Quint's BNAT wrap-up, part 1! Zack Snyder's 300! ROCKY BALBOA! BLACK SNAKE MOAN and DREAMGIRLS!!!
Published at: Dec. 11, 2006, 1:39 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here... I got about 6 hours of sleep after this year's BNAT. I woke up to go eat with Moriarty and a bunch of visiting friends and planned to come back, read the new Stallone Q&As and go right back to sleep. But I guess I'm in the mood to write because the moment I was going to turn of the computer and head back to bed, I just got the urge to write up my thoughts on BNAT, which I'm usually dead last in doing.
This is going to be in no particular order, but in this first part I'll go over 4 of the 7 premieres and in my next piece I'll talk about the 3 remaining premieres and some of the vintage programming. Enjoy!!!
This was the biggie, the final film of the night and the one everybody was waiting for.
The footage Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. showed at Comic-Con brought down the house and got me extremely pumped to see the film. I was ready.
Snyder was there and told us that 99% of the effects were finished, but then later said there were about 100 VFX shots still left to tweak, just new compositing layers. Which the film needs... but I'll get to that in a second.
On the whole, I dug the hell out of 300. Once Gerard Butler heads out with his 300 Spartan warriors to engage the advancing threat of the Persian army (millions strong), the movie doesn't let up. The battle scenes are incredibly well shot, beautiful... unlike anything you've seen before. You can see moments of LORD OF THE RINGS style pop up, mostly when you see the full armies from a distance, but the actual fighting is brutal, exaggerated, bloody and just plain old testosterone-driven cool.
The whole thing is exaggerated, not just the fighting. The colors, the costumes, the themes, the dialog, the villains, the heroes, everything in-between. Just like in Frank Miller's book.
It eased my mind a little when Snyder said during the Q&A afterwards that there were still over 100 VFX shots that were being tweaked and finished because there were some shots that looked a little cartoony. I attributed those to the early cut and didn't dwell on them when watching, but they did stand out to me... There seemed to be scenes that were CGI for no reason, just two people in a wide shot talking. I'd assume those were the types of shots the Snyder was referring to. Once completed, they wouldn't be so noticeable.
Is it as good as we want it to be? I can personally say this movie is a giant step forward for Zack Snyder as a filmmaker. The weak characters of DAWN OF THE DEAD kind of ruin my enjoyment of that film, but in 300 he has the style with the characters and substance to back it up, even in its exaggerated form.
The movie is indeed fucking kick-ass. It's a must for anyone who calls themselves a geek or a film lover. Be excited for it, but don't expect your life to be changed. I can see the hype for this one fly higher than you'll reach when you're sitting in the audience. I just don't want people to be disappointed in a great movie because they expected it to be godly, you know?
BLACK SNAKE MOAN
This is probably my favorite film from BNAT. It wasn't the best film experience of the fest... I'll get to that in a moment, but Craig Brewer has the goods, man. HUSTLE & FLOW was a fantastic character piece. Not just showing us the character of Djay and his dream, but also the character of Memphis, the soul of hip-hop.
Like HUSTLE & FLOW, BLACK SNAKE MOAN is more than a log-line. The layers to each character run deep. The log-line is a black dude chains a white girl to his radiator. I know when I first heard Brewer talk about it, the image in my mind was very exploitationy. I remember bringing up GATOR BAIT, a royally fucked up '70s exploitation flick, when Brewer first told me about BLACK SNAKE MOAN. He said he definitely borrowed some from that film, but I can't for the life of me see where it is in the movie... With the exception of Christina Ricci's wardrobe (or lack thereof).
The film is extreme, but it has a heart. It's not some crazy story there just to titillate the audience. Samuel L. Jackson's character is a good man who is helping Christina Ricci's incredibly flawed character try to find herself, even if he has to force her to do it.
We start the movie knowing a few key elements to our two lead characters. Sam Jackson plays Lazarus. He's lived his whole life as a farmer, but he had a dream and the talent to be a musician. His shallow wife leaves him at the beginning of the movie. Then we find Rae, played by Christina Ricci. Her boyfriend (Justin Timberlake) signs up in the Army and is shipping off. We find out very soon that she's panicked by this and shortly after that we find out why. Her love for Ronnie (Timberlake) was the only thing keeping her lust at bay. She's a nymphomaniac and the second he's gone she loses control, trying to fight it off, but to no success.
These two characters find their way to each other. Lazarus takes it on himself to set this girl right, give her a shot at a life he doesn't think he can have himself. In helping her, he helps himself.
There's a lot of hope in this movie. With as much rampant nudity (thank you Ms. Ricci and thank you Mr. Brewer) and extreme imagery and harshness, it really surprised me to see how much heart and soul was in this movie. I guess that all stems from my expectations resting somewhere in the GATOR BAIT vain, pure titillation.
Samuel L. Jackson gives an Oscar-worthy performance. He's strong, but weak. He's sure and uncertain. He's full of forgiveness and vengeance. He's a complicated man and one hell of a musician. I pray to all that is holy that the title song, BLACK SNAKE MOAN, which he sings, is nominated for Best Song so we can see Sam Jackson whaling away on that Oscar stage, bluesing it up for all the suits. That sequence in the movie is probably the most powerful movie and music combination that I've seen in years. I won't ruin it, but Jackson sings to comfort Ricci's character as a loud storm rolls in.
Ricci herself is great in the movie. The revealing outfits and flat-out nudity required a braveness on her part that I can't imagine. She doesn't feel embarrassed or overly showy. She's so natural in the movie that you can't help but care for her. And you won't like her at the beginning. She's plain old white trash slutty, which isn't a very sympathetic place for a character to be. But the last half is where her character is given the time to shine.
