Some actors are defined by a film; some define it. "Ong Bak" would be nothing without Tony Jaa. He definitely defines it - and in turn, it defined him in 20013 as the next BIG THING in martial arts actors.
If you haven't seen Tony Jaa before prepare to be mindblown. He is a marvel, at times appearing to be beyond human. This 2003 film was his breakout film - it made him a superstar.
He is probably the most incredible martial arts actors, perhaps ever. His idol, Jackie Chan, is of course the standard by which all the rest of these lithe, leaping, kicking and punching amazeoids are measured, but Jaa has more raw power and tight skills and that gives him a slight edge on my scorecard.
"Ong Bak" proves that Jaa is superhuman - especially since the entire film was done without wires or CGI - it's all sweat, muscle and training. The martial discipline, of course, is Muay Thai with a liberal dose of gymnastics, and although Jaa has other martial arts training (including Aikido) it's Muay Thai that his fighting most closely manifests. In "Ong Bak" his magnificent skills are put to simply amazing extremes as action scene after action scene plays out - but let's not get too ahead of ourselves.
Jaa, a man of few words whether because he's in character or because he chose to be that way, plays a Buddhist priest-candidate from a small village in Thailand. In the insanely impressive opening scene, he is the one who reaches the top of this humongous tree, leaping from limb to limb like a Capuchin monkey, to claim the flag. This gives him a special blessing from Ong Bak, an ancient Buddha statue. Why it's called that is never clear and really who cares? Point is, it is the fountain of all blessing and good fortune for this poor village. When a Bangkok lowlife steals the head thinking he can get some cash for it the village is devastated certain that bad fortune will continue to visit them. Wells have dried, crops have failed and many of the young people have fled to the big city to survive.
Jaa volunteers to go get the head to restore the village's luck, and that's how he becomes Ong Bak, Thai Warrior.
Newport Beach Film Festival, 2013
Alive and thriving. I'm sure that's the message the Newport Beach Film Festival would love to hear shouted from the rooftops of The O.C. After a few dicey years with administration woes, venue problems, and less-than-wonderful film offerings, I found the festival this year to be robust and packed with films that mean something both critically and commercially.
Having expanded to The Triangle, the renovated Triangle Square in Costa Mesa, the buzz there where I picked up my press pass was incredible. The festival initially went there out of desperation last year because The Islands Theater in Newport Beach was undergoing a renovation and they needed a venue with a multiplex and some food options that was at least close to Newport Beach. This year, The Islands is back but The Triangle is also in its glory after several new shops and food places have transformed it into a truly great entertainment destination.
I was only able to attend my first event this year on Sunday and I chose to go to one of my favorite theaters, The Regency Lido, which is a single-venue theater with an actual balcony. The Lido is such a grand, old girl, the outside looking like a throwback to the days when theaters were edifices and not strip malls, but inside she's spanking new with a new screen, digital sound and digital projection that made the screenings pop.
Beside being my favorite venue to see anything, there were two other reasons I started my festival tour at The Lido: One, OCC (Orange Coast College) was doing its student films there, followed by the 25th Anniversary of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and two, Regency theater manager Lorenzo Porricelli.
Larry is old school. He makes you feel a part of any event even if if you're just walking around. When I arrived, he was passing out programs for the showing of the student films like some carny barker. He personally greeted dozens of people, many of whom he knew and who knew him. If the NBFF put him in charge of the whole show, this dynamic force of nature would probably increase attendance by 75% on his own!
How do say Occam’s Razor in French?
If you don’t know what that means in English, I’ll give you the simplest of definitions: It’s the simplest of solutions.
Occam’s Razor is a principle of parsimony and economy. It compels problem solvers to employ the easiest, most rational, reasonable solution.
The “problem” or premise of “Fly Me to the Moon” is this:
Isabelle, a beautiful, young, Parisian bride-to-be, played deftly by Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds), must somehow beat a family curse wherein first marriages end in disaster and the second is destined for eternal bliss.
Isabelle’s eleventh-hour solution to this “problem” is to marry a shill in Denmark and divorce him the same day, thus beating the curse and living happily ever after with her young, dentist fiancé, Pierre (Robert Plagnol).
When the shill is a no show, Isabelle latches onto a hapless travel writer, Jean-Yves played with great comic rhythm by Danny Boon (Welcome To The Sticks). Jean-Yves is en-route from Paris to Kenya via Copenhagen. That travel routing sums up the fictional world created by Director Pascal Chaumeil (Heartbreaker) in this film: screwball.
When Isabelle buys a first class ticket to Kenya at the last minute so she can convince Jean-Yves to marry her, it’s hard to ask yourself why she doesn’t stay in Denmark, find another, local schmuck and pay him the money to complete her “perfect plan.”
