Wizards and Magicians

March 11th, 2013 by Ben

When writing about wizards and magicians in film and TV, the first thing that comes to mind is of course Harry Potter. But frankly, how much more can we write about the boy-wizard? Don’t other wizards deserve a break too?

So in honor of two new wizardry films released this month, here is our non-Harry-Potter list of great magicians titles.

The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan‘s mystery thriller deals with an uninhibited rivalry between two former colleague magicians. As often occurs with Nolan, the movie is filled with twists and turns, with a particularly mind bending surprise ending.

Jonathan Creek (1997-2004)
With quite an original premise, this British crime drama focuses on a journalist who partners with a magician in order to solve crimes. In the best tradition of British TV, this show is also clever with a bit of dry humor. It aired regularly until 2004 and thanks to its success and many demanding fans, occasional specials are still being produced and aired from time to time, the latest of them scheduled to be broadcast this Easter.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
In my eyes this is one of the most underrated Miyazaki films. Based on a beloved book by Diana Wynne Jones, it depicts a young girl who is bewitched into an old woman by an evil witch. She then joins an eccentric wizard named Howl in search of a cure.

Merlin (2008 – 2013)
The Arthurian legends are one of the most popular source materials in films and TV. The different angle about this popular TV show is that it focuses on the days of the wizard Merlin as a young teenager, rather than the old, wise man we usually see.

The Illusionist (2010)
A charming hand-drawn animation by the talented director Sylvain Chomet. A young girl in a remote Scottish village joins a traveling magician, believing his powers are real and not mere illusions. A bittersweet coming of age tale ensues when she learns the truth…

The Dresden Files (2007)
Private detective by day, wizard by night – when the police has no clue, Harry Dresden is the one to turn to. Based on a series of popular novels, this TV show is much like Jonathan Creek in terms of plot, but takes a turn to more suspenseful, rough territories mood-wise.

Next (2007)
Despite mediocre reviews, I find Next to be an affective action/sci-fi flick. Nicolas Cage plays a man with the ability to see the future, who hides it under the pretense of a petty Las Vegas magician. Exciting and stylized, this film is extremely entertaining, even if it is not a masterpiece.

The Mists of Avalon (2001)
Another take on the Arthurian myth, this mini series focuses on the female point of view of the story, especially the one of Morgaine, Arthur’s Half-sister who plays a vital role in his rise and eventual fall. In this series, the scheming women have as much influence over the kingdom as the men and their swords.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
Just looking at the cast list of this upcoming wizardry comedy is enough to make me laugh – Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi are partner magicians who witness the arrival of a new act in town, led by Jim Carrey. The trailer is hilarious, and so much comic talent in one film is bound to have some interesting results.

Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013)
And the other wizards and magicians title to be released this month is this imaginary family adventure, sort of prequel to The Wizard of Oz. A stellar cast including James Franco, Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis and Michelle Williams, alongside amazing visual environments, promise this film to be intriguing, in the least.

Popularity: 3% [?]

The Young and the Brainless

March 4th, 2013 by Barak

After taking a look at Facebook’s most Liked movies, we couldn’t help but notice how different these movies are from IMDb’s list of top 250, not to mention BFI’s (British Film Institute) list of top 50 films of all time (chosen by hundreds of international critics.)

Here’s our take on these three lists:

Facebook’s top 10 include: Harry PotterAvatar, The Twilight Saga, Titanic, Shrek, Toy Story 3, Jackass 3, Fast & Furious, Transformers, and The Hangover.

Besides Titanic, all movies were made in the 2000′s; most of the movies are teen or family oriented, and about 40% of them are pretty much brainless (Twilight Saga, Jackass, Fast & Furious, Transformers… I’m excluding Avatar and Titanic just because I’m nice. Let’s say both of those movies have a brain, but it was lobotomized.)

IMDb’s top 10 include: The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, The Godfather 2, Pulp Fiction, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 12 Angry Men, The Dark Knight, Schindler’s List, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Fight Club.

