Tag Archives: Curse of the Golden Flower

Film on TV: February 22-28

stagedoor.jpg
Stage Door, playing at 3:30am on Sunday, Febuary 28th (late Saturday)

As TCM’s Oscar-celebratory month winds down, they’ve still got a few new ones to throw at us – the first musical to win a Best Picture Oscar, The Broadway Melody, shows on Monday; an actual good Merchant-Ivory film in A Room With a View turns up on Thursday; and fantastic underrated film noir The Killers plays on Thursday; finally, one of my personal all-time favorite films, Stage Door, hits the screen late Saturday/early Sunday (trust me, picture quality is higher than the still above; couldn’t find a decent cap). Sundance also springs Zhang Yimou historical actioner Curse of the Golden Flower to us on Sunday. As expected, the rest of the week is filled out with great repeats on all channels – many classics, both new and old.

Monday, February 22

2:00pm – TCM – The Broadway Melody
After Warner Bros. thrust the film industry into the sound era with Jolson’s musical numbers in The Jazz Singer, it wasn’t long before other studios latched onto the musical possibilities provided by the debut of synchronized sound. MGM led the way with this backstage entry (the first of a series of unrelated “Broadway Melody” films) and earned themselves a Best Picture Academy Award. That’d never hold up today – this is extremely creaky and old-fashioned now – but hey. It has historical interest.
1929 USA. Director: Harry Beaumont. Starring: Charles King, Anita Page, Bessie Love.
Newly Featured!

6:00pm – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter (William Holden) gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond and actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler. The film is a bit on the campy side now, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability one bit.
1950 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olsen, Erich Von Stroheim, Buster Keaton.
Must See

11:45pm – TCM – It Happened One Night
In 1934, It Happened One Night pulled off an Academy Award sweep that wouldn’t be repeated until 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, snagging awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Colbert is a rebellious heiress, determined to run away and marry against her father’s wishes. Along the way, she picks up Gable, a journalist who senses a juicy feature. This remains one of the most enjoyable comedies of all time, with great scenes like Colbert using her shapely legs rather than her thumb to catch a ride, Gable destroying undershirt sales by not wearing one, and a busload of people singing “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.”
1934 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.
Must See

Tuesday, February 23

8:45am – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1933 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It may look a little creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.
1932 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: Warner Baxter, Ruby Keeler, George Brent, Bebe Daniels, Dick Powell, Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel.

2:45pm – TCM – The Awful Truth
This is one of the definitive screwball comedies, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a married couple who constantly fight and decide to divorce, only to wind up meddling in each other’s lives (and screw up other relationship attempts) because they just can’t quit each other. Dunne’s impersonation of a Southern belle showgirl is a highlight.
1937 USA. Director: Leo McCarey. Starring: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy.
Must See

5:45pm – IFC – Bananas
Woody Allen in full-on zany mode in one of his earlier films, as the wonderfully named Fielding Mellish. In an attempt to impress a politically-minded girl, Mellish runs off to a Latin American country and takes it over.
1971 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalbán.

6:15pm – TCM – Topper
Cary Grant and Constance Bennett are hard-living young couple who crash their fancy car after a night of drinking and end up as ghosts. They choose to spend their afterlife haunting Grant’s uptight boss Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) and teaching him to enjoy life again. Something of a screwball comedy without the battle of the sexes part; slight but a lot of fun.
1937 USA. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Starring: Roland Young, Cary Grant, Constance Bennett.

10:30pm – Sundance – 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
This unflinching Romanian film remains one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in the last several years. Set in the mid-1980s, it builds a thriller-like story of a woman trying to help her friend obtain a dangerous illegal abortion – yet it’s a thriller so deliberate that its very slowness and lack of movement becomes a major source of tension. When the camera does move, it has an almost physical force. I can hardly describe how blown away I am by this film…tough to watch, but incredibly worth it.
2007 Romania. Director: Cristian Mungiu. Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean.
Must See

11:15pm – TCM – Gigi
Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” might come off as more pervy now than it was originally intended, but as a whole Gigi stands as one of the most well-produced and grown-up musicals made during the studio era. Vincente Minnelli gives it a wonderful visual richness and sophistication, while music from Lerner & Loewe (usually) stresses the right combination of innocence, exuberance, and ennui for its decadent French story.
1958 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold.