But then there’s no movie. And in my view the basic premise or “log line” of a movie is something you know in advance. So if you’re of a mind to say, “A curse on first marriages? How silly. Running off to Denmark to create a paper marriage. That’s a perfect plan? How ridiculous.” Then don’t go into the theater in first place.
Aaron Paul isn't a large man. Not that he's small - what I mean is that he isn't big or overpowering physically. However, his screen persona is definitely bigger than life. He consumes your entire attention when he's on stage - that's why he's an Emmy-award winner for his role in "Breaking Bad" as Jessie Pinkman.
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down -- which might not be such a bad thing.
Let me start by admitting that I'm a Wes Anderson fan. I'll stop short of saying that he can do no wrong, but he hasn't done wrong yet.
Moonrise Kingdom comes close.
Wes Anderson, Roman Copolla
"All men are equal before fish." ~ Herbert Hoover
I just got in from attending this evening's activities and while exhausted from a long day today and with an early call tomorrow morning, but it would be negligent of me not to tell you how outstanding this festival is and urge you to attend one or more movies over the next few days. It is being held at the Garden Walk in Anaheim (link).and continues through Sunday the 17th.
The festival was well thought out by people who obviously have a passion for film. They arranged for experienced festival operators to help them set it up correctly (I met some people from the Temecula and San Diego festivals).
From the red carpet to the after party, you'd have thought they've been doing this for years. I suspect they will be around for a long time and would not be surprised if they become one of the "must attend" festivals.
I will write additional information about the festival in the next day or two but for now - IT'S A HIT! Congratulations to Sinan Kanasiz and the other founders.
Go, you'll have a good - no, a great time.
In “I Am Love” (Io Sono L’amore), Tilda Swinton plays Emma, the matriarch of a rich bourgeois Italian family. Wooed from her native Russia by Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), the heir of a Milanese textile fortune, she becomes his perfect wife and ideal mother to their children. She’s trim, stylish, controlled, yet warm; she keeps everyone around her on their mark, she plans family gatherings with precision, she councils wisely. Still, despite outward appearances there’s something unsettled in her.
Although she fully embraces the Italian culture (she speaks the language impeccably, she knows her place in male/female protocol), she remains an outsider and seems unfulfilled. This yearning enables her to understand and accept her daughter, Betta’s (Alba Rohrwacher) newly discovered gay sexuality. It also allows for her own lusty awakening as she falls for her son, Eduaordo’s (Flavio Parenti) best friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini).
Last night at the Regency South Coast Village Theater the Polish Film Fesitval played two stunning films, neither of which is easy to categorize. Sometimes that can be bad but in the case of "My Flesh, My Blood" and "Zero" that is most definitely good.
Imagine the anguish and pathos of "The Wrestler" and the dangerous, raw anger of "Raging Bull" but dialed up and amped times ten.
You know it's a long festival when you find yourself waiting in the lobby of the Island Cinemas for your camerman (Eric Hensman from Lennexe Productions), eating a cold Wahoo fish sandwich left over from the day before, drinking theater coffee, and downing supplements from a ziplock bag - while talking to a short-film director who desperately wants you to come to his film - which you can't because of a scheduling conflict. But he continues anyway and all you're hoping is that you won't be burping up either the sandwich or the coffee in the upcoming screening. Fun.
The first film I saw today was "My Run."
Since there is already an excellent review of the film and the brothers Edgerton on this site this review will be brief and not talk much about what's already been covered.
On Saturday night at the Regency Theater, I got the distinct pleasure of meeting Nash Edgerton, director and producer of "The Square" and short film, "Spider." Nash was personable and accessible. He is totally without pretense. What you see is what you get and that's already pretty special since his body of work shows a filmmaker who is in touch with exactly what he wants.
I will admit that I am harder on scifi movies than any other genre. Being a huge fan, having read it since I was a kid (starting with Tom Swift Jr.,) I know the scope of incredible themes, characters and concepts available and possible. Scifi can be anything any other story can be - romance, actioneer, comedy - and still deal with dystopian and utopian futures, post-apocalyptic scenarios, aliens, microscopic worlds, uni-sex planets...the range is breathless.
"Repo Men" is a clever scifi concept looking for a decent story. It tries and fails to visit a possible future where artificial organs are de rigueur and financing for those organs has become a business run by "The Union." (Begin psuedo-future-societal scifi bullshit with that vaguely threatening and totally implausible corporate name.) If you can't pay you're visited by the Repo Men section of The Union and they cut their pastdue merchandise out of your body on the floor of your living room, public bathroom, or wherever else you're unlucky enough to be if you're 96 days past due. No extensions possible.
And yes, most likely you will die after they complete their gruesome task because they don't use anesthetic, care about hygiene or really anything but getting said organ back to the shop.
After 50 Years, It's Still a Classic.
