Friday, December 31, 2010

Fantastic "Exit Through the Gift Shop" a Strange Art Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 107 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
MPAA – R for some language
PRODUCERS: Holly Cushing, Jaimie D'Cruz, and James Gay-Rees
EDITORS: Tom Fulford and Chris King


Starring: Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Monsieur André, Space Invader, Zevs, and Rhys Ifans (narrator)

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary that largely focuses on Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant to Los Angeles. Although he was a successful small businessman, Guetta also had an obsession with carrying his camera everywhere and constantly filming his surroundings – from inside his home and business (a vintage clothing store) to outside in public. On holiday in France, Guetta discovers that one of his cousins is Invader, an internationally known street artist.

Fascinated by his cousin’s art, Guetta turns his camera on the street artists and eventually meets such street art luminaries as Shepard Fairey (who created the Barack Obama “HOPE” poster), Borf, Ron English, and Buffmonster, among others. Eventually, Guetta attempts to make a documentary film from all the footage he has shot of street artists. After meeting the secretive and legendary Banksy, a British graffiti artist, stencil artist, and painter, Guetta’s project takes a surprising twist. Banksy takes over the filmmaking duties, and Guetta reinvents himself as the street artist “Mr. Brainwash” (or MBW).

There has been some speculation that Exit Through the Gift Shop is one big prank – the documentary film about street art that is essentially graffiti on the body politic of documentary filmmaking. This film could also be seen as a satire of the art scene and of media hype, especially hype around artistic or cultural events. However, as brief as this film is, Exit Through the Gift Shop does capture the mesmerizing power of art and also the ability of artists, especially rebels and innovators, to capture the public’s imagination.

Exit Through the Gift Shop heaps scorn on practically everyone who appears in the film and anyone who is involved in this narrative. In a subtle way, it disapproves of the way underground and outsider art has become commercialized, just another thing for rich people to co-opt with their cash. Is street art just more pop art? Still, the film cannot hide the fact that people are genuinely fascinated by art: arguing about art, deciding what constitutes art, and depicting how artists can astonish with the surprising mediums they use to present their art.

Whatever the truth is about the validity of the film’s content and subject matter, Exit Through the Gift Shop does something many films have a difficult time doing, captivating the audience from beginning to end. Its only fault may be that it doesn’t give us more of its delightful subjects and characters.

9 of 10

Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Ben Kingsley a Beast in "Sexy Beast" (Happy B'day, Ben Kingsley)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 22 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

Sexy Beast (2000)
U.S. Opening date: June 15, 2001
Running time: 89 minute (1 hour, 29 minutes)
MPAA – R for pervasive language, strong violence, and some sexuality
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer
WRITERS: Louis Mellis and David Scinto; from a story by Andrew Michael Jolley
PRODUCER: Jeremy Thomas
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Ivan Bird with Dan Landin
EDITORS: John Scott and Sam Sneade
Academy Award nominee

CRIME/DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring: Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane, Amanda Redman, James Fox, Cavan Kendall, and Julianne White

Gal (Ray Winstone) is a retired safecracker living in Spain with his wife, Deedee (Amanda Redman). Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), an old London acquaintance, comes calling to recruit Gal into a gang of hoods to pull off a major heist for a big time gangster, Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). Gal wants to say “no,” but Don isn’t likely to take “no” for an answer. When Don and his quirky personality arrive at Gal’s Spanish villa, all bloody hell ensues.

Helmed by first time director Jonathan Glazer, Sexy Beast is a brutal British crime comedy/drama similar in vein to Guy Ritchie’s Snatch. Unlike the ensemble Snatch, Beast’s focus is primarily on Gal, his dilemma and Don Logan’s startling personality. Until the actual heist begins, the tension focuses on the possibility of Logan turning violent and weird on Gal when Gal refuses to join the crew Logan is recruiting for Bass.

Ray Winstone is very convincing as Gal, grown lazy, soft, and complacent in his retirement; so comfortable is he that Gal nearly goes to pieces when informed that Don is reentering his world. You can taste Gal’s turmoil and fear; he really doesn’t want any part of his old life. The film’s focus is really the tightrope upon which he walks from beginning to end, and he sells the audience his troubles, his fear, and his anxiety.

Tension and dilemmas aside, the best reason to watch this film is Ben Kingsley. Don Logan is one of those roles in which a talented actor can chew up the screen, but Kingsley doesn’t just chew scenery; he owns this movie. Don is actually royalty, the king of man-to-man talks, the invading conqueror of any situation. He talks so fast in some kind of cockney that you can barely understand what he says, but you get the gist of what he saying - trouble. Don means to get his way. Kingsley is a subtle show off in this part; he’s natural and smooth. His performance is unobtrusive, and his Don is indeed kind of sexy.

Sexy Beast is a slightly dressed meat and potatoes movie – nothing special at all except if anything British appeals to you because a British hood flick is better than an American gangster movie, of course. Sexy Beast can’t touch Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. It’s a quiet, but frantic look at a man’s dilemma with some gangster hoo-hah thrown in. The unequivocal delight here is Ben Kingsley. This one of those great performances you read about in film texts that you should really see.

6 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Ben Kingsley)

2001 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Jeremy Thomas and Jonathan Glazer)

2002 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Ben Kingsley)


"Black Swan," "The Social Network" Lead Online Film Critics Nominations

The Online Film Critics Society describes itself as "the largest, most respected organization for critics whose work appears primarily on the Internet."  The group recently announced its nominations for the best films of 2010.  OFCS members will submit their final votes and winners will be announced Monday, January 3, 2010.

Nominees for the 2010 OFCS Awards:

Best Picture
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Danny Boyle, 127 Hours
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, True Grit
David Fincher, The Social Network
Christopher Nolan, Inception

Best Lead Actor
Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Edgar Ramírez, Carlos

Best Lead Actress
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Kim Hye-ja, Mother
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz & John McLaughlin, Black Swan
Noah Baumbach, Greenberg
Christopher Nolan, Inception
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler, The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Michael Bacall & Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, True Grit
Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, Winter's Bone

Best Cinematography
Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak, 127 Hours
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Wally Pfister, Inception
Robert Richardson, Shutter Island
Roger Deakins, True Grit

Best Editing
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Lee Smith, Inception
Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall, The Social Network

Best Animated Feature
Despicable Me
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Best Film Not in the English Language
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
A Prophet

Best Documentary
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Waiting for "Superman"

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: "Waist Deep" is an Effective Crime Thriller (Happy B'day, Tyrese)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 136 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Waist Deep (2006)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and pervasive language
DIRECTOR: Vondie Curtis-Hall
WRITERS: Darin Scott and Vondie Curtis-Hall; from a story by Michael Mahern
PRODUCERS: Tony Brown, Ted Field, Preston L. Holmes, Joe Rosenberg, and Michael Weber
EDITOR: Terilyn A. Shropshire


Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Meagan Good, Larenz Tate, The Game, H. Hunter Hall, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Kasi Lemmons

When he got out of prison, recently paroled ex-con O2 (Tyrese Gibson) told his son, Junior (Henry Hunter Hall) that he’d never leave him again. When Junior is kidnapped during a carjacking, the desperate single father is determined to keep his word, but retrieving his son involves guns, a violation of his parole. When his cousin, Lucky (Larenz Tate), informs him that local gang kingpin, Meat (The Game), has Junior and wants $100,000 in payment for Junior’s return, O2 is ready to get the money anyway he can. Joined by Coco (Meagan Good) a down-on-her-luck, street hustler, O2 embarks on a string of bank holdups and safe-house stickups to get the money, but taking on the vicious Big Meat might be too much for the new Bonnie and Clyde.