Four of these movies were made during the 90′s, two in the 70′s, two in the 2000′s, one in the 60′s and one in the 50′s. All movies are critically acclaimed and are considered to be classics or modern classics (well, all of them besides The Dark Knight maybe.) Most of the movies in IMDb’s top 10 are testosterone driven American movies, which would be suitable for a boy’s night.

BFI’s top 10 include: Vertigo, Citizen Kane, Tokyo Story, The Rules of the Game, Sunrise, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Searchers, The Man with a Movie Camera, and The Passion of Joan of Arc, 8 1/2.

The most recent movie in BFI’s top 10 was made in 1968… Three more were made in the 50′s, three in the 1920′s(!), one in the 40′s, one in the 30′s and one more during the 60′s. Seven of these movies are B&W movies and six of them are foreign. The BFI guys would definitely shake their heads in disagreement while listening to Frank Sinatra‘s song “the best is yet to come”, because they’re pretty sure the best has already happened, and it was a long, long time ago.

Places 11-20 in Facebook’s book include: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Saw, Finding Nemo, Twilight, Step Up, 2012, Dirty Dancing, The Dark Knight, Paranormal Activity, and The Lion King.

Eight movies from the 2000′s, one from the 80′s and one from the 90′s. All ten are teen or family oriented and were made in the U.S. In risk of receiving death threats I’ll say that six of the ten are cinematic trash (garbage didn’t sound appropriate), some of them are fun trash, but trash nonetheless (Pirates of the Caribbean, Saw, Twilight, Step Up, 2012 and Paranormal Activity. There’s a whole lot of trash and a bit of fun in these brackets.)

Places 11-20 in IMDb’s list include: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Inception, Goodfellas, Star Wars, Seven Samurai, Forrest Gump, The Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Three movies are from the 2000′s and three from the 90′s, two are from the 70′s, one is from the 80′s and another one is from the 50′s. Once again, IMDb’s top movies continue the trend of highly acclaimed movies which are more boys/men oriented, while this time also showcasing a bit more Sci-Fi and a little less criminal intent.

Places 11-20 in BFI’s list include: Battleship Potemkin, L’Atalante, Breathless, Apocalypse Now, Late Spring, Au hasard Balthazar, Seven Samurai, Persona, The Mirror, and Singin’ in the Rain.

These are very old movies, most of them B&W; eight are foreign movies and none were made during the past 35 years. May I remind you this list was comprised in 2012?

If I had to put a face to each list, Facebook’s list seems like it was made by a young hysterical girl with a real passion for reading (tweets.) Miley Cyrus could have written it with the help of her younger brother (if she has one.)

IMDb’s list seems compatible with a male American film enthusiast; someone like Quentin Tarantino.

And I guess that the face that’s most suitable to represent BFI’s list is that of a European film connoisseur (French no doubt) over the age of 80; let’s say Jean-Luc Godard.

To sum it up, BFI’s opinion is that cinema’s golden age ended back when Moses still wore short pants, and that good movies are eternal, even if they were made in the 1920′s and didn’t include color, or a spoken voice; Most Facebook users probably think that a movie can’t be good if it doesn’t include robots, zombies and/or vampires, and even then, it might be good only if it was made after the year 2000 of course; Preferably after the year 2010. And so, I think that IMDb is the voice of reason in this instance (at least when compared with the other two lists), including great movies that were made in the past, along with great movies that are still being made today.

So, why not end on a positive note, and just say hooray for (good) movies!

>> To comment on this blog post, or to share your own insight on entertainment, join us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/JinniDotCom (*yes, Facebook, despite it all..)

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Popularity: 3% [?]

Young Actors – Generation 4.0

February 19th, 2012 by Ben

This week Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds, The Twilight Saga) celebrates her 18th birthday. Also, Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) is 25, which practically makes her “the village elder”…
There’s no denying – movie stars these days start their careers extremely early. If you haven’t starred in a blockbuster hit or highly acclaimed film by the time you’re 14, you’re already too old and irrelevant…
So here are 10 young stars that we predict will lead the industry in the decade to come.

