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I’m counting down all the movies released in 2012.  The ones I’ve seen, at any rate.  In what is unquestionably a timely manner.

#50.  Tonight You’re Mine

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He’s a famous rock star.  She’s the lead singer of a small-time female rock group.  They get handcuffed together at a rock festival, and hilarity (and maybe love?) ensues.  The premise is incredibly rom-commy, but the film’s direction is more indie rock documentary.  In my opinion, there’s way too much time spent on the festival and not enough on the story.  But it was taken at a real festival, with real artists (including the Proclaimers), which is interesting.

#49.  Bachelorette

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Had some very funny bits.  And was a lot darker than I was expecting.  It felt like the second of the film started to drag, and the characters weren’t developed as much as I might have liked.  If every movie had Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott, I’m not sure that would be the worst thing in the world.  While this movie may not have been made (or at least the distribution it got) without The Hangover, I would hesitate to make too much of the comparison.  Sure, they both involve bachelor/bachelorette parties, are funny, but tonally, this one isn’t nearly as light.  Or ridiculous.

#48.  Total Recall

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The original is one of my favoritest movies ever.  So it is difficult to judge this one with referring back.  And also, if I’m being honest, it probably means I bumped this one up a few spots because I like the premise so much.  I’m not fundamentally opposed to remakes or anything, but I’m not sure this one had too much to add to the original.  I liked the expanded role of Kate Beckinsale’s character.  And setting the film on a future Earth divided into two Have and Have-Not sections was a pretty interesting take on the theme.  By the end, though, the film had devolved into pretty much every other blockbuster, with large, loud explosions for seemingly no good reason.

#47.  Sound of My Voice

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It feels like Brit Marling watched a lot of Twilight Zone growing up, and I’m OK with that.  The vaguely mystery/sci-fi aspect of them film were fairly engrossing, and I think they did a good job sticking the ending.  I am not certain I loved the cult around Maggie as the entry point into the story.  I mean, I can see why, but I found the cult itself the least interesting aspect of the film.

#46.  Tai Chi Zero

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I saw a number of reviews compare this film to a martial arts movie by way of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.  I’m not sure I agree with that, necessarily, but I would go into this one expecting a sense of humor and a more modern take on the kung fu movie.  Though not as goofy as a Stephen Chow film.  I also love that people decided both that we needed a steampunk kung fu movie and to market this one as such.  They weren’t wrong, of course, but it makes me happy.

#45.  Gimme the Loot

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One of my favorite Spirit Award nominees, the film is fun, funny, and charming.  It focuses on a pair of teenage graffiti artists, a guy and a girl, obsessed with becoming well-known and respected within the tagging community, hatching a plan to tag the apple at Citifield (at least, it was the Mets stadium, I can’t remember if they were talking about Shea or not, apologies).  That’s not really a great description, though, it is more a few days in the life of a couple of teens living in New York in the summer.  It is about graffiti, sure, but it is also about growing up and first love, and innocence.

#44.  The Cabin in the Woods

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A fascinating film, certainly getting points for originality and creativity.  Got a little strange toward the end, but that’s part of its charm.  The cast was a ton of fun on both sides of the ball, with Chris Hemsworth being able to lead anything, Kristin Connolly (who I just realized is in House of Cards), Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, and Amy Acker.  I have a few thoughts on things I’d do differently, but I’m certainly not as qualified as Joss Whedon, so let me go in a different direction.  Why hasn’t this been made into a TV show yet?  Each season could be a different scary story, with a different set of beautiful and handsome fresh-faced actors and actresses to be killed off, but keeping the same cast of people downstairs working on the horror set up.  I see loads of possibilities.  The origin stories for the people downstairs could be worked in, we could do some time jumping to see how things worked across time.  I dunno, maybe it is just me, but I think it sounds like a winner.

43.  Seven Psychopaths

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Considering I had Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges near the top of my list along with his brother’s The Guard, I think this film’s placement has to be considered a huge disappointment, keeping in mind I started with crazy high expectations.  There were some funny moments, and the script could be clever at times.  But it didn’t seem nearly as clever as it thought it was, though it did get some points for originality.  And the actors are a ton of fun.  Although it is a little strange how little the women are in the movie, given their billing.

#42.  Man on a Ledge

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Granted, I’m a little bit of a sucker for heisty/prove my innocence films, but this one wasn’t half bad, if not particularly memorable.  The setup was pretty decent, I thought.  But I’m not sure they nailed the ending.  In that they way they “proved” Ed Harris did the crime or whatever wouldn’t really stand up in a court run by twelve year olds.