In Vondie Curtis-Hall’s urban thriller, Waist Deep, a minor character calls the leads (O2 and Coco) “the new modern day Bonnie and Clyde,” and the film does kind of play at the leads being an urban, hip hop riff on the legendary, real-life crime couple. However, the film has more in common with the 1949 Film-Noir classic, Gun Crazy, which influenced the Warren Beatty-Faye Dunaway film, Bonnie and Clyde. Regardless, Waist Deep is a taunt, gritty, gritty urban drama. With the camera, Vondie Curtis-Hall (who is probably still trying to live down directing the Mariah Carey bomb, Glitter) makes social commentary on poverty and crime in inner city Los Angeles. Through his cast and characters, Hall makes slick-looking pulp cinema that is as rough and as razor’s edge as Pulp Fiction, if not as witty and artful.

The cast plays all their cards well. Tyrese Gibson isn’t a great actor, but he’s a quality leading man and is an excellent fit for roles in guy films (bullets, fisticuffs, and action). Meagan Good has come a long way since playing a teen sweetheart on the late Nickelodeon series, “Cousin Skeeter.” She has the body and the instinct to play a bombshell femme fatale, even if her acting chops are shaky. Rapper The Game is terrible and creepy as the monstrous Big Meat; to see this recording artist play the part with so much edge is to believe that he may have acting talent. Larenz Tate remains the consummate character actor, and, as he has since, Menace II Society, shines as a co-star.

Hall and the tightly written script he co-wrote with Darin Scott does falter in the last 10 minutes of the movie, but before that, Hall must have asked that his cast give it all because the actors come as close to perfection as they could come in a film like Waist Deep. It’s a nifty little crime thriller for when a movie lover wants the nasty edge in inner city crime dramas.

6 of 10

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Phoenix Film Critics Shout Out "The King's Speech" and "Inception"

The Phoenix Film Critics Society, which I think has been around for 10 years, announced its winners for this year's best films.  This page at the society's website list both winners and nominees.  As you can see, Phoenix critics put a stop (at least temporarily) to The Social Network express and named The King's Speech as "Best Picture."  They also honored Inception with seven awards.


Best Picture: "The King’s Speech"

Best Director: Christopher Nolan, "Inception"

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth, "The King’s Speech"

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"

Best Ensemble Acting: "The Social Network"

Best Screenplay – Original: Christopher Nolan, "Inception"

Best Screenplay – Adaptation: Aaron Sorkin,"The Social Network"

Best Live Action Family Film: "Alice in Wonderland"

The Overlooked Film of the Year: "Never Let Me Go"

Best Animated Film: "Toy Story 3"

Best Foreign Language Film: "Biutiful"

Best Documentary Film: "Restrepo"

Best Original Song: “You Haven’t See the Last of Me” from "Burlesque"

Best Original Score: Hans Zimmer, "Inception"

Best Cinematography: "True Grit"

Best Film Editing: "Inception"

Best Production Design: "Inception"

Best Costume Design: "Alice in Wonderland"

Best Visual Effects: "Inception"

Best Stunts: "Inception"

Breakthrough Performance on Camera: Chloe Moretz, "Kick-Ass"

Breakthrough Performance behind the Camera: Debra Granik, "Winter’s Bone"

Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male: Kodi Smit-McPhee, "Let Me In"

Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Female: Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"

Top Ten Films
"127 Hours"
"Never Let Me Go"
"Shutter Island"
"The Kids Are All Right"
"The King’s Speech"
"The Social Network"
"True Grit"
"Toy Story 3"
"Winter’s Bone"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Emma Stone Gets an A for "Easy A"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 106 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Easy A (2010)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, language and some drug material
DIRECTOR: Will Gluck
WRITER: Bert V. Royal
PRODUCERS: Zanne Devine and Will Gluck
EDITOR: Susan Littenberg
Golden Globe nominee


Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Aly Michalka, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Bryce Clyde Jenkins, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Dan Byrd, Cam Gigandet, Fred Armisen, and Malcolm McDowell

The recent teen comedy, Easy A, takes as its inspiration the classic American novel, The Scarlet Letter (1850), written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Easy A focuses on a clean-cut high school student who uses rumor and innuendo to improve her social status at school.

At Ojai North High School, no one really notices Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), except her bitchy best friend, Rhiannon Abernathy (Aly Michalka). It is to Rhiannon that Olive lies about losing her virginity to a college student, and, in what seems like an instant, that little white lie is all over campus. This causes Olive to run afoul of the campus Christian crusader, Marianne Bryant (Amanda Bynes). Olive compounds that first lie by helping Brandon (Dan Byrd), her gay friend who is being bullied, stage an act to trick their fellow students into believing that Dan is now straight. Soon, however, Olive learns that being the talk of the school isn’t necessarily a good thing – especially when the talk is that you are easy and a whore.

Although it belongs to the well-worn teen comedy genre, Easy A is fresh and spry. Much of the credit for that should go to the film’s star, Emma Stone, who comes across as being much more mature than her age (22) would suggest. This film’s plot, pacing, and philosophy flow through her, and Stone handles it with ease, talent, and uncommon professionalism for an actress her age.

The other thing that makes Easy A seem different is that it is real or tells its tale by dealing with issues and situations confronted by real teenagers. Director Will Gluck and screenwriter Bert V. Royal are able to mine so much excellent comedy, humor, and satire from that realism. Easy A rips people apart for being so hypocritical and judgmental. It derives humor not only from that, but also from the fact that people are often critical of others to cover for something about themselves they don’t like.

The film understands that the complicated, rough and tumble politics of high school are a microcosm of what happens in the larger world. We all want to be accepted and loved, and yes, we will use other people and tell lies to get our way.

