Tag Archives: Christoph Waltz

[Oscars 2013] – Predicting The Nominations

9 Jan

An actual Oscar statuette to be presented during the 79th Annual Academy Awards sits in a display case in Hollywood

I still have a few 2013 releases to catch up with, and I though I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them, the nods are due early tomorrow morning so I’ll have to post them now.

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[Trailer] – Django Unchained

10 Oct

Not that anyone needed to get any more excited about this one but a new trailer for Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained has just been released and you can watch it below.

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[Trailer] – Django Unchained

6 Jun

It’s finally here: the first trailer for Quentin Tarantino‘s Django Unchained has arrived, and you can watch it after the cut.

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Carnage

27 Dec

Title: Carnage
Year: 2011
Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: Roman Polanski and Yasmine Reza, based on the play by Ms. Reza
Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz
MPAA Rating: R, language
Runtime: 79 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Metacritic: 57

 

When I first heard there was an adaptation of Yasmine Reza’s play God of Carnage in the works, set to be directed by Roman Polanski and with a cast of Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, I was pretty much blown away, I expected a truly impeccable film to come out from that. After all, the play won the Tony for Best Play in 2009 (when the cast of the original Broadway production was Marcia Gay Harden, who won a Tony herself, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Jeff Daniels), and was just super critically lauded. And the people that came on board to make it a film were all insanely talented, all of them except John C. Reilly being Oscar winners, and Mr. Reilly himself being a past nominee and one of the most versatile actors working today for my money, being able to nail both dramatic and comedic roles, which would be key for a film like this.

And yet, as amazing as the talent assembled and source material were, Carnage just didn’t soar to the heights I expected and wanted it to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the direction by Mr. Polanski is incredibly assured in the making of a film that centers on the interactions of just four people, and all four of these actors are incredible, Ms. Winslet and Ms. Foster especially, but it just doesn’t get through, the story isn’t as gripping as it probably was on stage, losing quite a lot of its funnybone and sheer impact, and even though its well-made and well-acted, I started wishing that maybe this director and actors would have teamed up in another, better project.

I still liked it quite a lot, and watching Mr. Polanski make a film that’s this short, just eighty minutes long, working at such a fast pace with a limited amount of actors in a limited space, is bound to deliver the goods. It’s just that the goods it delivers aren’t exactly consistent, the film starts off brilliantly, the first half hour or so is truly impeccable, but then it kind of falters a bit and goes off the rails by the end. But I think we should focus more on the positive side of things, like how fun it is seeing someone like Roman Polanski staying true to the limitations provided by a play as far as time and space goes, spending eighty minutes in an apartment in Brooklyn where two couples are spending an evening of bickering. Most films would have tried to expand the time, would have tried to get the characters the play establishes onto other locations that the broader field of films allow in comparison to the stage. But Roman Polanski shows confidence in making a faithful adaptation of the material he got, writing the script himself alongside Ms. Reza.

The play is about the human condition, an exploration of what happens when those required social niceties to keep society running smoothly come crumbling down and the nastier side of us is allowed to be seen. Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet play one couple, while Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play the other one, and it’s from them, two couples of middle-aged, white people, that we get to see what happens when the walls of politeness come down. What makes them come down is a schoolyard incident between both of their sons, which makes the two couples come together to talk it over, and evolves into a full-on carnage, like the title suggests, every one of them showing what’s so wrong with them and, maybe, with some of us too.

If spending time with these two couples was claustrophobic on stage, forcing you to see these ugly things, though presented to you in quite a funny way, then it’s even more so in film. As not only are you stuck in one apartment, which was really neatly designed by Dean Tavoularis the seventy-nine year-old production designer who worked on all three The Godfather films as well as Apocalypse Now, but you also have the addition of close-ups on the faces of these people to amp up the sense of claustrophobia, courtesy of cinematographer Pawel Edelman, an Oscar-nominee for his work on Mr. Polanski’s The Pianist. That sort of style works well to milk to these characters obsessions with appearances and provide a really bleak comedy that Mr. Polanski and his cast feel at home in.

Penelope and Michael, the characters of Ms. Foster and Mr. Reilly host this meeting, the parents of the injured boy. She’s tightly-wound, over-parenting her son; he seems kind of easy-going, but also rather dumb in comparison to the very bright Penelope, which of course works all that much better when you have the cerebral Ms. Foster and Mr. Reilly who’s played Dale Doback. The parents of the guy that did the beating are a more refined couple, Alan and Nancy, he a successful lawyer; she an investment broker. They obviously get together because, as they say, they’re all grown-ups, rational people, so they meet together happily, ready to quickly resolve a silly little dispute their kids had because, well, because they’re kids. Not so fast.