12:00M – IFC – The Good German
Steven Soderbergh’s attempt using 1940s equipment and filming techniques didn’t actually turn into a particularly good movie, but as a filmmaking experiment, it’s still fairly interesting. And has George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in gorgeous B&W as former lovers/current spies, if you’re into that sort of thing.
2006 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire.

1:15am (24th) – TCM – An American in Paris
Expat artist Gene Kelly in Paris, meets Leslie Caron, woos her away from rival Georges Guetarey, all set to Gershwin music and directed with panache by Vincente Minnelli. All that plus Kelly’s ground-breaking fifteen-plus-minute ballet to the title piece.
1951 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetarey.
Must See

Wednesday, February 24

10:30am – TCM – The Third Man
Novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) searches for his elusive, possibly murdered friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) in post-war Vienna. A little bit of American film noir, a little bit of European ambiguity, all mixed together perfectly by screenwriter Grahame Green and director Carol Reed.
1949 UK/US. Director: Carol Reed. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles.
Must See

12:30pm – TCM – The Magnificent Ambersons
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with this film about a wealthy but decaying American family, but wasn’t given nearly as much creative freedom. But even with studio interference, it’s well worth seeing.1942 USA. Director: Orson Welles. Starring: Joseph Cotten, Tim Holt, Anne Baxter, Agnes Moorehead.

2:00pm – TCM – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
One of Humphrey Bogart’s best films casts him as greedy prospector Fred C. Dobbs, who teams up with old-timer Walter Huston and youngster Tim Holt to find a horde of gold. Along the way, they uncover instead the darker sides of human nature. One of director John Huston’s most impressive films.
1948 USA. Director: John Huston. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, Walter Huston.
Must See

6:00pm – Sundance – Paris je t’aime
I have a huge soft spot for Paris – basically any movie set there I will like to at least some degree. So an anthology film with eighteen internationally-renowned directors giving their take on Paris with eighteen short films all mashed together? Yeah, instant love. Obviously some sections are far stronger than others – the Coens, Gus van Sant, Alexander Payne, Isabel Coixet, Tom Tykwer, and Wes Craven turn in my favorites.
2006 France. Director: various. Starring: many.
(repeats at 4:30am on the 25th)

8:00pm – Sundance – Metropolitan
If Jane Austen made a movie in 1990 and set it among entitled Manhattan socialites, this would be it. The film follows a group of such entitled teens from party to party, focusing especially on the one outsider, a boy from the blue-collar class who has to rent a tux and pretend he likes to walk to avoid letting his new friends know he has to take the bus home. Though they find out soon enough, they keep him around because his intellectual nattering amuses them. In fact, it’s quite amazing that this film is interesting at all, given the amount of pseudo-intellectual nattering that goes on, from all the characters. But from start to finish, it’s both entertaining and an incisive look at the American class structure.
1990 USA. Director: Whit Stillman. Starring: Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Carolyn Farina, Taylor Nichols, Dylan Hundley.
(repeats at 2:55pm on the 25th)

1:15am (25th) – TCM – A Room With a View
One of Merchant-Ivory’s best films out of their many classy adaptations of period literary classics – and less, uh, stuffy than they often tend to be. For me, it vies only with Howards End (another E.M. Forster adaptation) in their repertoire. A young Helena Bonham Carter, a veteran Maggie Smith, and Daniel Day-Lewis in one of his earliest film roles, don’t hurt at all.
1985 UK. Director: James Ivory. Starring: Helen Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, Daniel Day-Lewis.
Newly Featured!