Easy A is brutally honest and funny. Sometimes, it isn’t as clever as the filmmakers think it is, which makes the film awkward, especially in the last act. Still, I give this movie credit for being a teen film that tackles the high school rumor mill and social ladder with such sparkling wit and lack of political correctness. Easy A envisions teen angst and the high school drama from a different angle, and the reward for watching it is a memorably good time at the movies.

7 of 10

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2011 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Emma Stone)

Happy Birthday, Debbie!

Take time to enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Empire Strikes Back," "Malcolm X," "Exorcist" Among 2010 National Film Registry

Press release:

Hollywood Blockbusters, Independent Films and Shorts Selected for Preservation in the 2010 National Film Registry

“All the President’s Men,” “The Exorcist,” and George Lucas’ Student Film Among Picks

The year 2010 will mark yet another December to remember in film preservation. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today named 25 motion pictures—Hollywood classics, documentaries and innovative shorts reflecting genres from every era of American filmmaking—to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Spanning the period 1891-1996, the films named to the registry range from a rare glimpse of San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake and the political thriller "All the President’s Men" to George Lucas’ student film in 1967 and his sci-fi special-effects extravaganza "The Empire Strikes Back." Also included in the registry are lesser-known, but culturally vital films such as the black independent film "Cry of Jazz," Luis Valdez’s "I Am Joaquin" and John Huston’s war documentary "Let There Be Light," which was banned by the War Department for 35 years. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 550.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant, to be preserved for all time. These films are not selected as the "best" American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring significance to American culture.

"As the nation’s repository of American creativity, the Library of Congress—with the support of the U.S. Congress—must ensure the preservation of America’s film patrimony," said Billington. "The National Film Registry is a reminder to the nation that the preservation of our cinematic creativity must be a priority because about half of the films produced before 1950 and as much as 90 percent of those made before 1920 have been lost to future generations."

Annual selections to the registry are finalized by the Librarian after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public (this year 2,112 films were nominated) and having extensive discussions with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board, as well as the Library’s motion-picture staff. The Librarian urges the public to make nominations for next year’s registry at the Film Board’s website (

In other news about the National Film Registry, "These Amazing Shadows," a documentary on the National Film Registry independently produced by Gravitas Docufilms, will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011. More information can be found at the website (

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s massive motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings ( The Packard Campus is funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute and is home to more than six million collection items. The facility provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Registries for film and recorded sound.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

Films Selected to the 2010 National Film Registry:

1. Airplane (1980)

2. All the President’s Men (1976)

3. The Bargain (1914)

4. Cry of Jazz (1959)

5. Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB (1967)

6. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

7. The Exorcist (1973)

8. The Front Page (1931)

9. Grey Gardens (1976)

10. I Am Joaquin (1969)

11. It’s a Gift (1934)

12. Let There Be Light (1946)

13. Lonesome (1928)

14. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937)

15. Malcolm X (1992)

16. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)

17. Newark Athlete (1891)

18. Our Lady of the Sphere (1969)

19. The Pink Panther (1964)

20. Preservation of the Sign Language (1913)

21. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

22. Study of a River (1996)

23. Tarantella (1940)

24. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

25. A Trip Down Market Street (1906)

Review: "She's the Man" Only Thinks its Clever

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 197 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

She’s the Man (2006)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual material
DIRECTOR: Andy Fickman
WRITERS: Karen McCullahand Kirsten Smith and Ewan Leslie; from a story by Ewan Leslie (Inspired by Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare)
PRODUCERS: Ewan Leslie, Jack Leslie, and Lauren Shuler Donner
EDITOR: Michael Jablow


Starring: Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum, Laura Ramsey, Vinnie Jones, David Grass, Julie Haggerty, Robert Hoffman, Jonathan Sadowski, Alex Breckenridge, Amanda Crew, Jessica Lucas, James Kirk

When her school discontinues the girl’s soccer team, Viola Johnson (Amanda Bynes) is determined to prove that she can make it on a boy’s team, especially after her boyfriend, soccer stud Justin (Robert Hoffman), mocks her. When her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) skips town to play with his band in London, Viola disguises herself as Sebastian and heads to his boarding school, Illyria Prep. There, Viola hopes that she can make the boy’s soccer team if her disguise convinces everyone at Illyria that she is indeed Sebastian. The Illyria boy’s soccer team is set to play her real school, Cornwall, in two weeks, and Viola would love to beat them and reveal to Justin that he lost to a team with a female player.

There are, however, complications galore. Viola falls in love with her handsome roommate, Duke Orsino (Channing Tatum), the captain of the Illyria team, and Duke certainly believes Sebastian is who he says he is because Duke doesn’t see through Viola in drag. Channing, however, is in love with Olivia (Laura Ramsey), but Olivia is in love with Sebastian who is really Viola in drag. As the day of the big game between Illyria and Cornwall approaches, the real Sebastian returns to school, and Viola in drag starts finding life a drag.

A work that is inspired by William Shakespeare can be anything from an adaptation that is derivative to a work that merely borrows a few ideas. It’s been so long since I’ve read Twelfth Night, but I remember enough to recognize what the 2006 high school romantic comedy, She’s the Man borrows. Shakespeare aside, She’s the Man is a slightly above average youth comedy. It has its moments – most of them derived from the lies and confusion brought about by mistaken identity and impersonation. There are some decent, if not good characters. It’s not that this film is not well directed so much as it is badly written. The writers may have borrowed from Shakespeare, but there’s not enough left of the Bard to make this a winning script. The narrative is too long, and the writers prop it on mishaps and identity-based gags rather than on good characters.

Since her days of romping on Nickelodeon, I’ve thought Amanda Bynes had the making of a fine comic actress. She is growing into one, and she takes this flimsy material and makes it worthy, though flawed. Channing Tatum (as Duke) is not a good actor, but he’s handsome and the camera mugs on him the way it does another acting challenged, but great movie star, Keanu Reeves. Tatum does his best to mimic the posturing, posing, and attitude of a modern young, urban black teen. There’s enough kink in his hair and enough tinge in his complexion to almost convince that he has… soul?

5 of 10

Friday, September 15, 2006


Review: "Saved!" is Heavenly

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 202 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Saved! (2004)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for strong thematic issues involving teens – sexual content, pregnancy, smoking, and language
DIRECTOR: Brian Dannelly
WRITERS: Michael Urban and Brian Dannelly
PRODUCERS: Michael Ohoven, Sandy Stern, Michael Stipe, and William Vince
EDITOR: Pamela Martin


Starring: Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Eva Amurri, Chad Faust, Elizabeth Thai, Martin Donovan, and Mary-Louise Parker

Mary (Jena Malone) is a devout senior at American Eagle Christian High School who believes that Jesus protects her and guides her every action. She’s also part of a group of devout, young women who lead kind of a campus crusade discouraging other students from backsliding (sinning and going away from their Christian faith), and Jean really follows of the example of group leader Hilary Faye (Mandy Moore), a perky, holier-than-thou, and sanctimonious campus crusader.