Things quickly start heating up, and faults of each of them start coming to the surface, faults of their marriage, each of them bubbling up because of the behavior they, the grown-ups, start exhibiting. Mr. Waltz is good at playing Alan, a guy who looks bored throughout and can’t even pretend to care about what his son did, more occupied with a business transaction that has him picking up the phone at the worst of times without care about what’s transpiring in the apartment. The first bits of Carnage work truly well, as the tension starts building up, differences of class and character start superimposing themselves between these four people who realize they just can’t stand each other. The process of watching those niceties go out the window is terrific fun, as the conversation about their kids turns into one about so many other things, but as soon as the process is done with and the third act kicks in with the niceties all gone and everyone involved, especially Mr. Foster, amping up their energy by a notch or two, it just got too messy for me to enjoy just as much, as well-acted a craziness as it may have been.

Grade: B+

The Three Musketeers

26 Nov

Title: The Three Musketeers
Year: 2011
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writers: Andrew Davies and Alex Litvak, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas
Starring: Logan Lerman, Milla Jovovich, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans, Mads Mikkelsen, James Corden, Juno Temple, Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sequences of adventure action violence
Runtime: 110 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 6.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%

 

Yet another adaptation of The Three Musketeers has come our way people, this time courtesy of Paul W.S. Anderson, and even though I guess it’s good that at least this adaptation seemed to have fun with the classic source material by Alexandre Dumas, that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about it, because everything else is pretty damn messy. Not to mention that I’m only mentioning that as a “good” thing because at least a breezy approach to the novel differentiates it a bit from the many other adaptations of it that we’ve been subject to in the past, but it also makes it look as a “for dummies” version of the book, and in every other respect it’s the same as those aforementioned slew of past interpretations.

It’s a very campy movie, you get people from seventeenth century Europe uttering the most ridiculous lines of dialogue you can imagine, a really stale combination of dialogue from every other period epic made in Hollywood with slang that was invented less than a decade ago, much less a century or four. And that’s actually a good description of how this film essentially plays out, it doesn’t know if it wants to be an old-fashioned action adventure epic or a CGI-ladden reimagining of timeless characters and a timeless plot. So, what do we get? A really shoddy attempt to pull both off, and failing at one worse than it already did at the other.

So yes, if you want to see a film try to combine the efforts of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (as in, the great action and flamboyance of that) with those of the Sherlock Holmes franchise (as in, a new reimagining of it all with special effects and the characters having gadgets) then I guess you can go check this one out. Because, make no mistake, the one thing this one actually tries really hard to do is establish itself as a potential franchise. You even get the ending that seems to set up a second film, so you know they really want to make another one. Thankfully, though, the film has been a commercial disappointment ($120 million worldwide against a $75 million budget, but with barely over $20 million coming from the States), not to mention that unlike the aforementioned two franchises, this one has no Johnny Depp or Robert Downey Jr., no actor ready to really immerse themselves in their characters, Christoph Waltz I guess tries, but not nearly hard enough.

This time around our titular threesome is played by Matthew Macfadyen (Athos), Luke Evans (Aramis) and Ray Stevenson (Porthos), and even though in theory this is trying to be a revamp of the source material, their personalities are the same as they have ever been. And I use the word “personality” lightly, because they never are given any room to establish themselves as characters, much less establish their famous dynamic, thus making their “All for one and one for all!” motto sound fake.

Oh, and you also have Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan, the wannabe musketeer. And this to me was the most disappointing part of the film, not because I think Mr. Lerman’s unlikable and, frankly, cocky performance as D’Artagnan is what did the film in, the film would’ve still been bad without it, but because Mr. Lerman is the guy that’s been cast as Charlie in next year’s film adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of my favorite novels of all-time, so I’m now fearing about how he’ll treat one of my favorite characters.

The rest of the cast is filled with Orlando Bloom, as the Duke of Buckingham, one of the villains in the picture, and he’s plain bad here. Then there’s Mr. Anderson’s wife, and the star of his Resident Evil movies, Milla Jovovich as Milady who has all these battle skills that kind of match those of the Musketeers. And there’s also the aforementioned Mr. Waltz, who plays the famous villain of their story, Cardinal Richelieu, and in paper he’s a damn fine choice to play the bad guy of this story, and he’s clearly having a ball playing the role, that’s obvious here, but Mr. Anderson doesn’t let us spend much time with him and Mr. Waltz can’t really dig into the ridiculous situation he’s in and unleash the campy comedic potential of the role.