Thursday, February 25

2:00pm – TCM – A Day at the Races
The Marx Brothers take over the racetrack in what is probably the last of their really great comedies. As with A Night at the Opera you do have to put up with the silly romantic subplot, but it’s not too big a strain.
1937 USA. Director: Sam Wood. Starring: The Marx Brothers, Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan, Margaret Dumont.
Must See

4:00pm – TCM – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
One of Frank Capra’s most whimsical films stars Gary Cooper as an unassuming country boy who suddenly inherits a great amount of money. When he decides to give it all away to whoever comes and asks for some, he garners a media frenzy, everyone thinking he’s crazy. Idealistic, warmly funny, and, yes, Capracorny. But as corn goes, it’s among the best. Also, any chance to see Jean Arthur is worth taking.
1936 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, Lionel Stander, Douglass Dumbrille.

5:45pm – Sundance – Ran
Akira Kurosawa’s inspired transposition of King Lear into medieval Japan, mixing Shakespeare and Japanese Noh theatre tradition like nobody’s business.
1985 Japan. Director: Akira Kurosawa. Starring: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu.
Must See
(repeats at 11:20am on the 26th)

8:00pm – TCM – The Killers (1946)
Burt Lancaster made his film debut in this excellent noir, an expansion of an Ernest Hemingway short story. Lancaster is a quiet gas station attendant killed in the opening of the film by two hitmen – the events that lead up to his death (involving, among other things, a classic femme fatale played by Ava Gardner) are told in flashback throughout the rest of the film.
1946 USA. Director: Robert Siodmak. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Albert Dekker, Sam Levene.
Newly Featured!

10:00pm – TCM – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Three of the greatest names in westerns – John Ford, John Wayne, and James Stewart – teamed up to make this film just as the classical western was fading out of popularity. Perhaps fittingly, then, it’s a film about western myth and the transition from outlaw gunslingers to government rule, a transition aided in one town at least by the man who shot outlaw Liberty Valance.
1962 USA. Director: John Ford. Starring: John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien.

Friday, February 26

9:30am – TCM – Mrs. Miniver
One of the more celebrated World War II home front films has Greer Garson in an Oscar-winning turn as the stalwart title character, holding her home together against the German Blitz. It’s the kind of movie that could only be made in 1942, and it won awards all over the place. It comes off a bit over-earnest today, though.
1942 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright.

5:45pm – TCM – Victor/Victoria
Making a living proves tough for singer Julie Andrews, until she decides to try cross-dressing, pretending to be a man performing as a female impersonator. This creates, um, interesting situations in her personal life, as well. Andrews’ husband Blake Edwards directs this amusing farce.
1982 USA. Director: Blake Edwards. Starring: Julia Andrews, Robert Preston, James Garner, Lesley Ann Warren.
Newly Featured!

7:45pm – IFC – Se7en
Detectives Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman pursue a serial killer who bases his murders on the seven deadly sins. One of the great serial killer thrillers, with one of the great serial killer speeches of all time.
1995 USA. Director: David Fincher. Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 3:05am on the 27th)

Saturday, February 27

6:00am – IFC – Millions
In this Danny Boyle film, a young British boy finds a bag with millions of pounds in it; the catch is that Britain is days away from switching to the euro, so the money will soon be worthless. The shifting ethical questions combined with a sometimes almost Pulp Fiction-esque style and a fascinating religious backdrop (I’m still not sure where he was going with that) at the very least means an intriguing couple of hours.
2004 UK. Director: Danny Boyle. Starring: Alex Etel, Lewis McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford.
(repeats at 11:35am and 5:15pm)

10:30am – TCM – The Manchurian Candidate
Former soldier Frank Sinatra starts having nightmares about his war experience, then finds that he and his unit were part of a brainwashing experiment – the result of which was to turn his colleague Laurence Harvey into a sleeper agent assassin. A classic of the Cold War era, full of well-honed suspense and paranoia.
1962 USA. Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury.

12:45pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.

8:00pm – TCM – Tom Jones
The book Tom Jones, written in the late 1700s by Henry Fielding, is usually considered one of the earliest novels, and part of its charm is the way it pastiches earlier literary forms as it tells its story of a rakish young English nobleman and his adventures with women. Though the film version can’t really claim the same place in cinematic history that the novel does in literary history, it’s still quite enjoyable, and manages to convey a similar playfulness by pastiching earlier filmmaking styles – which never fails to earn it a spot in texts on adaptation.
1963 UK. Director: Tony Richardson. Starring: Albert Finney, Susanna York, Hugh Griffiths.