The shit hits the fan when Mary discovers that her boyfriend, Dean (Chad Faust), is gay. She prays deeply and comes to believe that Jesus want her to sacrifice her virginity to have sex with Dean to cure him of his homosexuality. Not only does she not cure him, she ends up pregnant. When she learns of her condition and that God won’t restore her…cherry…or wholeness, she begins to look at her peers and faith in an entirely different light. She leaves Hilary and her holy girls and strikes up a friendship with Hilary’s wheelchair-bound brother, Roland (Macaulay Culkin), and the school’s lone Jewish student, a rebellious girl named Cassandra (Eva Amurri). She also falls for Patrick (Patrick Fugit), the son of the self-righteous school principal Pastor Skip (Martin Donovan).

Co-produced by R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, director/co-writer Brian Dannelly’s Saved! is a dark coming of age story, and Dannelly came to bust up on the white American Christian subculture. The film isn’t mean-spirited; actually, Saved! has a far more generous Christian tone than many Christian media personalities and a certain “passionate” film. The satire is sharp, but it’s aimed at a message of tolerance and forgiveness. Saved! doesn’t “poo-poo” sin; it simply asks that people be more mature about how they regard sin. It’s as if Dannelly and co-screenwriter Michael Urban are encourage self-examination, forgiveness, and self-awareness of what Jesus’ message really means to people. They aim the satire and poke fun at intolerance, self-righteousness, and those who see the splinter in the eye of another, but not the logs in their own eyes.

The acting really sells the movie. Mandy Moore surprised me by how energetically she embraced her role. She makes Hilary Faye villainous rather than a villain, so that Hilary can get the same chance at redemption that she denies others. Of course, there’s the added delight of seeing Macaulay Culkin, who is a good (but not a stand out) actor, and who has the kind of screen chemistry that makes him a star. Truthfully, every scene in which he appears, the camera seems to center on him. His pull is like the tug of a cinematic dwarf star.

I only had issues with the somewhat puff piece ending, and how Saved! softly served the way fanatics under duress tend to act, but the film made its point. And no satire of Christians was ever so…Christian.

9 of 10


Monday, December 27, 2010

Teena Marie Has Left Us

Teena Marie died on Sunday, Dec. 26th.  I don't really know what to say because I'm still in shock.  I'll let MTV and The Wrap tell you more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Black Film Critics Circle "The Social Network," But Spread the Love

There is a new film critics organization, the Black Film Critics Circle.  This is how they describe themselves on their website:

Welcome to the Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), a new film critic’s organization dedicated to honoring excellence of professionals in the film industry in U.S. and World Cinema.

BFCC is a professional organization of film critics working in all areas of the media to include print publications,broadcast television, radio and on-line outlets.

I'm curious to see how long they last.  Like just about every critics organization, they chose The Social Network as their best picture,while also awarding it "Best Ensemble" and "Best Adapted Screenplay."  They also liked Black Swan with two wins, director and actress (Natalie Portman) and The Fighter, giving supporting acting honors to Christian Bale (actor) and Melissa Leo (actress).

The group also handed out special awards.  One of them is a surprise - a notice for Gareth Edwards, director of science fiction flick, Monsters, "for taking an original and organic approach to cinema that brings the industry back to its roots (visual storytelling) and favors creativity and resourcefulness over contrived storytelling and reliance on big budgets and mindless spectacle. 'Monsters' is a great look at how sci-fi is done right (human stories, not creature-features) by a director who just shot the film and THEN found the story to tell, with good visual effects employed economically to enhance the film - not define it."

Picture: The Social Network

Director: Darren Afronosky, Black Swan

Actor: TIE
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Actress: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

Supporting Actor: Christian Bale (The Fighter)

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan – Inception

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

Best Documentary: Waiting For Superman

Best Foreign Film: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3

Best Ensemble: The Social Network

BFCC Pioneer Award - Haile Gerima
BFCC Rising Star/Best Newcomer Award - Jaden Smith
BFCC Special mention: Gareth Edwards for "Monsters"

TOP 10 Films:
1. The Social Network
2. Inception
3. Black Swan
4. The Fighter

5. TIE:
The Kids Are All Right
The Town

7. Toy Story 3
8. The King's Speech
9. Winter's Bone
10. The Ghost Writer

Review: "Elf" Still Will Ferrell's Best

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 169 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Elf (2003)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild rude humor and language
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
WRITER: David Berenbaum
PRODUCERS: Jon Berg, Todd Komarnicki, and Shauna Robertson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greg Gardiner (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Dan Lebental


Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Edward Asner, Zooey Deschanel, Peter Dinklage, Faizon Love, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Amy Sedaris, Michael Lerner, Andy Richter, Kyle Gass, Jon Favreau, Ray Harryhausen, and Artie Lange

Will Ferrell is an excellent comic actor, a fine character actor, and simply a good actor. All his light fully shines in his star vehicle/Christmas fantasy, Elf. It’s a feel good film that definitely worked in making me feel good, and it’s so darn hilarious.

As an infant at an orphanage, Buddy (Will Ferrell) accidentally ended up being hauled back to the North Pole in Santa’s (Edward Asner) toy sack. After Buddy really begins to wreak havoc on the elf community because of his huge size and ungainly body, his Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) tells Buddy that he is not an elf, but is instead a human. Buddy travels to New York to meet his biological father, Walter (James Caan), who didn’t realize he had a love child. While Walter’s wife, Emily (Mary Steenburgen), and son, Michael (Daniel Tay), easily take to Buddy’s strange but delightful personality and ways, Walter is uncomfortable with Buddy. It’s a situation ripe for some of that Christmas magic.

Director/actor Jon Favreau’s film is very well made, from the topnotch cast of character actors to the magical sets that easily capture the mood of holiday times. Zooey Deschanel as Buddy’s love interest Jovie has a beautiful voice that makes any song ripe with Christmas joy. James Caan, Ed Asner, and Daniel Day also turn in solid, steady performances.

This is, however, Ferrell’s film. He’s hilarious, and I laughed much harder than I thought I would. He has a great comic sense, and he can really bury himself in silly characters. Most of all, he imbued Buddy the Elf with the Christmas spirit. I really felt the yuletide thing, and I’m a straight up Scrooge. Fans of Ferrell and lovers of Christmas movies will be delighted, and people who don’t go for that thing will still have fun. Elf is good.

