Christopher Nolan and the Best Movie of 2010

11 04 2010

Christopher Nolan is a rarity in Hollywood. He’s a blockbuster-making director who puts a high price on making movies the right way. His films are grounded in story, not superficial effects. When you look at his filmography, you see films that push and pull on the mind. They all offer substance, and I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed every single one of his movies. Check them out:

Memento (2000) – A story told in reverse chronological order
Insomnia (2002) – Al Pacino as an insomniac detective trying to solve a murder
Batman Begins (2005) – the rebooting of the Batman franchise
The Prestige (2006) – Christian Bale versus Hugh Jackman in a thriller about dueling illusionists
The Dark Knight (2008) – The $1 billion-making sequel to Batman Begins

And now, on to the Best Movie of 2010. That movie is Inception, Nolan’s next film. It hits theatres this July, and will definitely be one of the biggest hits of the year. The film is about a team of corporate spies who use a device to invade people’s minds to steal corporate secrets. It is being called Hollywood’s first existential heist movie, and has had Tinseltown in a flurry over its secretive production.

If you are not already intrigued, then check out the cast. Leonardo DiCaprio is the lead by the name of Dom Cobb, the leader of a team of mind burglars. Rounding out his team are Joseph Gordon-Levitt ((500) Days of Summer) and Ellen Page (Juno). Additions to the cast are Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins), Michael Caine, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cotillard and Tom Berenger. Needless to say, the talent level in this movie is out of this world.

For a fantastic article about Nolan’s work and Inception, check out this article from the LA Times. It’s very informative and discusses the themes and history of Nolan’s work and what to look for from Inception.

Check out these trailers to get a feel for what is to come on July 16th.


Directors I Love and You Should Watch

31 03 2010

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite directors working today. Now, I’m not some indie-art-flick-loving film snob, so don’t expect a list of foreign black-and-white-only auteurs or “modern” directors that no one has ever heard of or really sought out. My list of directors will be names you probably recognize, whose work you can easily access at the cinemas or Blockbuster. That being said, let’s begin:

Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle earns a spot on my list based on the way he handles a camera. He has a marvelous talent for immersing the audience into the world he is creating. Boyle knows when to come in tight on a situation, and he knows how long to hold the shot. His films have great dialogue as well. It’s rare to find a cheesy line or awkward delivery, because Boyle puts weight behind authentic conversations between his characters. It’s hard to discuss a director’s work without knowing his films, so here are Boyle’s works that I enjoy:
Trainspotting (1996) – must-see film for any movie fan
The Beach (2000) – the Leo DiCaprio film that bridges the gap between the boy in Titanic and the man in Gangs of New York. Also, fantastic use of music
28 Days Later (2002) – the film that single-handedly revitalized the zombie/horror genre
Sunshine (2007) – personally, an absolute MUST-SEE
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) – Best Picture and Best Director

Upcoming Film: 127 Hours starring James Franco as mountain climber Aron Ralston, who resorts to cutting off his own arm after being trapped by a fallen boulder

Michael Mann

Michael Mann has been directing films since the late 60’s, but it his work in the last 20 years that really catches my eye. Mann has a wonderful ability make everything look gritty and real. This is even more evident in his recent work, where he opts to shoot with digital cameras instead of the standard 35mm film. Mann thrives on drama and suspense, and his ability to get the best out of great actors makes his films intense and fun to watch.
The Last of the Mohicans (1992) – an epic love-story showcasing the amazingness of Daniel Day Lewis
Heat (1995) – the pinnacle of crime movies, with Pacino and DeNiro together. There is a reason that the great crime-side of The Dark Knight was often compared to Heat.
The Insider (1999) – one of Russell Crowe’s best performances, hands-down.
Ali (2001) – Mann took the comedy/action rising star of Will Smith and turned him into a dramatic leading man in a movie about the tumultuous life of one of America’s greatest sports icons
Collateral (2004) – Personally, one of my favorite Tom Cruise performances as a great villain, and Jamie Foxx paves the way for a dramatic career
Miami Vice (2006) – Often panned by Mann purists and Miami Vice fans alike, I still enjoy this movie as a look at modern crime. Plus, Colin Farrel is easily one of my favorite actors working today. Also, fantastic music.
Public Enemies (2009) – A great performance by Johnny Depp, and the use of digital cameras to shoot the 20’s/30’s is stellar

More Directors to come!

I Love Football, Deal With It

26 03 2010

  • This article takes a look at how the already strong Big Ten is looking to get stronger through expansion.
  • This article discusses Adrian Clayborn’s impending senior season as a Hawkeye.
  • This article over at gives yet another preview of the 2010 Hawkeyes.
  • Here is another look at the running back situation for Iowa, specifically the impact Jewel Hampton’s return will have.
  • The Iowa Athletics Department is looking to give their football facilities an upgrade, says AD Gary Barta in this article.
  • Furthering the Big Ten expansion process, readers of ESPN’s ACC Blog wrote in with their thoughts regarding expansion, since the ACC was the last major conference to undergo major expansion. Check out their thoughts here.
  • This article is actually concerning the University of Minnesota, but I thought it of interest to the beer-loving football fans down here in Iowa. Apparently the Minnesota Legislature is looking to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at TCF Bank Stadium. Currently, beer is only available in Kinnick Stadium if you are in the private suites in the press box. Allowing beer to be sold on the concourse in Kinnick would be…interesting.

Spring Ball!