When it becomes obvious that the characters are horribly done here, the film dumps any sort of development possible with them and focuses entirely on delivering everything their special-effects budget allowed them to, not a single one of the things they come up with being particularly inspired. If you’ve read the novel, skip this film, there’s no respect paid to its source material, nor any interest paid to the history of the time. If you’ve seen some of the other adaptations, skip this film, there’s nothing here the others haven’t touched upon. If you like good movies, skip this film, this one’s not worth your money. We get a film that doesn’t know what sort of action adventure it wants to be, and instead it fails as both the lighter swashbuckling fare and the effects-heavy period epic.

Grade: C-

Water for Elephants

7 May

Title: Water for Elephants
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Francis Lawrence
Writer: Richard LaGravenese, based on the novel by Sara Gruen
Starring: 
Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook, Paul Schneider
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, moments of intense violence and sexual content
Runtime: 
120 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.9
Rotten Tomatoes: 
57%

I love Reese Witherspoon, it’s as simple as that. I think she’s an amazingly talented actress, who’s also beautiful and really charming so I always jump at the opportunity of seeing her on-screen. Last year she was in How Do You Know, James L. Brooks’ disappointing new romantic comedy which I graded a B-, and at least now she’s in a considerably better movie, one that’s based on a pretty good novel, that’s really nicely told by director Francis Lawrence, beautifully shot by Rodrigo Prieto (who’s also done Brokeback Mountain and Babel), and that has some nice performances in it. But even though I really did like Water for Elephants, there was still one thing that kept me from really loving it, and that was the chemistry, or lack thereof, between Ms. Witherspoon and her male co-star, Robert Pattinson.

Now, don’t think that that’s because I dislike Robert Pattinson, because I honestly don’t. Sure, his performances in the Twilight films are nothing note-worthy, but they’re not horrible either and those films have been getting better and better, and his performance in last year’s Remember Me I thought was pretty decent. So it’s really not because I think Mr. Pattinson isn’t a great actor that the chemistry didn’t flow between our two leads here, it’s just that I didn’t, maybe it’s the eleven year age difference between the two (he actually played her son in a deleted scene of 2004’s Vanity Fair), maybe it’s something far more intangible than that, I just wasn’t sold.

But individually I thought they both did fine, Ms. Witherspoon especially, and even though the other people considered for their roles (Scarlett Johansson for hers and Channing Tatum, Emile Hirsch and Andrew Garfield for his) would have provided very interesting choices as well, except Mr. Tatum who I definitely wouldn’t thrust into a role like, and may have had some good chemistry between them, I wouldn’t change these two for a minute.

And credit really has to be given where it’s due, and much of it goes to Mr. Lawrence, who makes a drastic change in tone from having previously directed only Constantine and I Am Legend, and who crafts this one beautifully, he gets a very satisfying romance from a film that could have easily turned out to be a hugely cheesy affair. And even though his two main performers and Christoph Waltz, the main supporting one, were all turning in real solid performances, they were doing so without any seeming recognition of chemistry with each other, and Mr. Lawrence still pulled it all together nicely and the end product is one that’s much better than what I expected.

This is the romantic sort of film that I have no trouble embracing, one that feels so decidedly old-school and that finds in its story of a bareback rider for a circus, her husband who’s the extremely controlling circus owner, and a drop-out form Cornell’s veterinary school who enlists the circus a very satisfying romantic triangle. Mr. Waltz is the one who plays the circus owner, August, married to the lovely Marlena, who works on his circus on the main show that has her riding a beautiful horse and who’s controlled by August as though she was just as much his possession as the horse. Then we get to meet Mr. Pattinson’s character, Jacob (and yes I know Twilight fans will catch the irony of the name), who’s actually narrating the story to us as an older man, played by the great Hal Holbrook, and who was just a naïve young college drop-out when he stumbles upon the train, and August at first wanted to just throw him off it, until he realizes that his veterinary skills may be useful on his circus.

And it’s really nicely done here, Jack Fisk, a collaborator of Terrence Malick and an Oscar-nominee for his work in There Will Be Blood, is the production designer here, and his work gives this film a great feeling, one that without making use of any special effects still has this very magical look to it while still looking entirely plausible, and the sets he constructs here go a long ways to getting that effect. And even though the chemistry, like I’ve said, I found to be lacking, I still think these people give some pretty solid performances. Which is especially true of Mr. Waltz, who, much like he showed in his Oscar-winning turn in Inglourious Basterds, can play a controlling man who seems to be charming but is actually quite evil like few can. He does that again here as August, and its his jealousy towards the relationship that starts to bloom between Jacob and Marlena that gets this film going.