7 of 10


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Negromancer's First Christmas!

Sort of.  This is Negromancer's first Christmas as a blog, although it had several in its original incarnation as a website.

So Merry Christmas, one and all.  You, the readers and visitors, have been a gift, and it seems as if more new arrivals are gifting each month.  So, let's hope that things will be even better for all of us by the time we get to next Christmas.

Once again, Merry Christmas, y'all!

Review: "The Polar Express" Always a Wonderful Christmas Arrival

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 1 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Polar Express (2004)
Running time: 93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
WRITERS: William Broyles, Jr. and Robert Zemeckis (based upon the book by Chris Van Allsburg)
PRODUCERS: Steve Starkey, Gary Goetzman, William Teitler, and Robert Zemeckis
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Don Burgess, A.S.C. and Robert Presley
EDITORS: Jeremiah O’Driscoll and R. Orlando Duenas
Academy Award nominee


Starring: (also voices) Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Peter Scolari, Nona Gaye, Eddie Deezen, and Charles Fleischer with (voices only) Daryl Sabara and Jimmy Bennett

A boy, known in this story as Hero Boy (Tom Hanks/voice by Daryl Sabara), wants to believe in Santa Claus, but he’s old enough to start questioning the myths and traditions around Christmas. One Christmas Eve, a magical train named The Polar Express, arrives outside his home. Encouraged by the mysterious but friendly Conductor (Hanks), this doubting boy boards the train and heads towards the North Pole and Santa Claus’ (Hanks) home. There, he and two other children, Hero Girl (Nona Gaye) and Lonely Boy (Peter Scolari), embark on a journey of self-discovery.

I’m not crazy about the term, “instant classic.” However, I will apply it to the 2004 Christmas film, The Polar Express. Although it opened to mixed critical reviews and a less than stellar box office (compared to its budget), the film’s word of mouth kept its box office steady and strong on the way to becoming a blockbuster; the film even had a 2005 re-release to IMAX theatres. The Polar Express was one of the very best films of 2004 and will likely remain a popular Christmas film (certainly for me). One reason it will remain popular is because the film doesn’t look at Christmas from the point of view as a particular religious experience, but from the point of view as a holiday representing American can-do spirit, charity, and optimism. Like many popular Christmas film, it identifies with the notions that mark Christmas as a secular holiday, rather than a “holy day,” and the Christmas in this film is firmly rooted in American culture.

The film mixes computer-generated animation with a process called “3D motion capture.” In that method, the actors’ physical performances are digitally recorded and are later “skinned,” which means wrapping those recorded performances in computer animation. The Polar Express was the first film to use 3D motion capture for all the actors’ performances in the film. In fact, all the children’s performances are acted by adults, using over-sized props to get their movements within the physical environment correct.

The look motion capture gave the film was one of the reasons some critics had mixed feelings about The Polar Express, with one critic going so far as to say that the characters’ eyes looked creepy. Motion capture does make the characters look a little more like real people than regular computer animation. Here, the process works because the motion capture-rendered characters blend in so well with all with the CG animated props, sets, and backdrops. Basically, regardless of what processes the filmmakers used, The Polar Express has a unique look – you’ve never seen anything like it. It’s amazing; it’s magical.

Quite a bit of credit should go to Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) as the ringmaster of this film. His script, co-written by William Broyles, Jr. (Apollo 13), is tight and concisely uses very little dialogue to establish character, which in turn allows the audience more time to focus on the film’s dazzling look. As a director, Zemeckis blends poignant comedy, a wondrous sense of adventure, and impressive action sequences to make a riveting and heartwarming Christmas fable.

The film treats Christmas as a secular affair – the true meaning of Christmas is on the inside, the Conductor tells Hero Boy. We can truly experience the magic of Christmas if we believe in that magic – Santa Claus, his home at the North Pole, his elves, etc. – and age doesn’t matter, as long as we believe. Friendship, sharing, humility, providing leadership, and relying on and trusting in friends – those are Christmas ideals in which we can all believe regardless of creed. The Polar Express extols those ideals in a way that only the best Christmas films can.

9 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri for the song "Believe"), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard), and “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (William B. Kaplan, Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, and Dennis S. Sands)

2005 BAFTA: 1 nomination: “BAFTA Children's Award: Best Feature Film” (Steve Starkey and Robert Zemeckis)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Glen Ballard and Alan Silvestri for the song "Believe")

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Friday, December 24, 2010

New York Film Critics Circle "The Social Network"

Founded in 1935, the New York Film Critics Circle is, according to their website, “an organization of film reviewers from New York-based publications that exists to honor excellence in U.S. and world cinema.” Members are critics from daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, magazines, and online general-interest publications (that meet certain qualifications). Every year in December, Circle members meet in New York to vote on awards for the year's films. The Circle also puts on an awards presentation, which will be held on Monday, January 10, 2011 to honor 2010 winners.

The Circle was the first film critics organization that I encountered as a budding, young movie lover. The Circle's awards have been predictors of the Oscar nominations. However, The Circle sees it awards “as a principled alternative to the Oscars, honoring esthetic merit in a forum that is immune to commercial and political pressures,” according to their website.

Here's the complete list of the 2010 winners:

Best Film – The Social Network

Best Director – David Fincher (The Social Network)

Best Screenplay – Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right)

Best Actress – Annette Bening (for The Kids Are All Right)

Best Actor – Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)

Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Best Supporting Actor – Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)

Best Cinematography – Matthew Libatique (The Black Swan)

Best Animated Film – The Illusionist

Best Non-fiction Film – Inside Job

Best Foreign Language Film - Carlos

Best First Feature – Animal Kingdom

Review: "American Gangster" is Gangsta, Though it Falls Short of Greatness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 28 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

American Gangster (2007)
Running time: 157 minutes (2 hours, 37 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity, and sexuality
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
WRITER: Steven Zallian (based upon the article “The Return of Superfly” by Mark Jacobson)
PRODUCERS: Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
2007 Academy Award nominee


Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Carla Gugino, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Armand Assante, Idris Elba, Common, Warner Miller, Albert Jones, J. Kyle Manzay, T.I., and Clarence Williams III

In the late 80’s, a critic (I don’t remember whom) said, in reference to Joel and Ethan Coen’s Miller’s Crossing, that every American director who wanted to achieve greatness had to make at least one epic crime film (like The Godfather or Mean Streets). Ridley Scott was born in Great Britain, but the majority of his work has been for American movie studios. It seems only right that, in the tradition of great crime movies by such uniquely American filmmakers as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorcese, Scott tackle a great American crime story. Scott’s Oscar-nominated 2007 film, American Gangster, chronicles the rise of Frank Lucas, the real-life Harlem drug kingpin who left segregated North Carolina and eventually started a heroin ring in the late 1960’s that netted him over a quarter of a billion dollars in assets by the time he was brought down.