#41.  Compliance

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Ann Dowd’s Oscar story was quite compelling last year, I just wish her performance was a little bit better here (which probably actually means I wish her character had a little bit more screen time) to justify it all.  It has been kind of fascinating watching Dreama Walker go from The Good Wife to this to Don’t Trust the B.  Partially because she/her character were pretty awful in The Good Wife, so it seems like something in clicking in the more recent projects.  This film did make me think, so well done, film.  It is harrowing, actually.  The ending felt a little bit off, though.

Oscar nominations are out on the 10th!  I’m taking a look at the state of the race in the eight major categories.  This time: Original Screenplay.

VIRTUAL LOCK

GOOD BET

  • Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom
  • Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

Many are hailing Moonrise Kingdom as Wes Anderson’s finest work, that combined with a pretty decent box office seems to suggest he could get in here, a category in which Oscar has seen fit to recognize quirkier fare.  Zero Dark Thirty isn’t out here yet, so I can’t speak to it, but by most accounts it will be a deserving nominee.

LIKELY IN

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master

Buzz has been waning, but the field here doesn’t have many scripts dominating the conversation.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but it sounds like a film where the screenplay is memorable.

ON THE BUBBLE

  • John Gatins, Flight
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Rian Johnson, Looper
  • Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

The WGA nod signals that there’s support for Flight, the question may be how many people remember to credit the script for the mesmerizing crash scene and Denzel’s performance.  Amour isn’t out here yet, but from afar seems like the stereotypical arthouse movie: foreign, not widely screened, boring as all get out.  Here’s hoping that last part isn’t true.  Now isn’t the place to discuss, but a Looper nomination wouldn’t make me very happy.  Still, it got the WGA nom, and Rian Johnson does have a distinctive voice.  It is pretty difficult to predict with any accuracy how many nominations Django Unchained will get, but if the Academy is feeling the love, Tarantino could get in here for a script that’s certainly distinctive.

DARK HORSES

  • Reid Carolin, Magic Mike
  • Ava DuVernay, Middle of Nowhere
  • Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

Carolin’s script feels pedestrian to me, but he’s got 100 million good reasons to call me an idiot.  If the voters are feeling indie, they could go with DuVernay, whose film many people say deserves a wider exposure.  I heart McDonagh, and his script was unique, but this one missed more than it should have.

SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERED

  • Max Landis, Chronicle
  • Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild, Ted
  • David Wain and Ken Marion, Wanderlust

You know what? It’s just damned nice to see In Bruges get a little Oscar love. It’s a dark comedy that came out in February: pretty much every word in that sentence should kick it out of the running for the Oscars. Heck, a superbly reviewed flick by an admired director like Zodiac couldn’t even get any traction with a February release date and yet In Bruges sneaks into a major category (even if it is its only nomination) and picks up some Golden Globes love along the way. In a nomination morning besmirched by Dark Knight exclusions, the In Bruges nod went a long way to redeem the Academy’s reputation from the brink.

It’s been interesting going back to watch early season releases again. A year ago In Bruges shocked me and made me chortle. Revisiting a film meant to be shocking and funny usually diminishes both attributes, and it did this time, but that can have the effect of peeling back some of the immediate reactions to reveal the gold within. I had the exact same reaction when rewatching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for what it’s worth.

If we accept that In Bruges is never going to reach that Best Picture/Director sphere just due to its nature, the Original Screenplay nod for writer/director Martin McDonagh is the most appropriate. Even conceptually this film has so much going for it: hitmen laying low in Belgium, one character’s distaste for the city while he wrestles with some serious demons, touches on themes of honor and fate. This is a film that involves not one but two protagonists entering, even orchestrating, showdowns they know will likely lead to their demise because they feel like a showdown is part of their duty. Then one man goes to kill another just to end up preventing him from committing suicide instead. And there’s a racist little person. How in the world is a movie like that supposed to work? And yet it does, splendidly.

The performances are quite terrific across the board. Ralph Fiennes was in everything this year and he’s a foul-mouthed delight here. I have to think Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson might have had nomination shots if the film came out in a more traditional time for Oscar contenders. Both are great and Gleeson is just amazing. I also enjoyed Clémence Poésy as Farrell’s love interest and Jordan Prentice as the little person.

Great technical work too. Pairing the traditional Irish song “Raglan Road” with the late clock tower scene works brilliantly (and a musician pal of mine loved the music playing over the final scene). It also has a lot of neat shots such as the boat ride down the canal, the final scene as it enters the Boschian hell of the film set, and the unbroken six-minute shot of Gleeson as he fields a call from Fiennes (of course he’s watching the famous opening tracking shot to Touch of Evil when the phone rings).