Hailee Steinfeld – 15

At age 14 she already managed to be nominated for an Oscar for her outstanding performance in the Coen brothersTrue Grit, so I think it is safe to say that the girl has a promising future ahead of her. She is now filming a version of Romeo and Juliet where she portrays Juliet (oddly enough, she is really close to the age of Juliet as Shakespeare meant it to be – 14).  With 3 other projects set for 2013, we have a lot to look forward to.

Chloe Grace Moretz – 15

The little girl who kicked-ass in Kick-Ass is turning 15 this month, and boy did she grow up nicely. This year she starred in Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo and one of her next projects is the intriguing remake of Dark Shadows by Tim Burton, next to icons such as Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Asa Butterfield – 15

The leading actor from Hugo made such a strong impression, that he was cast as the title character in Ender’s Game, one of the most hyped and talked about adaptations right now. Based on the famous and acclaimed novel by Orson Scott-Card this film holds an impressive ensemble cast of young, promising actors and actresses, with Asa in the starring role.

Elle Fanning – 14

Dakota’s younger sister is already prettier than her, but will she be as good an actress? Super 8 showed us that the answer is definitely yes. She also starred in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Twixt and in Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought a Zoo, and it seems that in addition to acting she is also trying to establish herself as a name in fashion, representing Mark Jacobs and Rodarte. quite the achievement for a girl of her young age…!

Kodi Smit-McPhee – 16

We first took notice of Kodi after his excellent performance in the bleak post-apocalyptic The Road. since then he participated in a number of other films, including The Congress, a new feature from Ari Folman (director of acclaimed Oscar nominee Waltz with Bashir). He is currently filming Romeo and Juliet, next to Hailee Steinfeld.

Abigail Breslin – 16

She was only 10 when we fell in love with her in Little Miss Sunshine. Since then she continued to prove herself as an actress worth noticing in films like Zombieland and My Sister’s Keeper. She has five upcoming films scheduled to be released in the coming year, one of them is the previously mentioned adaptation of Ender’s Game, where she will play the main character’s sister.

Chris Colfer – 21

Many stars emerged from Glee, but Colfer is probably the most surprising of them all. Unlike many of his co-stars he didn’t come to the show as a Broadway actor and in fact had almost no acting experience at all, but he is the one who won a Golden Globe, and now he is working on a new film that he also wrote. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes next.

Saoirse Ronan – 18

The actress with the unpronounceable name was nominated for an Oscar at age 13 (for the beautiful Atonement) and since then portrayed a series of fascinating roles in  films like The Lovely Bones, The Way Back and Hanna. She is currently wrapping a leading role in a new film by Neil Jordan called Byzantium.

Kiernan Shipka – 12

We watched her growing and developing as an actress in front of our eyes since she was 8 years old in the masterpiece series Mad Men. And apparently she can also be really funny!  I think a promising future is ahead of her.

Daniel Radcliffe – 23

Though not exactly new or unknown, most of us will now have the first opportunity to know Daniel Radcliff’s qualities as an actor outside the Harry Potter realm. This month was the US release of his first leading role since Harry Potter ended, in the gothic horror feature The Woman in Black.

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Popularity: 4% [?]

From the Big Screen to the Flat Screen (and vice-versa)

July 27th, 2011 by Ben

The Smurfs movie is coming out in theaters this week joining a long line of TV series that were turned into movies (Transformers, The A-Team, Sex and the City) and vice versa (Nikita, Friday Night Lights, Are We There Yet?). So we’ve made a wish list of additional TV series we want to be turned into movies and movies we want to be made into TV series. Studio’s and networks, for your attention (and commission…):

Game of Thrones (2011-?)

