2001’), so the topic of infidelity and sexual fantasy might seem like a slight end to a career of monumental proportions. So no wonder Kubrick spent the better part of 12 years working on this film, (his executive producer Jan Harlan claims he worked on the script for 30 years). He understood that the mundane is the hardest thing to do.

From the opening shot the film seduces us into a dream-like state, with luscious interiors and luminous Christmas cinematography, navigating the bourgeois circles of the Upper East Side in New York, a rarefied world which is as glamorous as it is sleazy, with drug-overdosed models in toilets and European silver foxes trying to pick up married women. But this is primarily Dr Bill Harford’s (Tom Cruise) journey. When his wife (Nicole Kidman) confesses, in detail, to a sexual desire she had for another man, Bill embarks on a night filled with temptations, in the form of the bereaved daughter of a patient, a prostitute, the teenage (and possibly underage) daughter of a shopkeeper, the infamous sex party which he manages to sneak into, even a male receptionist at a hotel desk. The film resembles an erotic dream that inevitably turns into a nightmare as the temptations turn into conspiracy, murder and finally getting caught by his wife – his ultimate fear.

It is the ‘orgy’ scene that has gathered the most attention: for its explicit sex scenes, and for the censorship that followed whereby some of the nudity was blocked via CGI. Kubrick was contractually obliged to Warner Bros to deliver an R-rated film, as the studio doesn’t really release NC-17 films (the equivalent of an 18 cert in the UK) and he would have edited it had he survived post-production (he died shortly before the film’s release in 1999). In order to protect his final cut, the producers introduced the digital cover. The dull emptiness at the sex party reflects exactly what the filmmaker is trying to illustrate: that these people are both incredibly bored and morally bankrupt.

Misunderstanding is often at the root of people’s problems with Kubrick, and what some interpret as a poor attempt at realism is usually a satire (remember this is the man who directed Dr. Strangelove, one of the most sophisticated and acclaimed filmic satires of all time). What we see in Eyes Wide Shut is not a male fantasy, but rather a judgement on that fantasy.

As with every Kubrick production, the precision of his camera work is only matched by the otherworldliness of the performances. His well-known technique of countless takes of the same shot take their toll on the actors, delivering not so much naturalistic authenticity, but another form of performance altogether. Think of Jack Nicholson’s turn in ‘The Shining’ or Malcolm McDowell in ‘Clockwork Orange’. These are performances that do away with decades of Method-based acting styles and have more in common with the silent era than with the Actor’s Studio.

Kubrick didn’t travel and loved the liberty of shooting in a studio – for someone like him, total control was the ultimate objective. So the New York City we get is a perfect reproduction of the streets of the Village, but re-constructed in Pinewood studios,and is in some ways more connected to the notorious city than many films shot on location in Manhattan. He captures the playground atmosphere of a night-time metropolis with great precision, always connecting the pleasure it offers to the real dangers and risks it poses, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. The score accentuates the edges on which Cruise’s character plays, with the piano hammering away relentlessly.

It is a testament to Stanley Kubrick’s ambitions as an artist and his courage as a filmmaker that he chose this story and that he portrayed the dark side of desire even within a successful marriage. He avoids sentimentality at all costs, but doesn’t dodge true emotions. The foul mouthed but hopeful ending to ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ represents everything that Kubrick’s filmography stood for: a firm belief in humanity wrapped in multiple layers of deceit.

Monday, 24 May 2010

UK Box Office 21-23 May

The hottest weekend of the year kept audiences away from cinemas, but the few that did show up seemed to go ga-ga for STREETDANCE 3D, boding well for Universal's release later in the year of STEP UP 3D...the final STREETDANCE figures include a whole week of previews. PRINCE OF PERSIA opened to a disappointing third place, probably dashing any hopes Disney had of a PIRATES repeat. And Lionsgate can't be happy with the result for BAD LIEUTENANT, which presents a tough marketing conundrum: too arthouse for the mainstream, too Nic Cage for the arthouse.