10:00pm – Sundance – The Lives of Others
If any film had to beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, I’m glad it was one as good as The Lives of Others. A surveillance operator is assigned to eavesdrop on a famous writer who may be working against the government regime – he’s torn in both directions when he starts sympathizing with his subject. It’s really well done in tone and narrative, with a great performance by the late Ulrich Mühe.
2006 Germany. Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Theime.

12:20am (28th) – Sundance – Oldboy
Ultra-violent revenge films don’t get much better than this. A man is inexplicably locked up in a room for several years then just as inexplicably released, at which point he seeks revenge. A bloody and at times disturbing film, but with an underlying thoughtfulness that sets it apart.
2003 Korea. Director: Park Chan-Wook. Starring: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang.

3:30am (28th) – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
Must See
Newly Featured!

Sunday, February 28

6:05am – IFC – Primer
Welcome to sci-fi at its most cerebral. You know how most science-dependent films include a non-science-type character so there’s an excuse to explain all the science to audience? Yeah, this film doesn’t have that character, so no one ever explains quite how the time travel device at the center of the film works. Or even that it is, actually, a time-travel device. This is the sci-fi version of getting thrown into the deep end when you can’t swim. Without floaties.
2004 USA. Director: Shane Carruth. Starring: Shane Carruth, David Sullivan, Casey Gooden, Anand Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford.
(repeats at 2:05pm)

8:15am – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Katharine Hepburn is Tracy Lord, a spoiled socialite about to marry Ralph Bellamy when ex-husband Cary Grant turns up. Throw in newspaper columnist James Stewart and his photographer Ruth Hussey, along with a bunch of great character actors filling out the cast, and you have both rollicking wedding preparations and one of the best films ever made.
1940 USA. Director: George Cukor. Starring: Katharaine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey, Ralph Bellamy, Virginia Weidler.
Must See

10:15am – TCM – You Can’t Take it With You
Capra won his third directing Oscar for this film (the others were for It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), but to me it’s not one of his more interesting pieces. Young couple James Stewart and Jean Arthur invite chaos when his staid, wealthy family meets her wacky, irreverent one.
1938 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Spring Byington.

5:15pm – TCM – The Greatest Show on Earth
Widely considered one of the least deserving films ever to win the Best Picture Academy Award, Cecil B. DeMille’s circus picture is big, loud, and gaudy – and okay, kinda fun. No, it didn’t deserve an Oscar that year, but in terms of spectacle, you get death-defying trapeze acts, clowns with shady pasts, and one of the most incredible train crashes ever on film.
1952 USA. Director: Cecil B. DeMille. Starring: Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, James Stewart, Gloria Grahame, Dorothy Lamour.

8:00pm – TCM – Ben-Hur
Charlton Heston is the titular character, going through pretty much everything a Jew in the first century could expect – mistreatment from the Romans, being sold as a galley slave as punishment for a minor offense, fighting for his life as an arena chariot racer, and becoming convinced by Jesus of Nazareth’s promises of hope and a better kingdom to come. Ben-Hur practically defines the word “epic,” and remains one of the best of the sword-and-sandal films so popular in the ’50s and ’60s.
1959 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Hugh Griffith, Cathy O’Donnell, Martha Scott.
Must See

10:00pm – Sundance – Curse of the Golden Flower
One of the weaker entries in Zhang Yimou’s series of historical martial-arts-on-wires films, but it still has its moments – and the production design, as usual, is flawlessly beautiful. Definitely worth a watch if you’re a fan of the style.
2006 China. Director: Zhang Yimou. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Ye Liu.
Newly Featured!
(repeats at 4:15am on the 29th)

12:00M – Sundance – The Squid and the Whale
Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney are married writers/academics who finally drive each other too crazy to keep living together, bringing their two adolescent sons into their turmoil when they separate. Everything about the film works together to create one of the best films of the past few years. Writer/director Noah Baumbach has crafted a highly intelligent script which is achingly witty and bitterly funny; the acting is superb all around; the music fits beautifully, and even the setting (1980s Brooklyn) is something of a character.
2005 USA. Director: Noah Baumbach. Starring: Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline.
Must See