As great as the TV series is the books are even better and they portray all the characters we’ve learned to love in much greater detail. The books are so long they give us the opportunity to turn Game of Thrones into a bona-fide movie franchise. Each movie could focus on a different angle of the story. Personally I would love to know more about the complicated family upbringing of Tyrion Lannister, or see how Daenerys and Khal Drogo learned to love each other.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1987)

I’ll be honest, I only chose this one so I could have an excuse to stare at Jessica Rabbit on a weekly basis. But if this doesn’t seem a good enough reason for you, try to remember how much fun this movie was: exciting, humorous, witty and sexy. The world of Toon Town offers a lot of other possible stories (who tried to poison snow white? Who changed the “duck/rabbit season” poster into “human season”? etc.), and the characters promise to be as lovable as ever.

Lost (2004-2010)

Lost is probably the most mind-bending series ever made, and it captivated millions who kept guessing and speculating through its entire six year run. Lost isn’t considered the best TV series ever made mainly because of the way it ended. Many fans felt that the show’s conclusion was very unsatisfying and were left with a sour taste. A Lost movie is a perfect opportunity to make amends. The huge fan base of the series, thirsty for more, will definitely turn the movie into a blockbuster and if the show’s creators are able to create an alternative ending that would satisfy the fans, then Lost will go down in history as a true masterpiece.

Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011)

After the phenomenal success of the movies, somebody will definitely want to continue milking the cow. The millions of fans who are now suffering from Harry Potter withdrawal (myself included) will be absolutely thrilled once they hear there is a TV series coming up. It could be very family friendly like the first movies, or it could be for a more mature audience like the last three movies (if so, I’m thinking HBO). Once the series airs the two most popular series on TV will be based on fantasy books: Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.

Arrested Development (2003-2006)

Among fans there’s no argument that this amazing series was too short lived. More often than not, American TV series last way after they jumped the shark, but this is definitely not the case for this masterpiece. I need to see one last adventure of this wacky and eccentric family before I’m prepared to let it rest in peace.

High Fidelity (2000)

The plot of the movie is not bad – a romantic dramatic comedy about a vinyl shop owner who grows from adolescence into adulthood, but I’m not interested in that deep stuff. I want to see the everyday life inside the store with Jack Black and Todd Louiso as the main characters. The two of them fighting, insulting customers, etcetera. And the show would be full of cameos from great indie bands of course. That could be a lot of fun, and maybe help a dying industry along the way.

Blackadder (1983)

There is no shortage of medieval action and adventure films, but when it comes to taking a more humorous look at tales of politics and betrayal Rowan Atkinson and Co.’s presence is sorely missed. Having an entire film devoted to the ambitious yet sleazy attempts of Edmund to become king would definitely be fun to watch.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

The film had some funny and exciting fight scenes and some offbeat awkward romantic scenes, but the end result felt a little too condensed. Making it a TV series would give a better look at Scott’s failing music band and much more screen time for the evil ex boyfriends.

The Shadow Line (2011)

It’s regarded as a masterpiece by some (myself included), but not many saw it outside the UK. Its seven episodes aired from May 5th to June 16th this year, and I just couldn’t hold my breath from one episode’s ending to the next episode’s beginning. It stars three excellent actors who all gave fantastic performances: Chiwetel Ejiofor as a detective suffering from a memory loss, Christopher Eccleston as the nicest drug lord you ever saw and Stephen Rea as an ultra professional hitman. It’s an amazingly stylized and complex Neo Noir Crime Thriller that drew comparisons to The Wire and The Killing. I suggest cutting from its total length of 7 hours the “previously on…” and opening theme of each episode and just show the whole series at the movie theaters. Those 6 hours would create the greatest crime trilogy since The Godfather!

The Spirit of Jeet Kune Do (2004) (also known as Once Upon a Time in High School)

If you ignore the longer than long title of this Korean movie, you are looking at potentially the best TV series ever! It combines the best parts from coming of age and high school life titles (Friday Night Lights for example) and the best parts from stylized and rough martial arts titles (Fists of Fury for instance). It will be a TV series that would go from suspenseful and exciting one moment to touching at the other. Until TV execs get there act together and jump at this opportunity, watch the movie, you won’t be disappointed!