After the death of his mentor, Elsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (Clarence Williams III), Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) slowly, but gradually takes his place, building an international heroin ring that begins in Asia’s Golden Triangle. With the help of his cousin, a military officer named Nate (Roger Guenveur Smith), Lucas smuggles the heroin through the military back to the east coast of the U.S. Under the name, “Blue Magic,” Lucas sells a product that is twice as pure as other heroin on the street, but at half the price.

Meanwhile, Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), a New Jersey police detective, is finding that his unwillingness to steal money and drugs like many of his crooked colleagues has made him an outcast. His fortunes change when he’s pegged to start his own special investigative unit that will focus not on small time dealers, but on the major players, which puts Frank Lucas squarely in his sights. However, Roberts’ shadowy hunt might land him more than just another crime boss.

American Gangster is an engrossing story that is smoothly and efficiently told, considering that its epic scope seems too large for a single film that runs under three hours. [American Gangster’s DVD release has a longer version of the film.] As well told as this film is, it seems to be missing a lot, thus, making it seem like a shadow version of classic 70’s crime dramas that are also set in the gritty, crime-ridden metropolis that was New York City then. This is certainly a juicy period piece, in which everything: the clothes, cars, sets, and furnishings feel like the 1970’s. Even the members of the cast seem caught in a malaise of poverty, crime, and corruption, as if they were caught in a 70’s time warp.

Still, although the mood is right, the heart of this movie is the duel between Washington’s Lucas and Crowe’s Roberts, and much of that is relegated to the film’s last half hour. Ridley Scott and his screenwriter, Oscar winner Steve Zallian (Schindler’s List), certainly create an engaging story chronicling both Lucas’ rise and Roberts’ reinvention of himself and resurrection of his career. Washington plays Lucas as if he were a cool big cat, a predator stalking the room – seen and unseen. He’s the smartest guy in the room and the most dangerous man among many bad men, because Lucas knows when to use violence and how much. Like many of Washington’s performances, it is a blast to behold and so good because he gives so many layers to Lucas – many of which we only glimpse. Crowe reveals Roberts to be a man of honor and integrity in his professional life, but woefully pathetic in his personal life. In that way, Crowe keeps Roberts as interesting as the alluring bad guy, Lucas. That we know Roberts is so pathetic as a family man balances the Boy Scout cop side of him – which by itself is not entirely interesting.

This film is ultimately missing the meat of the confrontation and larger relationship between these two men. American Gangster, Scott’s film, is mostly about Lucas building his empire, and that story is attractive. However, a complete story about a great gangster recounts both his rise in the criminal underworld and his fall at the hands of a determined lawman (or men). American Gangster is a fine film, but it shorts us on the epic battle between criminal and detective and thus, shorts itself of greatness.

7 of 10

2008 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Arthur Max-art director and Beth A. Rubino-set decorator) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Ruby Dee)

2008 BAFTA Awards: 5 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Harris Savides), “Best Editing” (Pietro Scalia), “Best Film” (Brian Grazer and Ridley Scott), “Best Music” (Marc Streitenfeld), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Steven Zaillian)

2008 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Ridley Scott), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Denzel Washington)

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Japanese Sci-Fi Film, "Gantz," to Screen One-Night Only

NCM Fathom, NEW PEOPLE and Dark Horse Comics Bring Exclusive Event Featuring Two of Japan’s Biggest Stars to 325 Select Movie Theaters LIVE on January 20

GANTZ, a live-action Japanese feature event, is making its world premiere in 325 movie theaters in an exclusive one-night Fathom event on Thursday, January 20th, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. CT / 6:00 p.m. MT / 8:30 p.m. PT (tape delayed). Following the feature, GANTZ’s two leading actors, Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters from Iwo Jima) and Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note, Detroit Metal City) will participate in an exclusive live interview that can only be seen at this event.

Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at For a complete list of theater locations and prices, please visit the web site (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Presented by NCM Fathom and NEW PEOPLE, in association with Dark Horse Comics, GANTZ (English dubbed) tells the story of childhood friends Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato who are accidentally killed while trying to save another man’s life. Rather than find themselves in the hereafter, however, they awaken in a strange apartment in which they find a mysterious black orb they come to know as “GANTZ.” Along with similar abductees, they are provided with equipment and weaponry and manipulated into playing a kind of game in which they are sent back out to the greater world to do battle with alien beings, all while never quite knowing whether this game is an illusion or their new reality.

Ninomiya and Matsuyama are two of Japan’s biggest stars. Ninomiya, best known in America for his role in Clint Eastwood’s 2006 blockbuster, Letters from Iwo Jima, is both an actor and a singer. He is world-renowned as a member of the Japanese boy band “Arashi,” which topped Japan’s music charts in 2009 with the three best-selling singles. Matsuyama has been one of the most sought-after actors in Japanese film and has won several awards including Japanese Academy Awards Best New Actor (2007) and Most Popular Actor (2009). Matsuyama is recognized for his part as L in Death Note (2006), Death Note II: the Last Name (2006) and Death Note: L, change the WorLd (2008).

“GANTZ is the kind of kinetic action film that pushes the boundaries of the sci-fi genre,” said Seiji Horibuchi, founder of NEW PEOPLE. “We’re very excited to work with NCM Fathom and Dark Horse Comics to organize this special event and look forward to the property’s domestic popularity growing even more following this new release.”

GANTZ will appear in 325 theaters, including AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark USA Inc., Clearview Cinemas, Cobb Theatres, Goodrich Quality Theatres, Hollywood Theaters, Marcus Theatres, National Amusements, Rave Motion Pictures, R/C Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group movie theaters, as well as The Beacon Cinema (Pittsfield, MA), The Carolina Theatre (Asheville, NC) and Palace Cinema 9 (South Burlington, VT), through NCM’s exclusive Digital Broadcast Network —North America’s largest cinema broadcast network.

“GANTZ offers a thrilling world that nobody has ever seen in live-action,” said Dan Diamond, vice president of NCM Fathom. “Incredibly popular in Japan as well as among American manga and anime enthusiasts, this new GANTZ rendition is sure to thrill audiences in local movie theaters around the country.”