January 2007 Reading/Watching Recap

This isn’t late at all, is it? Nope, not at all. Moving on now. Reactions to Rain Man, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Curse of the Golden Flower, Possession: A Romance, The Emperor Jones and more after the jump. And the next time I need to procrastinate, maybe I can get February’s done. ;)

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Trailer Watch 10/06

So my most-anticipated movie of the year (A Scanner Darkly) came out, so I had to pick a new most-anticipated movie, which forced me to catch up on my trailer-watching. You’d think I’d learn that it’s easier to keep up than catch up, but I haven’t yet. (And I started this post like a month ago.) Anyway, here we go: top upcoming movies, at least of those that have released trailers on Apple Trailers.

So Highly Anticipated I WANT TO SEE THEM RIGHT.NOW.

Renaissance (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I’ve been super-excited about Renaissance since I first got wind of the French-language trailer about six months ago. Now that the English trailer has come out, and I can actually sort of tell what it’s about, I’m even more excited. ;) Story is sort of a futuristic conspiracy-theory science-fictiony thing, but the real draw is the highly stylized animation. I’m not sure whether it’s going to be released dubbed or subtitled here, but I hope it’s subtitled. Dubbing always sucks. (9/22 – limited)

Keeping Mum (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I almost fell out of my chair laughing at this trailer. It’s sort of Arsenic and Old Lace meets British comedy, and it looks hilarious. Rowan Atkinson plays it straight for once, as an Anglican priest who takes on Maggie Smith as a housekeeper. Only, she’s actually escaped from a mental institution after a murder spree. And she’d be happy to get you some tea. Looks terribly British, but that’s awesome for me. (9/15 – limited)

Children of Men (imdb | quicktime trailer)
P.D. James is more well-known for her Adam Dalgliesh mystery novels, but Children of Men was actually the first book of hers I read. This was several years ago, but I think I finished in two days. Basically, somehow the whole world has become sterile through some unknown cause, which is emphasized by the death of the youngest person on earth, at age 21. It’s a creepy scenario in any case, and with the recent stories of falling birth rates in places like Italy, it strikes even closer to home. Good book, highly recommend it, and I’m really hoping the movie lives up. Clive Owen is a mark in favor, Julianne Moore is equivocal…she’s so untrustworthy as an actress lately. (9/29)

The Departed (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Scorsese and Di Caprio, together again. Wonder if they’ll ever get separated again? I’m not really complaining, though, because this film looks awesome. Cops vs. mobs, great cast beyond just Di Caprio, the sort of story that Scorsese does so well (and hopefully better than the pseudo-historical Gangs of New York, which was a little odd, to tell you the truth). (10/6)

The Fountain (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This was my new most-anticipated film, until Venice Film Festival audiences booed it off the screen, apparently. But what do they know? Anyway, Hugh Jackman plays a character in medieval times, current times, and the distant future–he’s discovered some sort of fountain of youth, and spans all three eras trying to save Rachel Weisz from dying. I think. Apparently it’s rather confusing, hence the booing. But I like confusing, I love time-bending narratives, I like Rachel Weisz, I think Hugh Jackman is hot, and director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) is a trip. So I’m totally in. (10/13 – probably limited)

The Prestige (imdb | quicktime trailer)
AKA the second magician movie of the year (third if you count Scoop). After seeing the trailer for The Illusionist, I was all over it, but then I saw the trailer for The Prestige, and there was no question of which one had my nod if I only got to see one magician movie this year. It was really the Jessica Biel vs. Scarlett Johansson question. I love Scarlett Johansson, and I wouldn’t care if the last time I saw Jessica Biel was the one episode of 7th Heaven I somehow tuned into like six years ago. Plus, The Prestige is directed by Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento), and it is so hard to get better than that. (10/27)