This is a great movie. Hands down fantastic. Totally fresh. Seek this out when it comes to a theater near you.
This was my second time to see DREAMGIRLS. I saw a press screening a few weeks ago. I love Bill Condon's work. GODS & MONSTERS is a great movie, KINSEY is a great movie (albeit without the geek-hook that makes GODS & MONSTERS more rewatchable)... CANDYMAN 2... not so much, but compared to 3, it's a fucking masterpiece.
I had no knowledge of the Broadway play, so I went into this one as fresh as could be.
And I think it's really good. I don't think it's great, I don't think it's a Best Picture, I don't think it's Condon's best picture. But the staging, the music, the casting and the energy in the film are well done. I think any qualms I have with the film are directly related to the pacing of the original play.
Mark my words... In February we will hear Eddie Murphy be announced as a nominee for Best Supporting Actor and Jennifer Hudson will be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I don't think Murphy will win, but I think Hudson stands a good shot at taking the trophy. They're that good in the movie.
All the acting is great throughout. From Jamie Foxx to Danny Glover to the surprise cameo appearance by John Lithgow and Jim from the US Office. Beyonce is gorgeous and supremely innocent as Deena. Everybody does a fine job, but the stand-outs are Jennifer Hudson (who steps onto the screen so naturally you'd think she was created just for this role) and Eddie Murphy... Thank God I've seen a glimpse of the Eddie Murphy I know and love again. It gives me faith he's still alive and I won't just be getting EDDIE MURPHY IN A FAT-SUIT sequels for the rest of his or my own life. When his character gets into the show-stopping Jimmy's Rap segment... That's probably my favorite piece of music in the whole film.
The music at the beginning is very much in the vain of MoTown, which is the music I grew up on. It's kind of like the '70s music in ALMOST FAMOUS... it feels of the time, but it's nothing you've heard before.
I think it's a little jarring when the movie about music transitions over to musical territory, but that may just be because I don't like the first full song they use in a flat out musical way: FAMILY. I think it feels a bit phony and I just don't like that her so called family is forcing Effie to give up her dream for the good of the group. I suppose that's the intention, but the lyrics seem too simple, nothing subtle about it.
Jennifer Hudson has a few amazing moments, including a song called LOVE YOU I DO and AND I'M TELLING YOU I'M NOT GOING, the real show-stopper and the clip they'll be playing for her Oscar nom. She literally crumbles before your eyes, her heart breaks and you can see every last jagged edge of her broken heart written on her face, clear as crystal. It's an incredible moment.
So, I think the movie overall isn't 100% for me, but what works works fantastically.
Slight Spoilers in this one, squirts... nothing major, but there are a couple things you won't want to know...
Remember up in the 300 review, I said that it wasn't the best screening of BNAT... ROCKY BALBOA was the best screening of the fest. First, they lined up all 5 ROCKY trailers, played in order, leading up to the film. It was a great sort of brush-up on the story of Rocky Balboa. But then the projector stopped about 20 seconds into the ROCKY V trailer and owner, Tim League, was on the Mic apologizing. He said they just installed the new Dolby Shit-detector and it detected Rocky V going through the machine and shut it down. This got a lot of applause and then Stallone himself appeared on the screen giving a shout-out to the Butt-Numb-A-Thon audience and birthday greetings to Harry.
Watching ROCKY BALBOA at BNAT is the reason I love BNAT. The audience is the most charged audience anyone will see a movie with anywhere in the world. During the big event match at the end of the movie, I genuinely felt like I was watching a live fight. The audience was chanting for Rocky, they were stomping their feet, clapping their hands, booing his opponant and reacting to each blow like it was happening 20 feet in front of them.
That was the best screening of ROCKY BALBOA I can ever imagine being at.
And the movie is actually really fucking good, too! It felt very close to Stallone's heart. He really cares about The Italian Stallion and his friends. He's not cashing in on a popular character. At least, he's not doing it without a reason. The movie feels like a natural progression and Rocky's motivations are not only 100% understandable, but also emotionally powerful.
He's lost a lot in his world and he's struggling to find something to live for. He has a restaurant, his son has grown distant, Adrian is gone... he has no one. But he's not weepy or depressed. He's the same Rocky... a little lite on the intelligence, but his heart is big enough to carry the extra weight. He's a sweet guy, his age humbling him a little.
After reading these Q&As, I think I ended up putting a lot of Stallone into Rocky. I'm sure Stallone did that himself, but it at least became more clearly defined since reading the great Q&As he's been doing for us.
The bad guy isn't as flashy as a Clubber Lang or Drego or Apollo Creed. But he's a real fighter and it shows. His motivations aren't very complex, but the movie isn't about him. Rocky's real fight isn't with Dixon, but with everybody's expectations of him. Much like the first film in that respect, but even more compelling since he's not a young, hungry upstart, but a tired dog that isn't ready to lay down in front of the fireplace just yet, no matter how many times people try to put him there.
The training montage is great, the boxing match was incredible... And the drama along the way was heart-touching. You see Rocky planting the seeds to what could possibly be a new relationship and fixing the one he already has with his son.
It's a fitting end to the Rocky series. I wouldn't want to see any more after this one. It succeed in taking the taste of ROCKY V out of everybody's mouth and re-introduced us to an old friend. There's hope in the film and that's what the Rocky flicks have always been about.
Alright... I thought I could pound through all 7 reviews, but I'm going to have wait until tomorrow to put up my thoughts on Paul Verhoeven's BLACK BOOK, Judd Apatow's KNOCKED UP and Joe Caranahan's SMOKIN' ACES, plus some words on the vintage flicks. I'm needing to crash...
I'm sure you'll see many BNAT opinions over the next few days. To those who attended, it was great hanging with you and to those who didn't get to go, I hope to see you for next year's run!