BOP 25 of Fall: Selections 5-1

By BOP Staff

September 6, 2007

I sense distance between them. 5) Gone Baby Gone

Say what you will about the man as a media whore, Ben Affleck is a smart fellow. After receiving the pop culture drubbing of a lifetime for Gigli, he has taken a much more cerebral approach in rehabilitating his career. There was the return to his roots in a Kevin Smith movie, Jersey Girl. He took a role in an end-of-year awards contender in Hollywoodland, finding himself the subject of the most critical praise that he had received since Good Will Hunting. And now, finally, the Academy Award winning writer is ready to make his directorial debut.

Affleck's choice of projects is the adaptation of a novel by Dennis Lehane, the same scribe who wrote Mystic River. The story is Gone Baby Gone, and it deals with abduction of a four-year-old girl. The search for her unites the community of the Boston suburb of Dorchester while also impacting the lives of all the law enforcement officials assigned to solve the mystery of her disappearance. This proves to be a kidnapping, and the case becomes an obsession for the team of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro.

The sometimes lovers are forced to use tactics neither one of them ever believe themselves capable of doing in order to unearth new clues about the child's whereabouts. The utilitarianism of their methodology leads them to brokered deals with the seediest element in their area. A grade school friend nicknamed Cheese is their best hope for uncovering the truth. Alas, he is a currently incarcerated drug dealer who fears that if he says too much, he'll be having Shank for dinner. Can the three people who grew up together but grew separated by choosing opposite sides of the law trust each enough to save a girl and her family from tragedy?

BOP has no idea, but the trailer shows that Ben Affleck has made some sublime casting decisions, notably Mission: Impossible 3 and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang scene stealer Michelle Monaghan as Gennaro and Affleck's younger brother, Casey, as Patrick. It's the latter choice that strikes us as particularly inspired. Long viewed as something of a hanger on in the Johnny Drama mold, Casey Affleck has started to build his credibility as an actor thanks in large part to his work in the Ocean's Eleven franchise. Following those high profile gigs with some of the most talented thespians in the world today, it would appear to be a perfect time for Affleck the Younger to finally break out. The trailer indicates that he has done just this, meaning that Affleck and Affleck could be the 2007 version of what Affleck and Damon were in 1997. (David Mumpower/BOP)
Crowe never understood why he got a reputation for being difficult on set. 4) 3:10 to Yuma

For decades, the western was a staple of the movie-going experiences. Men in white hats defended the virtue of distressed damsels in the only way they knew how: through gunplay, generally around high noon. A shot would ring out in the dusty town square. A man in a black hat would fall to his knees, his former smirk of arrogance replaced by a quizzical look at the bullet hole in the front of his vest.

The problem with a well established movie convention such as this is it grows stale over time. What worked in the 1950s is no longer a source of comfort in the MySpace era. In fact, many of those who have grown up in the age of the Internet are not old enough to remember the last great westerns, Unforgiven and Tombstone. Those films are 15 and 14 years old respectively, meaning a person celebrating their 21st birthday today would have been six when the former film was released and five when the latter was. Given that both films are rated R upon theatrical release, well, you know.

An entire generation of people has been raised in a movie world almost completely free of the western. The lone exceptions are those movie lovers who have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the now archaic format. The western is a cinematic dinosaur, which makes the prospect of 3:10 to Yuma all the more intriguing. For the first time since 1995's The Quick and the Dead, a mainstream western is being released that stars some of the biggest names in the industry. Russell Crowe and Batman himself, Christian Bale, frontline the cast of this re-make of the 1957 western staple starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford.

Based on a short story by celebrated novelist Elmore Leonard, 3:10 to Yuma involves an encounter between a recently captured outlaw gunman named Ben Wade (Crowe) and Dan Evans, the sheriff charged with ensuring he stands trial for his actions. The catch for Evans is that he must get Wade boarded on a train with the titular time/destination before the villain's criminal associates liberate him from his current incarceration. The train depot in question is not the publicized one, but Wade's gang somehow uncovers the true destination. Evans must defend himself against not just these nogoodniks but also keep an eye on the dangerous Wade.

With westerns so rare in this era, it is all the stranger that two of them, Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, are being released within weeks of one another. Yuma has chosen an earlier release date in order to get the proverbial drop on the competition, as would seem right for a western. Both projects have their upside, but BOP is slightly more excited about the one starring Crowe and Batman. Each should prove to be a major end-of-year awards contender, though. (David Mumpower/BOP)

The Million Undead Man March 3) 30 Days of Night

These people live in a place where no one likes to visit as a rule. Even the very sun has taken a month long sabbatical, refusing to rise into the morning sky. Right as the star of our solar system begins its final descent for 30 days, strangers arrive in town. In Barrow, Alaska, there is no such beast as tourist season. Visitors are few and far between. They never show up in groups like this one has. A sense of foreboding begins to envelop the town as day turns to night for the final time for 30 days.

Then, the vampires strike.