Anyway, In Bruges is a pretty great film that will find its way into my DVD collection eventually. And when February 22 rolls around, I think I’ll be rooting for it for the upset.

Oscar nominations will be announced on January 22. We’re counting down to the big day by tackling some tough questions and spouting some mad opinions. Today’s topic: Disappointment. We’re all going to feel it in some way on Thursday morning. To help get ready for the blow, we’re predicting it now. What inclusion or exclusion on Thursday will disappoint you? How do you like that, a topic that combines both our savvy prediction skills and our impeccable opinions!

John: Adams’s Prowess Doubtful, For Once

I dig Amy Adams, I really do. I liked her a lot in Charlie Wilson’s War, Junebug, and even The Office. She really should have gotten a Best Actress nod last year for the shockingly terrific Enchanted. But she’s about to get swept up in an acting nomination wave for Doubt and that will be too bad. I had a lot of problems with the film but generally agreed with the consensus that the acting was terrific, particularly from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman (I think Viola Davis’s big scene was too initially puzzling for me to pay a lot of attention to her). But Adams is chirpy and one-note. Her character is pretty shallow, which may have more to do with the writing, but it also doesn’t give her much opportunity to show what she can do. She was supposed to personify the doubt in the film’s central question but I never really saw much complexity in her performance.

But if not Adams, then who, realistically? Good question. She has nominations from both the SAG and Golden Globes. I’d like to see Rosemary DeWitt from Rachel Getting Married but in the end, as long as Adams doesn’t displace Marisa Tomei I’ll be able to live with my disappointment.

And let that be the last time this blog ever speaks unkindly about Amy Adams.

Jared: If I Wasn’t Depressed Enough by The Reader, I Will be When it’s Snubbed for Best Picture

In a year of mediocrity, where movies are missing the mark by just a little bit, one movie managed to get inside my head, to the point where I was too wrecked to get up out of my seat until all the credits had rolled.  So I’ll be disappointed when I don’t hear The Reader making the cut for Best Picture.  Disappointed because I know the movie would have stood a better chance if it hadn’t received bad buzz stemming from various delays and on-set mishaps.  Disappointed because of the seemingly ineffective Oscar marketing campaign, especially when the nascent Slumdog backlash is looking for a candidate to rally behind.  And disappointed that the current climate is absolutely wrong for such a horribly depressing movie.  The Reader is a hauntingly beautiful film, in my mind undoubtedly one of the best of the year, and it is frustrating that it is going to unjustly barely miss the Oscars.

Brian: Adapted Screenplay a Disappointment All Around

My biggest disappointment will be the adapted screenplay category as a whole, especially when Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon both get nominated for mediocre scripts. Both were unevenly paced with broadly drawn characters with little depth to them. Eric Roth’s screenplay for Button succeeded in spite of itself, to use a great Schollism, and the interplay between the hospital death bed and the story was tangential and distracting. Frost/Nixon perverted history, which makes little to no sense when you are writing about a series of television interviews that ACTUALLY HAPPENED! This wasn’t like The Queen where you could make up the dialogue and history because it all happened behind closed doors, you can compare the action in Frost/Nixon to the transcript. Since Ron Howard made Quiz Show, I thought he’d at least be able to handle a similar scenario here, but with the screenplay already written for the stage, I guess he didn’t have much to work with.

Adam: Actually, Original Screenplay Too (And Have I Mentioned I Really Liked In Bruges?)

My biggest disappointment is with the Academy as a whole (especially if The Dark Knight doesn’t get the nods it deserves). However, if we need to pick and choose, one of the bigger disappointments will be in the Original Screenplay category. The complete lack of respect for Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges script is frustrating. This movie has the most original story, some of the most interesting characters, and the best ending of any film this year. The complete snub by the Academy in exchange for films like Happy-Go-Lucky and Wall-E is embarrassing (putting hyphens in a title doesn’t make it Oscar worthy). Happy-Go-Lucky was a pointless movie that had one decent scene and shouldn’t be nominated for anything. Wall-E was a cute movie, but the main problem I have with it is its script. The plot was, by far, the weakest point. One of my fellow Grouches pointed out that if you look at Wall-E as a romantic comedy that it was the best of that genre all year. However, he later went on to admit that it was a horrible year for that genre. But does that warrant it a nomination? Disappointing… that’s what this category is.

August 2017
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