About National CineMedia (NCM)
NCM operates NCM Media Networks, a leading integrated media company reaching U.S. consumers in movie theaters, online and through mobile technology. The NCM Cinema Network and NCM Fathom present cinema advertising and events across the nation’s largest digital in-theater network, comprised of theaters owned by AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK), Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and other leading regional theater circuits. NCM’s theater network covers 170 Designated Market Areas® (49 of the top 50) and includes approximately 17,300 screens (15,700 digital). During 2009, over 690 million patrons attended movies shown in theaters currently included in NCM’s network (excluding Consolidated Theatres, Rave Cinemas and R/C Theatres). The NCM Fathom Events broadcast network is comprised of over 550 locations in 156 Designated Market Areas® (49 of the top 50). The NCM Interactive Network offers 360-degree integrated marketing opportunities in combination with cinema, encompassing over 40 entertainment-related web sites, online widgets and mobile applications. National CineMedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: NCMI) owns a 48.2% interest in and is the managing member of National CineMedia LLC. For more information, visit or

Based in San Francisco, California, NEW PEOPLE offers the latest films, art, fashion and retail brands from Japan through its unique entertainment destination as well as licensing and distribution of selective Japanese films. NEW PEOPLE strives to offer the most entertaining motion pictures straight from the "Kingdom of Pop" for audiences of all ages, especially the manga and anime generation, in North America. Some titles include DEATH NOTE, KAMIKAZE GIRLS, and THE TASTE OF TEA. For more information about films, please visit To learn more about NEW PEOPLE in San Francisco, please visit

About Dark Horse Comics
Since 1986, Dark Horse Comics has proven to be a solid example of how integrity and innovation can help broaden a unique storytelling medium and establish a small, homegrown company as an industry giant. The company is known for the progressive and creator friendly atmosphere it provides for writers and artists. In addition to publishing comics from top talent like Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, Neil Gaiman, Gerard Way and comics legend Will Eisner, Dark Horse has developed such successful characters as The Mask, Timecop, and SpyBoy. Additionally, their highly successful line of comics and products based on popular properties includes Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Aliens, Conan, Emily the Strange, Tim Burton, Trigun, Serenity and Domo. Today Dark Horse Comics is the largest independent comic-book publisher in the U.S. and is recognized as one of the world's leading publisher of licensed comics material.

Review: "The School of Rock" is Sweetness Playing Edgy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 251 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The School of Rock (2003)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some rude humor and drug
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
WRITER: Mike White
PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rogier Stoffers, N.S.C.
EDITOR: Sandra Adair
Golden Globe nominee


Starring: Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Adam Pascal, Lucas Papaelias, Lucas Babin, Jordan-Claire Green, Veronica Afflerbach, Miranda Cosgrove, Joey Gaydos, Jr., Robert Tsai, Angelo Massagali, Kevin (Alexander) Clark, Maryam Hassan, Caitlan Hale, Cole Hawkins, Brian Falduto, James Hosey, Aleisha Allen, Zachary Infante, Rebecca Brown, and Jaclyn Neidenthal with Frank Whaley (no credit)

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a wannabe rock star kicked out of his own band. Dewey has also been mooching off his roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White), a substitute teacher, for years, but Mike’s girlfriend, Patty Di Marco (Sarah Silverman), wants Dewey out of the picture if he doesn’t pay his rent. In need of cash, fortune favors Dewey, when he answers a phone call meant for Ned. Dewey, pretending to be Ned, poses as a substitute teacher at an exclusive prep school. Upon discovering that the students in his particular classroom are quite musically gifted, Dewey tries to turn them into a rock band with himself as the leader. His goal is to enter the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest and win the $20,000 prize. Of course, there are complications.

The School of Rock certainly seems out of place in the filmography of director Richard Linklater, the fine director behind such fabulous films as Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Dazed and Confused. However, that this feel-good, warm-hearted, family-friendly comedy actually feels very good, is simply warm-hearted, is nicely family-friendly, and is funny is a testament to Linklater’s skill. This could have been yet another mediocre flick about a rebel who sneaks into the system and teaches the kids (the Socrates motif) to feel good about themselves, believe in themselves, and unleash their creative skills and talents. Yes, it is just another one of those films, but it works because it’s entertaining and ultimately doesn’t seem so contrived.

A lot of the credit goes to Jack Black. His performance is one of sustained madness that is a shaky house of lies built upon a flimsy foundation. Black isn’t just another funny fat guy; he’s also a movie star with an intriguing film personality. So far, he’s basically played the same person, but there is something about him that works on the big screen, even when you realize that the characters he plays are selfish and sneaky suckas. He has a look on his face and a mean glint in his eyes that suggest he deserves watching; for some reason it works.

The School of Rock is not without it’s problems. At times it seems too contrived and too long. The narrative seems bogged down in the classroom when the entire school begs to be examined, especially Joan Cusack’s uptight and anal school principal Rosalie Mullins. Ultimately, Dewey Finn is let off the hook too easily, but it leads to a sweet finale, so I can cut The School of Rock some slack.

7 of 10

2004 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jack Black)


Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

NYC Online Film Critics Love "The Social Network" and "Black Swan"

The New York Film Critics Online is a group of Internet film critics based in New York City that meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.  As usual, The Social Network dominates, winning awards for "Best Picture" and "Best Director."  Aaron Sorkin wins the screenplay award, which he has done for most of the awards season so far, at least except when Chris Nolan wins for Inception's screenplay:  Black Swan picked up a number of awards, including the actress award for Natalie Portman.

Picture: The Social Network

Director: David Fincher, The Social Network

Actor: James Franco, 127 Hours

Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Supporting: Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

Breakthrough Performer: Noomi Rapace, The Millennium Trilogy

Debut Director: John Wells, The Company Men

Ensemble Cast: The Kids Are All Right

Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Foreign Language: I Am Love

Animated: Toy Story 3

Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, Black Swan

Music: Clint Mansell, Black Swan

127 Hours
Another Year
Black Swan
Blue Valentine
The Ghost Writer
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The Social Network

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Meet the Fockers Just Wants to Make You Laugh... Nothing More

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of No. 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Meet the Fockers (2004)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, and a brief drug reference
WRITERS: Jim Herzfeld and John Hamburg, from a story by Marc Hyman and Jim Herzfeld (based upon characters created by Greg Glienna and Mary Ruth Clarke)
PRODUCERS: Robert De Niro, Jay Roach, and Jane Rosenthal
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten, Lee Haxall, and Jon Poll


Starring: Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, Owen Wilson, Spencer Pickren, Bradley Pickren, Alana Ubach, Ray Santiago, Tim Blake Nelson, Shelly Berman, and Cedric Yarbrough

In 2000’s Meet the Parents, “Greg” Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) meets his girlfriend Pam Byrne’s (Teri Polo) parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina Byrnes (Blythe Danner), but Jack Byrnes is the suspicious father that is every date’s worst nightmare. Much hilarity ensued as Greg tried to earn Jack, a retired CIA officer’s, trust. Four years later, here comes the sequel, Meet the Fockers (the MPAA allegedly demanded that the studio find a family with Focker as a real last name before they allowed the name to be in the film’s title.), and this time Greg and Pam are planning marriage. Jack has more or less grown to accept Greg, mainly because most of his attention is currently on his grandson, Little Jack (Spencer and Bradley Pickren), whom the Byrne’s are sitting while his parents are away.