Based on a comic book by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, 30 Days of Night is an ingenious premise. The creatures of the night find a place where it's always night. No longer encumbered by sleep and a fear of the sun, they are able to feast all the time. Barrow, Alaska becomes a waking nightmare where no one is safe at any point, and the safety of daybreak is still a month away. Will anyone be able to survive until then? The answer would appear to be no, but the local sheriff, Eben (BOP fave Josh Hartnett), and his wife/deputy, Stella, embark upon a bold plan to even the odds before the entire town is made an all-night buffet.

30 Days of Night the comic book has been hailed as a triumph, and the trailer for the movie promises exactly that sort of satisfying gothic thriller. Our staff has a soft spot for franchises such as Resident Evil (see: #16 on the BOP 25) and Underworld. Vampires attempting to devour an entire town of humans in a place experiencing a constant night sounds like potentially brilliant cinema to us. (David Mumpower/BOP)
They didn't make Helen Mirren do this in The Queen. 2) Elizabeth: The Golden Age

In 1998, in one of the greatest travesties in Oscar history, Cate Blanchett was passed over for the Best Actress Academy Award for her role as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, in favor of Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. This is not to dismiss Gwyneth, who was perfectly fine in that film, but Cate simply inhabited Elizabeth. Eventually she got her own in The Aviator, but she's still one down as far as I'm concerned.

She gets her chance again with the sequel, subtitled The Golden Age. The first film was a Godfather-esque journey through Elizabeth's reluctant rise to power as the Queen of England, with plots and intrigue surrounding her every move, and threats from every other country in Europe. The sequel moves forward a few years, with a Spanish armada (yes, that Armada) threatening to invade England and retake it for Catholicism, attempting to squash the Protestant Movement once and for all. With war on the horizon, Elizabeth is also tempted by the dashing explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (played by Clive Owen), although her oaths swear her to her country and only her country. Although hey, palaces can get cold at night and who's gonna tell a queen what to do? Ah well, such is life.

Director Shekhar Kepur returns to guide this film to the screen, along with original writer Michael Hirst and Gladiator scribe William Nicholson. The rousing trailer points to a combination of political thriller, forbidden romance and open warfare, which is a powerful and compelling mix. That fantastic cast (which also includes Geoffrey Rush, returning as Sir Walsingham, Samantha Morton and Tom Hollander) makes this a must see for us. Some people may say history is boring, but sign us up for another helping of this story. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
I guess we shouldn't have spent our last ten dollars on lottery tickets. 1) The Darjeeling Limited

Readers who have been hanging around BOP for a long time will probably not be surprised to see our top choice. They'll know that the staff here at BOP has all kinds of love for Wes Anderson. Many will recall that both Rushmore and Bottle Rocket both made our list of the Top 50 Underappreciated Recent Films several years back, with Rushmore coming in at #10 and Bottle Rocket being our #5 selection. Later, we named The Royal Tenenbaums our pick for Best Picture in our Calvin Awards. And while The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou came in only at #12 in Best Picture voting during its year of release, there is still a stridently vocal set amongst our group that continues to proclaim Anderson's genius. His clever, incisive scripts and extreme attention to detail make his films treasures worth watching again and again.

BOP also has a pretty soft spot for Owen Wilson. We've been with him through the ups and downs of his career, with his funny-on-the-outside nature always seeming to harbor something more soulful deep within. We really didn't want him to prove us right, though. We were heartbroken to learn of his personal struggles, and are really rooting for him in the aftermath of a reported suicide attempt. We don't really want to be all tabloid-y here, but apparently his character in The Darjeeling Limited has himself tried to end his life, and the parallels do bear noting (and probably will be discussed ad nauseum in the media). Regardless of what is happening in his personal life, Wilson has always been marvelous when teamed with Anderson, who seems to bring out the very best in the actor.

The Darjeeling Limited also marks the second time that Anderson has worked with Jason Schwartzman, who also co-wrote the screenplay in this case. Schwartzman was nothing short of special in Rushmore, which was the film that really put Anderson on the map despite the early yummy goodness of Bottle Rocket. The prospect of the writer/director working with two of his best past performers is tantalizing to say the least.

As always with Anderson projects, the film's story allows the director to get extremely creative with both setting and costumes. The movie follows three brothers who have grown apart. In an effort to recapture the closeness they once shared, they set off on a train trip across India together, looking for spirituality along the way. When they get lost with very limited supplies, their journey takes off in an entirely unexpected direction. With past Anderson films, the set design is almost as much a character as the people who populate the film. The house in The Royal Tenenbaums had very specific, detailed characteristics, and the introduction to Steve Zissou's boat, The Belafonte, is an extremely memorable scene in its own right. Expect the train in The Darjeeling Limited to play a similar role.

We'd be remiss to neglect mentioning the rest of the cast, which includes Anderson newbie Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston (who starred in both The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic) and a special cameo from one of Anderson's past performers (we won't spoil it for you). With a marvelous cast and solid enough buzz to get the film selected for the Venice Film Festival and to open the New York Film Festival, we're getting our hopes high that The Darjeeling Limited will be as much of a quirky joy as his previous work. And we can't wait to see it for ourselves. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

BOP 25 of Fall: 25-16
BOP 25 of Fall: 15-6



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