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Popularity: 4% [?]

Top 10 Hollywood Doppelgangers

July 21st, 2011 by Barak

Nelson Mandela celebrated his birthday on July 18th, so I wanted to write something in honor of the great man. Because I felt that so many people have already written stuff about him being an inspiring leader and such, I tried to take a different angle and write something else about him that will be just as interesting and inspiring: He looks just like Morgan Freeman! Coincidently Josh Hartnett (21.7) and Terence Stamp (22.7) are also celebrating their birthdays this week, and they also look a lot like other people: Hartnett looks exactly like Ashton Kutcher and Stamp looks just like Malcolm McDowell. Here is a top 10 list of actors who we all suspect were separated at birth:

10. Tobey Maguire/Elijah Wood/ Jake Gyllenhaal

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
There is proof that Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire aren’t the same person since they were both together in the movie Brothers. You can argue that it’s a stunt in the manner they pulled in The Social Network with the guy who played both of the Winklevoss brothers, but they both also attended events together. There is proof that Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire aren’t the same person since they were both in The Ice Storm. No proof exists to show us that Jake Gyllenhaal and Elijah Wood aren’t the same person…

What is similar between them? All three are in their early 30s and have a slight tendency towards geekiness. They all have blue eyes, brown hair and a white, pale skin.

What makes them different? Jake Gyllenhaal is a bit taller than the other two; he also looks a bit tougher than Maguire and Wood that are almost synonyms to the term nerd.

9. Bradley Cooper/Josh Lucas/ Matthew Mcconaughey/ Patrick Wilson

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
McConaughey and Cooper were both in the movie Failure To Launch, McConaughey and Lucas were together in The Lincoln Lawyer, Cooper and Wilson were together in The A-Team. That leaves us with the possibilities that Matthew McConaughey and Patrick Wilson/Bradley Cooper and Josh Lucas/Josh Lucas and Patrick Wilson are in fact the same person.

What is similar between them? All are in their late 30’s/early 40’s, all probably go to a tanning salon and visit the gym regularly. All four have blue eyes and brown hair. The most amazing fact is that the four of them are almost exactly the same height: all range between 1.83 and 1.85 meters (just over 6 feet)!

What makes them different? The main thing that differentiates between them is their level of seriousness: Bradley Cooper is the least serious among the four, and then comes McConaughey, Patrick Wilson and finally the most serious one – Josh Lucas.

8. Amy Adams/ Isla Fisher/Jenna Fischer

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
The three of them never appeared in the same movie together, but after comprehensive research I found out that Amy Adams was in three episodes of The Office alongside Jenna Fischer so that rules out the possibility that they are the same person.

What is similar between them? Pale skin, hair color that’s somewhere between red and brown, all range in height from 1.60 to 1.65 (5″3- 5″5). All three are good comic actresses but can also play in dramatic roles as well, and all are in about the same age (35-37). Notice that two of them share almost the same last name…

What makes them different? You can tell the difference between them by the redness of their hair: Amy Adams has the reddest hair, then Isla Fischer and finally Jenna Fischer with her slightly reddish hair which is more brown than it is red.

7. Shia LeBeouf/Michael Angarano

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
No such proof exists.

What is similar between them? They are both almost the same age, have black hair and brown eyes. They both usually play in humorous and exciting movies that are intended for a family outing. In 2009 they were both in movies that the critics loved to hate – LeBeouf in Transformers 2 and Angarano in Gentlemen Broncos.

What makes them different? The main difference between them is probably the balance in their bank account – LeBeouf made a ton of money from The Transformers movies and from Indiana Jones 4, Angarano is also very rich of course, but far from being filthy rich like LeBeouf. Angarano also looks like a much nicer person, but that will probably change once he’s cast as LeBeouf’s replacement in The Transformers franchise.