1- STREETDANCE 3D (£2,412,326)
2- ROBIN HOOD (£1,357,214)
3- PRINCE OF PERSIA (£1,296,407)
4- IRON MAN 2 (£522,030)
5- KITES (£233,470)
6- FOUR LIONS (£194,437)
8- HOT TUN TIME MACHINE (£192,135)
9- BAD LIEUTENANT (£167,843)
10- THE BACK UP PLAN (£158,483)

Cannes Round-Up

The Cannes Film Festival is over, and although I was neither there nor did I follow the news (as I was on a well-deserved holiday in Barcelona), I have walked into work today to find that the Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the coveted Palm D'Or, beating top notch world-class filmmakers Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. His film, UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, should now find a distributor in the UK (an unlikely event for a film with a title like that).
Juliette Binoche won best actress for Kiarostami's CERTIFIED COPY and Javier Bardem best actor for Inarritu's BIUTIFUL. The Grand Jury prize went to OF GODS AND MEN.
Next year I promise that the reports from Cannes will be much more exciting, as I will be there....

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Box Office 14-16 May

Sorry for the late Box Office post - half the industry in Cannes, I'm in Barcelona, etc etc

To the relief of the good folk at Universal, ROBIN HOOD debuted at number one, despite Russell Crowe's best efforts to undermine the entire campaign with grumpy interviews. No other new entries crack the Top 10 apart from previews for STREET DANCE 3D, which will be added up on to next week's figures. IRON MAN 2 falls dramatically, showing that these tentpoles have little life in them beyond opening weekends. Chris Morris' excellent FOUR LIONS on the other hand shows some legs with an additional half million added to its coffers.

1- ROBIN HOOD (£6,175,586)
2-IRON MAN 2 (£1,644,704)
5-FURRY VENGEANCE (£573,788)
6-FOUR LIONS (£562,166)
7-THE BACK-UP PLAN (£529,387)
9-THE LAST SONG (£195,597)
10-DATE NIGHT (£142,993)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Excuses Post

Lately the frequency of my posting has decreased due to my dissertation work and cinema work intensifying. I will always post the Monday Box office figures and keep my posts limited to stories and ideas I am really excited about. I'm off to Barcelona on Sunday, and will try and have a peek at some nice cinemas there. So this is probably my last non box office post for over a week! See you on the other side.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Uk Box Office 7-9 May

This week IRON MAN 2 continues to reign, albeit with a 70% drop. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET won't find much legs with such a weak opening, given that horror fans tend to come out on the first weekend. The nice surprise in the pack is Chris Morris' FOUR LIONS, which took a £5,146 screen average, not bad for a homegrown comedy from a TV writer/director.

1- IRON MAN 2 (£3,203,051)
3- HOT TUB TIME MACHINE (£889,660)
4- FURRY VENGEANCE (£795,122)
5- BACK UP PLAN (£707,131)
6- FOUR LIONS (£591,838)
8- THE LAST SONG (£364,575)
9- DATE NIGHT (£333,164)
10- THE CLASH OF THE TITANS (£290,342)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

New Splendor Cinema Podcast

New Splendor Cinema Podcast over at Obsessed With Film (also up on iTunes and shortly on the Picturehouse website), where Rob & I discuss PRINCE OF PERSIA and our experience at the Walt Disney trade show.

Listen here.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

UK Box Office 30 Apr - 3 May

This week there is only one film dominating the box office: IRON MAN 2. It took nearly £10 million over the extended weekend, including previews and IMAX takings. That's more than the entire Top 10 combined and then some. Screen average was an astonishing £19,102.

1-IRON MAN 2 (£9,894,858)
3-DATE NIGHT (£1,022,366)
4-THE LAST SONG (£954,513)
5-FURRY VENGEANCE (£892,335)
6-CLASH OF THE TITANS (£891,636)
7-THE GHOST (£709,937)
8-NANNY MCPHEE 2 (£601,606)
9-KICK ASS (£532,814)
10-HOUSEFULL (£352,430)