Stranger Than Fiction (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Can I explain to you just how much of a me movie this is? Will Farrell’s just a normal guy, going about his normal life, right? Until he starts hearing narration of his life…not just describing it, but affecting it. Emma Thompson is writing a book about him. And we get to see both his side, trying to figure out what this voice that only he can hear is all about, and her side, as she struggles to keep her character under control. The blurring of reality and fiction? My single numero-uno favorite plot point. (Time-bending a close second.) And as if that weren’t enough, MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL. Who is enough to make me see ANY MOVIE, as will become clear if you read the rest of these rambling things. (11/10)

Casino Royale (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I don’t tend to advertise this around, but…*glances back and forth to check for eavesdroppers*…I’m a big James Bond fan. I’ve seen all but one of the Bond movies (A View to a Kill, which I’ve heard really sucks anyway, even compared with the other sucky Bond films), I’ve got about half of them on DVD, and I see them all in theatres with my dad. Now that that’s out, I’m even more excited than usual about this one: they’re going back to the books, back to the rugged Bond before he became so suave and debonair (they tried it with Timothy Dalton a bit, but he didn’t last too long), and DANIEL CRAIG is Bond. I fell in love with Daniel Craig in Layer Cake even though I didn’t really understand why. I don’t really think he’s that good-looking, but there’s something about him that’s just…magnetic. I have high hopes that Casino Royale can rescue the franchise from the last few sub-par outings. We’ll see. (11/17)

Eragon (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I haven’t read these books, but my fantasy-loving friends rave about them, and such great films have come from adapating fantasy novels in recent year that I have to believe this one is going to be good. The trailer definitely looks good.

Curse of the Golden Flower (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Let’s see, let’s see: Zhang Yimou (aka best Chinese director ever, Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Gong Li (aka one of the top Chinese actresses ever, Raise the Red Lantern and many others), Chow Yun-Fat (aka one of the best current Chinese action actors, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), story set in historical China, with full-on Crouching Tiger-style flying martial arts? I am so there. (12/22)

The Good Shepherd (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Matt Damon, Robert DeNiro, Angelina Jolie, and the founding of the CIA. I don’t even know how to express how much I am there. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for pretty spies. Note my five-year love affair with Alias, despite its ups and downs. (12/22)

Spider-Man 3 (imdb | quicktime trailer)
For the black suit, ALONE. I was a little disappointed by the second one, honestly, though I know a lot of people liked it better than the first. I wasn’t impressed with mechanical spider guy, I guess. Anyway, Spider-Man is my second favorite superhero (after Batman), so I would see this anyway. The awesomeness of the black suit only adds icing to the cake. (5/4/07)

Ratatouille (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Usually Pixar trailers underimpress me, then the films wow me. That’s just the relationship we have. But the teaser for Ratatouille? LOVED. The title character is a Parisian rat who, in the best Parisian tradition, is a gourmet and can’t settle for the garbage the other rats eat, but risks his life to get the good food from the Paris kitchens. Who knows what the whole story will be like–that’s the story of the teaser. Anyway, it looks beautiful and hilarious, and it’s Pixar. ‘Nuff said. (6/29/07)

Ever-So-Slightly Less Highly Anticipated

The Science of Sleep (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Michel Gondry directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is one of favorite films, so I have hopes that this one will at least be very good. The trailer isn’t intriguing me quite as much as I’d like, honestly, and I sort of doubt that it’ll match Eternal Sunshine…for one thing, the cast isn’t as amazing, and the lack of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman may be missed, but I’m still excited to see what Gondry can pull out. (in limited release)

Sherrybaby (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Maggie Gyllenhaal. I swear to you, I would go to see the woman read her laundry list, that’s how great she is. In this indie, she’s recently been released from prison and rehab, and now that she’s clean, she wants to go back and be a good mother to the daughter she hasn’t seen for four years. Except the girl’s father has moved on, and his new partner is less than receptive to Sherry’s return. I don’t really know that I expect to be a great film, but it looks like a good solid role for Gyllenhaal, and that’s really all that’s required. (in limited release)

