Time for Some Time Travel: Rian Johnson Returns with Looper

Writer/director Rian Johnson with Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, star of Johnson's 2008 film The Brothers Bloom (photo by Adam Bielawski)

For most new directors, merely getting their first film made and distributed is a significant accomplishment in of itself. Having that debut warmly received with festival awards and critical acclaim takes that achievement up another notch, and is usually a good sign of promising talent. With the September release of his third film, Looper, writer/director Rian Johnson looks to be delivering on his early promise.

Johnson’s debut film, Brick, was a smart film-noir mystery staged in the unlikely setting of a modern-day, sun-washed California high school. Brick was nominated for Grand Jury prizes at Sundance and the Deauville Festival in 2005, and won the Sundance Special Jury award, as well as the San Francisco Film Critics Circle award for Best Original Screenplay. Johnson also went on to win the Most Promising Director award from the Chicago Film Critics Association, and Best First Film from the Austin Film Critics Association, among many other awards. Here’s the trailer:

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Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close… Manipulation or Emotion?

Stephen Daldry

Stephen Daldry’s film adaption of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was both renowned and reviled upon its theatrical release last December.  The 2005 novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer also met with mixed reception upon its reception.  Britain’s Spectator magazine stated that “the book is a heartbreaker: tragic, funny, intensely moving.”  But Michiko Kakutani of the NY Times was critical of Safran Foer’s book, describing the story as “cloying” and the main character as “unsympathetic.”

Of course, critics are only one limited reference for understanding a film’s (or book’s) merits.  Ultimately, we all need to decide for ourselves.  But why would there be such divisive opinions on the book and Stephen Daldry’s film adaption?

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Does It Take a Visionary to Make Sacha Baron Cohen Funny?

Larry Charles knows funny

Sacha Baron Cohen may not be everyone’s favorite satirical comic (I think he’s hilarious), but he has undeniably carved out his own unique space in the pop culture landscape.  One of the keys to Cohen’s success is his steady collaboration with Larry Charles, who directed Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan and Bruno.  This team’s latest project, The Dictator (opening May 11), is supposedly based on a novel written by the late Saddam Hussein.  Heh.  Sounds like something you might see joked about on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Hmmm.

The music alone in this clip qualifies it for the kick ass trailer folder:

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Review: Joe Wright’s Hanna

Joe Wright: Visionary?

Director Joe Wright’s Hanna is a stylish suspense thriller, which re-invents the story of the rogue assassin. 

Wright is the talented filmmaker behind 2007’s Atonement, which was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress Oscars (Saoirse Ronan, who also plays Hanna’s title character).  Hanna may include familiar plot points of the modern-day thriller, but its execution is anything but typical. 

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Is ‘X-Men: First Class’ Director Vaughn the New Comic Book Adaptation King?

Matthew Vaughn

Does Vaughn have the X-factor?

by HakSnider33
English filmmaker Matthew Vaughn first burst on to the international film scene as a producer of his friend Guy Ritchie’s breakthrough films LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH.  He then made to transition into directing with the 2004 film LAYER CAKE, which starred Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller.   Layer Cake, a stylish British gangster film based on a hit novel, not only established Craig as a superstar (and the new 007), it turned Vaughn into a hot commodity in Hollywood.

His next two films, STARDUST and KICK-ASS, were adaptations of popular graphic novels.  The 2010 Kick-Ass was an independently financed film that Lions Gate placed high hopes on after footage from the film stole the show at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con.   Unfortunately, the film underperformed badly at the box office as the marketing campaign for this R-rated film failed miserably.   However, his work on the film impressed 20th Century Fox enough to select him to be Bryan Singer’s replacement as director of the upcoming X-MEN:  FIRST CLASS, which opens nationwide on June 3rd.  Does Vaughn have the chops to resuscitate an X-Men film franchise that has suffered nearly mortal wounds due to pathetic films directed by hack filmmakers such as Brett Ratner (X-MEN:  THE LAST STAND) and Gavin Hood (X-MEN ORIGINS:  WOLVERINE)?

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Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp

Director Neill Blomkamp made a huge impact on the world of cinema in 2009 with his Oscar-nominated feature debut, DISTRICT 9.  How did Blomkamp go from being a virtual unknown to directing a science fiction blockbuster produced by Peter Jackon?  Well, it was a series of short films, including ALIVE IN JOBURG, the short mockumentary that ‘District 9’ is based upon and TETRA VAAL, a mock commercial for a real-life “Robocop”, that got him noticed. Read More

Wes Craven, visionary or hack? Some of us are not sure…

In the Lobby? Wes Craven

Okay, one of us is sure that Craven is a hack, but two of us have him in the lobby.   In perusing this brief retrospective of his career from Moviefone, I was reminded of Craven innovative approaches to advancing the art of boogey man movies.  He’s sort of the Michael Bay of the cheesy halloween blockbuster niche: he makes effective genre films that consistently draw big audiences and prove the studios investment in him to be sound. Read More

David O. Russell on having a vision

In the Lobby: David O. Russell

Check out what Russell has to say to Moving Pictures Network:

I think being a community organizer and an activist, which I was, and being a writer, which I’ve always been, is all about having a vision. If you have a vision, you get to lead the parade. People want that. They want someone decisive. They can have their opinions and their creative input and their collaboration, but people need — and they want — a decisive arbiter, someone steering the ship. There’s nothing worse than when you can’t smell the vision.

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Will “Source Code” prove Duncan Jones to be the real deal?

"Moon" man on the rise?
“Moon” man on the rise?

Opening this weekend, “Source Code” looks like a promising entry in the time-shifting, crime-solving sci-fi subgenre.   I really enjoyed Duncan Jones‘ first feature, “Moon” (2009), an entertaining riff on the “man alone in space develops space madness” theme, and by the looks of the trailer, we may have another future visionary on our hands.