25 03 2010

The Americanzi

Spring Football has begun in Iowa City! As the Hawkeyes gear up for next season, here are some links to explore:

  • Chicago Bears fans might want to check out this ESPNChicago blog update that tells you why the Bears front office watched Iowa’s Pro Day very closely.
  • This blog update by Dr. Saturday over ay gives a comprehensive look at the 2010 Hawkeyes, and asks the squad to maybe not win by the skin of their teeth this year.
  • This ESPN Big Ten Blog update rounds up a news conference Head Coach Kirk Ferentz had regarding spring ball, two-deeps, and the miserable state of his NCAA bracket.
  • And no update would be complete without expansion news. This entry discusses the possibility of the Big Ten having a championship game without expanding to 12 teams.

I Need A Dollar (Dollar), A Dollar Is What I Need

25 03 2010

That song, entitled “Rasta Monsta”, is the title track of one of HBO’s newest series, How To Make It In America. Not only do I love the song, the show has become my new must-see TV show.

How To Make It In America follows the lives of a handful of twentysomethings in New York City. While the limelight is shared by the cast members, the overall main character is Ben Epstein. Ben is an artist-type that apparently dropped out of art school, and now pursues a mundane career as a salesmen at Barney’s. He is joined by his street-smart, loud-mouthed friend Cam, who is constantly looking for the next, and fastest, way to make a buck. Rounding out the cast are Ben’s friend Domingo, socialite Gingy, Ben’s interior designer exgirlfriend Rachel, Cam’s old-school Cuban mobster Renee, and Kappo, a high school friend of Ben’s that is now a Wall Street high roller.

Each of the 30-minute episodes revolves around a different plot, but the over-arching theme of this season rests on Ben and Cam’s decision to start their own denim line, Crisp. The various episodes show them using street smarts and improvisation to get their clothing line moving. Swirling around that is the constant tension between Ben and Rachel, and the various amounts of trouble Ben’s friends try and get him in.

I didn’t know if I would like the show after watching the pilot. But after watching the next few episodes, I am definitely hooked. And it is only natural, though. The creators of How To Make It In America include Julian Farino and Rob Weiss. Weiss is a producer and writer on HBO’s Entourage, and Farino has directed many Entourage episodes. They bring that Entourage flavor to HTMIIA, and it is definitely one of the reasons the show appeals to me.

If you have HBO, I highly encourage you to check it out. If you don’t have HBO, find a friend who does and convince them to let you use their OnDemand for an afternoon.

Yes, the State of Iowa is good at sports

22 03 2010

Well, the state of Iowa had a pretty good weekend, sports-wise.

For those of you out of the loop on college wrestling (and I suspect that is a majority of people), the University of Iowa Hawkeyes Wrestling squad won its THIRD straight National Championship on Saturday, including individual national titles for Matt McDonough, Brent Metcalf (his second) and Jay Borschel. Iowa ended the tournament with 134.5 point teams points, a whopping 44.5 more points than the second place team, Cornell. It was pure domination, much like the entirety of this squad’s undefeated regular season.

This is the 23rd National Championship, further cementing its place as the second most-winningest program in the country, behind Oklahoma State. Although, if you look at the last 30-40 years, it’s pretty clear that Iowa is the most dominant modern program. This kind of dominance makes Iowa Wrestling one of, if not THE, greatest sports dynasty of the modern era.

Elsewhere in Hawkeye Nation, the No. 8 seeded University of Iowa Women’s Basketball team beat No. 9 seed Rutgers in the opening round of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament. Now, the Hawkeyes face off against No. 1 seed Stanford for a bid to the Sweet Sixteen.

Up north in Cedar Falls, Northern Iowa Panther fans had cause to celebrate. In case you somehow missed it, the No. 9 seeded UNI Panthers knocked off No. 1 seed (and No. 1 in the country) Kansas Jayhawks. The Panthers controlled the entire game, slowing down Kansas offensive machine and holding the Jayhawks to their third lowest score of the season. UNI now faces Michigan St. (sans star guard Lucas), with the hopes of continuing their quest for the Final Four.

Captain America Cast?

20 03 2010

Apparently, Chris Evans (Sunshine, The Losers) has been offered the titular role in Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the production, mostly because I have an interest in the Marvel Universe. After Marvel Studios put out Iron Man, I was onboard with them developing their own characters into films, instead of licensing them out to other studios (ala Sony’s Spider-Man and Fox’s X-men films). Unfortunately, they followed the incredible success of Iron Man with the lackluster The Incredible Hulk. Now, they are looking to expand with more character films, looking to eventually make a The Avengers movie to tie all these characters together. Kenneth Branaugh has a great cast lined up for his Thor movie, but Captain America has been a little bit bumpier.

At the helm of the film is Joe Johnston, a choice of which I am very leery. Sure, he’s had some great films (The Rocketeer, October Sky), but he also has some crap movies (Jurassic Park III, Jumanji, The Wolfman). They’ve made a great move in casting Hugo Weaving as Captain America’s arch nemesis, the Red Skull.

But the casting of Captain America himself is an all together different struggle. Whatever actor takes on the Captain needs to project the leadership and power of the character. He has to be believable when eventually giving orders to the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. and Ed Norton in an eventual Avengers movie. The studio has been looking at young actors, since this will likely be a franchise that stretches down the road for awhile, and the story shows his progression from gangly teen to super soldier.

As the report says above, apparently the role has been offered to Chris Evans. Evans definitely has the physique to pull off Cap, but I guess it will be wait-and-see if he has the right personality for it. I love Evans in films like Sunshine and London, but the Fantastic Four movies don’t exactly bolster his comicbook acting chops. Obviously, the Human Torch is nothing like Captain America. I guess we’ll see if this film can pull it together.