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (imdb | quicktime trailer)
I have no clue what the title’s all about. The story’s all about a kid trying to get out of the tough neighborhood of Queens in the 1980s, and then having to come back several years later when his father is dying. It looks gritty, harsh, and unyielding…in other words, perfect for the type of story it’s telling. Plus, Robert Downey Jr. plays the man when he returns to Queens, and I have yet to see Downey turn in a bad performance. (in limited release)

Aurora Borealis (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This could be exactly the sort of slight, character-driven piece I like most this time of year. It’s always a gamble with these, but Donald Sutherland looks like a total delight, and I’m excited about Joshua Jackson doing something that actually looks good. It has a very Garden State-y vibe, which hasn’t been working out for me too well, because nothing’s been as good as Garden State, but I never give up hoping, you know? (in limited release)

Zen Noir (imdb | quicktime trailer)
This looks just obviously ludicrous enough to actually work–a stereotypical private detective is faced with a puzzling murder, which baffles him even more because it throws him into the world of zen buddhism. It looks like it’s definitely over the top at times, and perhaps depends too much on stereotypes, but I’m enough into film noir that I want to see it. They seem to be having difficulty getting a distributor, though. (in very limited release)

Babel (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Again with the difficult-to-decipher story–but this time, largely because it’s an ensemble cast, with one of those unrelated people concidentally coming together sort of things. It’s directed by the same guy who directed 21 Grams and Amores Perros, so he’s got a lot of experience with this type of film, which bodes well. Some have suggested that he doesn’t know how to direct anything else, but hey. When you’ve got a good niche… (10/6)

The Queen (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Hello, Academy? Yes, Helen Mirren would like her Oscar now, if you please. It’s almost even clearer this year than usual which films are going hard after Oscar. Mirren plays Elizabeth II in the days and weeks just following Diana’s death. Interestingly, the film isn’t really about Diana’s death, it’s about how Elizabeth deals with the realization that the monarchy isn’t really the monarchy anymore…that not only has the balance of power shifted (it did that long ago), but the whole concept of the monarchy is being lost. It’s an intriguing subject, and one that has been discussed a lot in journalism and books, probably, but which I haven’t really seen in the cinema before. (10/6)

Running With Scissors (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Augusten Burrough’s mother is having a nervous breakdown, or something, and decides to give the teenaged Augusten into the guardianship of her shrink, who’s also a bit odd. I’m up for quirky most of the time, and this looks to be just the right amount of quirky, and a good cast to boot (Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Alec Baldwin, Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow). (10/13)

Flags of Our Fathers (imdb | not on Apple.com, but trailer here)
War movies bring out my inner sap every.single.time. There’s always a part of me that resists them, knowing that I’m going to give into sentimentality and make a fool of myself crying, but then I realize that, you know, if anything deserves my tears, war movies do. So then I see them, and I cry, and I’m glad I did. And this one looks quite good, and it’s on the Pacific front (Iwo Jima and aftermath), which I don’t see as often, so that’ll be interesting. (10/20)

Marie Antoinette (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Oh, Sofia Coppola. I do not know why you have chosen to cast Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette. I like Kirsten Dunst, but I must admit a concern about her ability to pull off Marie Antoinette. On the other hand, I’ve heard that the film looks great, and has a very post-modern angle to it, which intrigues me. And you get at least my tentative support on your films based on Lost in Translation. So I am interested to see how this turns out, but I’m not at all sure it’ll actually work. (10/20)

The Hoax (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Okay, I hate Richard Gere. I mean, I don’t know the man personally, so perhaps that’s a strong word, but I’ve disliked him intensely in almost every film I’ve seen of his. And because of that bias, I fear that I will also dislike this film. But the story is at least superficially interesting–about a man who basically hoaxes his way into publishing books. But what I think is really attracting me? The font used in the trailer. Talk about superficial! But there it is. (11/22)

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (imdb | quicktime trailer)
Is it bad that I mostly want to see this because the title amuses me so much? I also like westerns and am glad to see them starting to try to come back…for decades it’s been practically box-office poison to release a western, and I don’t understand why. Westerns are awesome! (2007)