6. John Lithgow/Terence Stamp/Malcolm McDowell

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
No, and this time I’m dead serious – I am almost certain that Terence Stamp and Malcolm McDowell are the same person. Lithgow might be his/their brother.

What is similar between them? All had grey hair since they were about 18; they have blue eyes with a crazed look and they have a smile that says: I can either be a nice grandfather figure for you, or I can kill you, it’s up to you.

What makes them different? Stamp and McDowell are British, Lithgow is American, and they also have different levels of toughness: Stamp is the toughest, McDowell is second and Lithgow third.

5. Geoffrey Rush/Stephen Rea

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
Not really.

What is similar between them? Apart from bad eye sight and a fondness for hats, they are both in their sixties; they are about the same height 1.81 meters (just under 6 feet), and most important of all, they both share almost the same label of quality.

What makes them different? Stephen Rea is Irish, Geoffrey Rush is Australian, Rush won an Oscar for his role in Shine (and deserved it for his role in The King’s Speech), Rea was just nominated for his role in The Crying Game (you can tell right away on an actor’s face whether he ever won an Oscar or not so it’s a good way to tell the difference between them).

4. Christopher Plummer/Michael Gambon/Ian McKellen

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
Plummer and Gambon were together in The Insider so they can’t be the same person, and if I try and use my logic I guess that that proves they all can’t really be the same person (I didn’t do very well in my Math classes and I wasn’t exactly an honor student in Philosophy, so it is possible that I’m wrong and they could actually be the same person).

What is similar between them? They are all over the age of seventy, all never won an Oscar despite being remarkable and praiseworthy actors, and as you can see all three had experience with roles that require very impressive beards.

What makes them different? McKellen and Gambon are British, Plummer is Canadian, Gambon and McKellen are about 10 years younger than Plummer, and the two Brits were both in highly successful fantasy franchises (McKellen in Lord of the Rings and Gambon in Harry Potter) while Plummer wasn’t. The difference between Gambon and McKellen is probably their attitude towards sex with men :).

3. Michael Madsen/Tom Sizemore

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
Yes, plenty. They worked together in the Western Wyatt Earp, and also in the quite unknown movies The Florentine and Welcome to America and in the upcoming movie Black Gold.

What is similar between them? First and foremost – toughness! They are two of the toughest American actors in existence. Both are also over 1.80 meters (5″10), around the age of 50, have black hair and blue eyes, and they both also carry a few extra pounds (but I would never dare say that to their faces).

What makes them different? Although Michael Madsen is remembered most of all as the psychopathic killer Mr. blonde from the movie Reservoir Dogs, it is actually Tom Sizemore who has had many more entanglements with the law. Madsen is not only the more well behaved one, he is also the harder working one: Madsen has 195 movie credits (!), while Sizemore has “only” 119.

2. Frances McDormand/Felicity Huffman

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
No, it was easy for Huffman to hide her true identity in the movie Transamerica because in real life she always has to hide her true identity (which is Frances McDormand).

What is similar between them? Both are 1.65 meters (5″4), blonde, have blue eyes and their first name starts with the letter F. Also, both are married to famous Hollywood nerds (McDormand to Joel Coen and Huffman to William H. Macy).

What makes them different? Felicity Huffman is five years younger, but the different birth year on her driver’s license doesn’t really convince me. It’s not really a problem to fake the birth year on official ID (just ask African soccer players).

1. Javier Bardem/Jeffrey Dean Morgan (sorry, I got confused; it’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan on the left and Javier Bardem on the right. I think)

Is there proof they aren’t the same person?
Of course not, look at them, they are the same person.

What is similar between them? Everything is similar between them more or less, apart from the name. They share the same face, and almost the same age and height.

What makes them different? The nationality – Morgan is American, Bardem is Spanish, and the success – While Bardem won an Oscar and more than 70 other awards, Morgan didn’t really win anything except the reward of being in this post.

Popularity: 12% [?]