FilmStoned Podcast Episode 6: American Hustle, Oscars, Josh Brolin

In this episode, me and Dziugas discuss recent movie news, review American Hustle, investigate why we think Josh Brolin is a good actor, and pick apart the Oscar nominations.

Our predictions for Oscar winners can be found below:

Matas Dagilis
Best Picture 12 Years a Slave Gravity
Best Actor
Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey
Best Actress Judy Dench Cate Blanchett
Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lawrence Jennifer Lawrence
Best Animated Frozen The Wind Rises
Best Cinematography Prisoners (Deakins) Gravity (Lubezki)
Best Director Steve McQueen
Alfonso Cuarón
Best Documentary The Act of Killing The Act of Killing
Best Adapted Screenplay The Wolf of Wall Street The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Original Screenplay Her American Hustle

New Poster and Trailer for Spike Lee’s Oldboy Hits the Internet

We have been hearing rumors of the Oldboy remake for years now (originally set to be directed by Spielberg and starring Will Smith), but this is the first visual clue as to what we can expect from Spike Lee’s take on the 2003 Korean film. I am a huge fan of the Chan-wook Park original (hardly a contraversial opinion), so I’m glad to see the newly related images similar enough to the original, while there’s still enough difference to keep us guessing – this certainly doesn’t look like a shot-for-shot remake.

First poster for Spike Lee’s Oldboy remake;
Image courtesy of Geekosystem

The poster is certainly an interesting image, and the overall look is definitely very reminiscent of the Korean classic. The tagline, “Ask not why you were imprisoned. Ask why you were set free,” is potentially spoilery, but not overly so. Thankfully, the first trailer is similarly restrained in terms of spoilers.

Given that this is the redband trailer, however, it is not even a little restrained when it comes to violent imagery. And Oldboy is definitely a very violent story, I just hope it doesn’t remake doesn’t ignore the sort of weird beauty that made the initial film enticing.

Also, while I knew about Samuel L. Jackson’s presence in the cast, I was not aware that Elizabeth Olsen was playing the female lead. That, more than anything else, makes me believe in the movie, because I really like her in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Josh Brolin, frankly, has been slipping (his performances in Jonah Hex and Gangster Squad  were particularly lackluster).

How do you think the poster and trailer compare to the original? What are your views if you haven’t seen the Korean version? Comment below!

Gangster Squad

So here’s the unfortunate truth about Gangster Squad, the one I could never have expected based on the trailers. It’s boring. The parts that aren’t work well, and I’ll talk about what those are, but the truth is that poor structure, pacing, over-dramatic conversation, and most importantly inconsistency turn this into a game of “name the cliché.”

There’s no use summarizing the plot beyond good cop, bad gangster. The cops leave their badges at home, and take on the gangsters using heavy weaponry and explosives. The squad being composed mostly of War World II veterans, they seem to have no trouble in tactics of overt war and out-right murder in accomplishing their goals. The main problem here is that there is no Dirty Harry here, no Martin Riggs, despite this screenplay completely lifting scenes from those action movies. The main protagonist is Josh Brolin’s Sergeant O’Mara, a stubborn boy-scout, who is apparently one of the few police officers that are not for sale. He recruits, with copious oversight from his pregnant wife, a group of forgettable, underdeveloped misfits. The exception in the squad is Ryan Gosling, who, as usual, is delightful. He is a movie star in the true sense of old Hollywood, holding the screen captive with every look. He’s helped by having one of the two fun roles in the entire piece, too. He’s sarcastic, flirtatious, and when he looks down the barrel of a gun he has the determination required to sell a role like this. None of these are a revelation, exactly, we’ve seen enough of him in 2012 to know it, but he certainly helps the picture. The other genuinely fun character is Sean Penn’s Mickey Cohen, the snarling, boxing villain. I feel like Penn has received a lot of very unfair criticism online for the portrayal. Yes, it is cartoonish. As is the rest of the movie. Few things can elevate an action movie like a memorable villain, and his character IS memorable. The fact is that the lines, as written, actually feel more believable when delivered by a cartoon than a human being; and humane, Cohen is not. Sean Penn, the man who played United States’ first openly gay politician, here plays a gangster that would put Tony Soprano to shame.

I truly feel that it’s these two actors that understand the tone this movie should have had. If the rest of it was, I’ll say it again, as FUN as those two characters were, it would be a blast! This movie screamed out to be closer in vision to Sin City than The Untouchables. The fact that different people involved in the making of the movie seemed to be pulling in different directions is what sunk the picture overall.

The writer, Will Beal, is already signed on for upcoming remake of the 1976 classic Logan’s Run, Lethal Weapon 5, and Justice League. I’m inclined to give the writer the benefit of the doubt in this case. After the Aurora shooting last year, a large portion of the movie was re-shot, and the movie has the general feel of being cut to bits. Therefore, perhaps the writing here is really not indicative of his general talent, but if it is, considering the projects he is supposed to be taking on next, the future of fantasy/action cinema looks bleak. The dialogue is stiff and artificial, the plot sometimes makes no sense whatsoever… Once again, it’s entirely possible that a different reading of the same lines might be delightful, I never expected a naturalistic take on the story. The way it was done, however, it simply did not work.

I really wanted to like Gangster Squad. I was really excited for it, and even hearing about other critics’ reaction, I went into the theater prepared for the movie to prove itself to me. Unfortunately, it simply did not rise to the considerable promise the talent involved showed.