Just Feel Like Mentioning

Flicka (imdb | quicktime trailer)
How much did I love the book My Friend Flicka and the original movie and the TV show based on it when I was little? I had a stuffed horse named Flicka. My rocking horse was named Flicka for a while (it changed names every time I got a new favorite fictional horse). And you know, it doesn’t really bother me that the boy in the story was changed to a girl for this version. It only bothers me a little that Flicka has moved from being the center of the story to being a catalyst for the girl and her father to rebuild their broken relationship. You want to know what really bothers me? FLICKA IS CHESTNUT, YOU DOLTBRAINS! NOT BLACK! WHO TOLD YOU FLICKA COULD BE BLACK? Honestly. Some people with their stupid ideas of artistic licence. It may sound like I’m joking here, but I’m really not…I probably won’t watch this solely because they frelled up the color of the horse. (10/20)

Lassie (imdb | quicktime trailer)
To start off, there’s no reason in the world to be remaking Lassie Come Home. It’s as perfect a dog-and-family film you’ll ever see, and it not really even dated. It looks they’re being incredibly faithful, though, which I’m actually not sure is a good thing or not…I love the story too much to have them change it around and mess it up, but then again, if you don’t bring something new to the party, why remake it at all? edit: Oh, I just pulled up the IMDb page and happened to see some of the posting board–not usually a terribly good idea–and found out the answer to “why remake it.” PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE ORIGINAL. They’re like, “so it’s just Homeward Bound, but with Lassie and without the other dog and cat?” *facepalm* I can’t believe there are people who haven’t seen Lassie Come Home. Please tell me y’all have seen it? Please? Roddy McDowall? Very young Elizabeth Taylor? Please?

And some I know about, even though no trailers out yet

Alatriste
It’s a sword-fighting movie! I love sword-fighting movies! The author of the book this is based on is Arthuro Perez-Reverte, and I’ve read one of his non-Alatriste books, which was very good and very literate. So if they keep half of the literacy of the book, it’ll have both a great story AND sword-fighting. What more do you want? (12/22)

Hot Fuzz (releasing 3/9/07) – Writer/star Simon Pegg is fresh off Shaun of the Dead, aka the funny British zombie movie from a year or two ago, and while I have no idea, really, what Hot Fuzz is about (I would if I’d take the time to go to the production website and watch the videoblog, but I haven’t), I’m interested. His Britcom Spaced is great, as well.

Grind House (releasing 4/6/07) – I’m a bit worried about this one, in a way–it’s a group project between Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, two very individual directors. Grind House, as currently conceived, will be made up of two short films, one by each director, with trailers and commercials and stuff directed by them in between. I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out, but it has high probability for incomprehensible mishmash as well as high hopeful-bility for awesomeness. We’ll see. edit: Scratch this one. Just saw an early trailer, and it’s pretty much all the horrific/nasty sides of both directors, and not the sides I actually like.

Ocean’s Thirteen (releasing 6/8/07) – First one rocked, second one was rocky, but there’s just too much pretty in these movies not to give the third one a chance. And pretty people carrying out heists is one of my favorite sub-sub-genres.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (releasing 7/13/07) – Duh.

Beowulf (releasing 11/16/07) – Wow. There was a Beowulf & Grendel film released this year, and now there are TWO Beowulfs scheduled next year. This one has particularly exciting people attached to it: Neil Gaiman writing the screenplay, Crispin Glover as Grendel (he is creepy), Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar, king of the Danes, Angelina Jolie as the voice of Grendel’s mother (should be…interesting). I think this brings the total number of Beowulf films up to…four. That’s incredible. You’d think it would be a popular thing to film.

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (releasing 11/16/07) – I probably shouldn’t support this trilogy, given that it’s explicitly anti-Christian (although more anti-Catholic-church), but it is well-written and fascinating, and they’ve gone and cast Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter and Daniel Craig as Lord Asrael (perhaps–IMDb lists him as “attached”). I’m intrigued in a way I really wasn’t by, say, The Da Vinci Code film. (Perhaps because Philip Pullman can actually write, and Dan Brown…can’t.)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (releasing June 2008) – Prince Caspian is my least favorite of all the Chronicles, but still. You know? Gotta get through this one before we can do Dawn Treader and Silver Chair, two of my favorites.