Water for Elephants feels like a classic film in many ways, because it deals just with people and their emotions, and it does so in an enchanting time. Marlena is always unabashedly loyal to her marriage with August, and we get the sense that a relationship with Jacob would obviously be the next logical step, but it’s unfortunate then that the chemistry between Ms. Witherspoon and Mr. Pattinson is nowhere to be found, which is more his fault than hers really, since that really would have made this one a big success. Still, this one, though always bordering it, never really delves into its melodramatic potential entirely, which I found to be a great thing, and it serves as a nice film to watch now in early May right before we get a whole season full of effects-ladden summer blockbusters.

Grade: B

The Green Hornet

10 Feb

Title: The Green Hornet
Year:
2011
Director:
Michel Gondry
Writers:
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, based on the radio series by George W. Trendle
Starring:
Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Edward James Olmos, Edward Furlong, Analeigh Tipton, James Franco
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, sequences of violent action, language, sensuality and drug content
Runtime:
119 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
6.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
45%

The Green Hornet was the first big movie of 2011, but after having its release date bumped til January, the cemetery month of films, you had to feel a bit skeptical about how this one was going to turn out. But I was still really excited about getting to see it. I wasn’t a part of those who said they’d never buy Seth Rogen, the perennial chubby stoner for so many, as a superhero. I did buy him as one because I had seen him talk about the project, which we co-wrote with Evan Goldberg, and knew he had quite a lot of passion for it. Not to mention that this was going to be directed by Michel Gondry, and I’m a massive fanboy of his work, so I’d never bet against him.

Now, after having seen it, I really don’t know how exactly to feel towards The Green Hornet. It’s certainly one of the lesser entries in Mr. Gondry’s body of work, but it was still fun to see what the man can do with a mega budget. I mean, this is a film with a reported budget of about $120 million, and giving the reigns of such a project to such a nifty auteur who had never worked with budgets over $20 million (the reported pricetags on both Be Kind Rewind and his masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) was a move by the studio I really dug.

But at the same time, there’s a part of me that thinks that’s exactly what did The Green Hornet in. The fact that the studio was willing to give Michel Gondry, a guy who has created some really weird and thought-provoking stuff in the past, such a large budget most certainly came with a warning telling him to try and limit himself a bit, not necessarily visually but definitely ideologically. Because when you think you’re going in to see a mega-budgeted collaboration between Mr. Gondry and Mr. Rogen you expect some surreal stuff cooked up by two creative geniuses. And yet what we got was just a popcorn flick, that yes, it had glimpses of that genius, but that ultimately the result is much less than what you’d think considering the sum of its parts.

I didn’t dislike The Green Hornet, though, there were quite a lot of very fun moments, and I actually found myself thinking it was ultimately better than most of the critics seem to have thought. The unexpected mix of Mr. Gondry’s quirky sensitivities put into the superhero genre and Mr. Rogen’s physique and reputation as the titular hero was something that, while you could easily tell it wasn’t meant to be, ended up being fun in quite a lot of ways at times. But then again, you can’t help but think that sort of ‘fun’ was not exactly what they were going for.

The fact that such venerable critics as A.O. Scott and Roger Ebert are giving this one failing grades, Mr. Ebert actually gave it one single star and called it “almost unendurable”, makes me think this one is being given too many bad remarks, because ultimately, it was still fun. Not to mention that, to kick things off, those naysayers who were condemning the fact that Mr. Rogen would be playing a superhero won’t be getting the last laugh, because Mr. Rogen looks really fit here. And, in the end, it’s still a Michel Gondry film, so visually it remains impeccable, even when the plot gets all tied up in itself.

Britt Reid is the name of Mr. Rogen’s character, a party animal and heir to a fortune. His father is murdered and he inherits it all, he then hires Cameron Diaz’s character, Lenore, to be his secretary and bonds with Kato, the family’s chauffeur, who is wicked cool with gadgets and will become Britt’s sidekick in their quest for revenge. Considering this was written by Mr. Rogen and Mr. Goldberg, who together have written Superbad and Pineapple Express, you knew they’d go for a much funnier approach to The Green Hornet, making it much more of a buddy-comedy flick, but the action-y stuff is all still there.

So please, stop calling The Green Hornet bad. It really isn’t. Yes, it was delayed and dumped into the horrible first month of the year, and yes, there’s a lot of stuff here that definitely wasn’t tuned to perfection. But it’s still, at least, pretty damn fun. Mr. Rogen is always funny, and he did manage to successfully sell the character to me, Mr. Chou was refreshing as Kato, and Mr. Gondry’s style is always awesome to watch, how he handled the 3D technology, especially that Kato-Vision stuff, I thought was pretty commendable. It’s far from perfect, but it’s also far from “unendurable”.

Grade: B-