Some movies live inside us long after we see them. That’s why we check the safety lock on hotel doors before we take a shower. And why the name Norman Bates makes us smile and shiver at the same time. And why so many people assume that Anthony Perkins must have been creepy in real life because “nobody’s that good an actor!” But he was. And it helped make “Psycho” the classic it is.
If you want proof of Hitchcock’s genius on this 50th anniversary of his 1960 masterpiece, check out the 1998 word-for-word remake with Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. The difference intimidates would-be filmmakers, who ask themselves how the exact same script can be made into such a dismal failure or become nothing less than the template for all horror films that followed.
"A Serious Man" is as disturbing a film as one can imagine making. More disturbing than "No Country For Old Men?" Yes - blatant violence is absent from this film except for one unexpected moment that turns out to be a dream but what makes this film so hard to watch is the same thing that makes a newspaper so difficult to read - the random nature of life and the seeming non-logical nature of our existence.
"Why me?" Behind this simple question in this black comedy is a demon of epic proportions lurking - one we try to push out of our lives and deny. But at the edges of a silent scream it waits doing nothing but sitting there with a smug smile and the power to completely destroy our lives.
I saw "Up" with honestly little anticipation. The trailers didn't intrigue me. Not like "Wall-E." Nothing about the movie seemed to appeal to me but really, am I the target demographic anyway?
I know Pixar is a wonderful company, with "The Incredibles" being one of my all-time favorite films, but I was never a huge fan of "Toy Story" or the other Pixar films - except as mentioned and "Monsters, Inc.".
My first thoughts were confirmed. "Up" didn't thrill me. It's a good film - just not wonderful.
At the opening of Held, we find a man held prisoner in a small room. He wakes up from being knocked out and discovers several sharp nails protruding through the wall. Each day, A cloaked captor slips photographs under the door showing a mysterious woman. This was a great film. It got me watching until the end and gripping the chair arms. A bit fearing at times but I kept seeking the end. All in all bravo editing,filming and Believable acting. ***** five stars! Bravo! Wanting to see more of the actor's work!
I was certainly predisposed to want to like "Human Target," Fox's latest brain-candy entry. I have been a fan of the lead actor, Mark Valley, since he headed up the superb and under-appreciated, quickly canceled "Keen Eddie" which also stared a funny and terminally-cute Sienna Miller.
Valley has massive comedic chops (and a marvelous deadpan delivery) and was and is physically able to deliver on any action moment the "Keen Eddie" producers threw at him. These talents are in ample display in "Human Target" the adventures of a private bodyguard who appears to be just that much better than everyone else in the business. We know this because his first client won't take "no" for an
Spoiler alert: I don't do spoiler alerts.
Yes, it's a somewhat tired story and yes, it's puerile in spots, and yes, it's also an amazing, astoundingly gorgeous film with so much visual detail that it made me tired just watching it. Wow and yawn. How does one filmmaker make me do both on such a regular basis?
The 3D? Meh - I can't do 3D properly because of a childhood cataract and lens removal when I was in my 20's - but even so, there were indeed a few floating objects and once I ducked because a flying ember came at me. I can only imagine what it must be like to the "normal-eyed" person.
The aliens were serviceable enough both culturally and story-wise - the female "lead" was terrific and believable - the rest less so. Lots of "types" in this film, character-wise. Stereotypes, unfortunately, not archetypes. The corrupt company man, the corrupt ex-Marine colonel, the hard-bitten scientist with the soft marshmallow interior...just one right after the other peeled off a stack of film types. But perhaps the worst of the lot was the male lead.
I'm not a huge sitcom guy so it came as quite a surprise when I watched and enjoyed "The Middle" with Patricia Heaton ("Everyone Love Raymond" - or is it Everybody - whatever) and Neil Flynn, the janitor guy from "Scrubs." They play middle-class parents sorta-kinda living in the middle of the country. One of their children is the kid from "Frozen River" - a really talented actor named Charlie McDermott - in fact, they're all very good actors including the seemingly requisite "geeky kid."
It's perhaps not as comedically challenging or creative as "Modern Family" (another fav of mine) but it is off-beat and wacky at times and has solid, PG-13 comedy moments that can delight. I actually believe this family can exist - they seem real and their issues are as mundane as needing a new dryer or finding a job in today's horrible economy - but getting that dryer is a fun and enjoyable trip. Heaton's character is sunny and funny and bounces in and out of scenes like she's a comedy pixie sprinkling laughing dust on everything. She also narrates the eps. The father, played by Neil Flynn, is droll and sarcastic, a perfect foil for Heaton's unflagging optimism.
Last night at the Orange County cultural center of film, The Regency South Coast Plaza Theater, a small but enthusiastic group of film lovers watched the movie "Uncertainty" and then were treated to a Q&A with the writers/producers/directors.
The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins as a couple who flip a coin, head off in different directions and meet different versions of each other's significant other at opposite ends of the Brooklyn Bridge.