So it’s time for the Byrnes to meet the Fockers, Greg’s parents, Bernie (Dustin Hoffman) and Roz (Barbra Streisand). Greg and Pam join her parents for the long road trip to Miami where the Bernie and Roz live, and while the trip goes well, the initial meeting between the two sets of parents goes a little awry. That’s just a taste of troublesome things to come, especially after Jack learns that Greg has a few bombshell secrets that Greg’s trying to hide in order to stay in Jack’s vaunted “circle of trust.”

Meet the Fockers is exceedingly funny, although also deeply shallow. The film’s vulgar and crude comedy matches such teen and twenty-something favorites as There’s Something About Mary and American Pie for raunchiness. Meet the Fockers was a giant hit over the 2004 Christmas holidays and well into 2005 because it is ostensibly a family comedy with a lot of belly laughs and plenty of outrageous humor – some of it capable of chasing prudes out of the theatre. Still, the screenwriters and the cast, who are so game to play this script to the hilt, are to be commended for making great humor out of incidents, misunderstandings, misfires, miscalculations, etc. that would bring real families to the brink of a war of the relatives.

Ben Stiller, coolly playing the straight man, keeps this movie sane. Robert De Niro is too intense and actually makes his character hateful, except for the opening and closing scenes. Dustin Hoffman alternates between being annoying and funny. Barbra Streisand is a comedy dynamo, and shows a side of her talent that hasn’t been seen much the last 20 years or so – that of the delightful comedienne. Overall, Meet the Fockers gives much laughter for its value, whether you see it at home or in a theatre. In fact, this is a must-see for people who just want to watch a movie that will make them laugh.

6 of 10


Chicago Film Critics Friend "The Social Network"

The Social Network express rolls on, as the Chicago Film Critics Association named the David Fincher film its "Best Picture" in the 22nd edition of these awards.  The film, which chronicles the drama around the development of Facebook, also won the director's award for Fincher and a screenplay prize.  Another film that is dominating its category during the awards season is Toy Story 3 (of which I've only seen the first half hour - more on that later), and it continues with the Chicago critics.


Best Picture: The Social Network

Best Director: David Fincher "The Social Network"

Best Actor: Colin Firth "The King's Speech"

Best Actress: Natalie Portman "Black Swan"

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale "The Fighter"

Best Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld "True Grit"

Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan "Inception"

Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin "The Social Network"

Best Foreign Language Film: A Prophet

Best Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister "Inception"

Best Original Score: Clint Mansell "Black Swan"

Most Promising Performer: Jennifer Lawrence "Winter's Bone"

Most Promising Filmmaker: Derek Cianfrance "Blue Valentine"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: "The Last Airbender" Doesn't Fly

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 105 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Last Airbender (2010)
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG for fantasy action violence
DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan
WRITER: M. Night Shyamalan (based upon the animated television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko)
PRODUCERS: Scott Aversano, Sam Mercer, and M. Night Shyamalan
EDITOR: Conrad Buff
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard


Starring: Noah Ringer, Dev Patel, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis, Seychelle Gabriel, Damon Gupton, and Summer Bishil

The Last Airbender, a film by M. Night Shyamalan, is based on the animated television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender, created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and which originally aired on Nickelodeon. In The Last Airbender, the world is divided into four kingdoms named after the element they harness: water (Water Tribe), air (Air Nomads), earth (Earth Kingdom), and fire (Fire Nation).

The world has been ravaged by the Fire Nation’s aggression and its endless war against the other nations. Katara (Nicola Peltz) and her older brother, Sokka (Jackson Rathbone), of the Southern Water Tribe, discover an iceberg that shoots a beam of light into the sky. Inside that iceberg is a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer), a young successor to a long line of Avatars. The Avatar is the only person who can “bend” or manipulate all four elements and also restore peace on the planet, which makes him wanted by the Fire Nation.

Katara and Sokka learn that Aang never completed his training to be the Avatar. They become his companions and protectors as they journey to the stronghold of the Northern Water Tribe, where Aang and Katara can learn to bend water. Prince Zuko (Dev Patel), the 16-year-old exiled son of the Fire Nation’s leader, Fire Lord Ozai (Cliff Curtis), follows the trio, hoping to capture the Avatar in a bid to restore his own honor. Can Zuko and the Fire Nation really stand in the way of Aang’s destiny?

Visually, The Last Airbender is dazzling. The special effects are impressive; although I didn’t see this in 3D, I thought the effects made for good eye candy. The exotic locales transported me to a wide range of magical and mystical places that gave the world of The Last Airbender a sense of enchantment. The striking sets, colorful costumes, and computer-generated backdrops added to supernatural charm.

Too bad that everything else in the movie is mediocre or problematic. This movie feels compressed, as if it were a half-hour too short. Even the fight scenes, which are at times nice, seem to be missing something. The nonsensical plot twists, the characters who just pop out of nowhere with almost no context, and the constant shifting from one setting to the next makes The Last Airbender feel like a disappointing, condensed version of a much better movie.

The writing is also poor because nothing feels or works as it should. The romance is bland and sometimes feels rushed and phony. The dialogue is wooden, especially the clumsy voiceovers, and the narrative is sodden. The characters are flat, and the overacting of some of the performers only makes those characters seem even flatter. Aang, the hero and ostensibly the lead, lacks personality, and as Aang, Noah Ringer is either a bad actor or is just struggling with a personality-free character.

The Last Airbender keeps throwing so many things at the viewers, and while some of it is pretty and stirring, the heart of the story: the drama, the conflict, and the characters are not at all stirring. You can like The Last Airbender, at the same time you marvel at how writer/director M. Night Shyamalan seems not to have a clue what he is doing. Everything is there to make The Last Airbender a really good fantasy epic, but apparently the notion that Shyamalan was the right director to make that good movie turned out to be a fantasy.

5 of 10

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


41 Songs Compete for "Original Song" Oscar Nominations

Press release:

41 Original Songs Queue for 2010 Oscar®

Beverly Hills, CA (December 15, 2010) – Forty-one songs from eligible feature-length motion pictures are in contention for nominations in the Original Song category for the 83rd Academy Awards®, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced today.

The original songs, along with the motion picture in which each song is featured, are listed below in alphabetical order by film and song title:

"Alice" from "Alice in Wonderland"

"Forever One Love" from "Black Tulip"

"Freedom Song" from "Black Tulip"

"Bound to You" from "Burlesque"

"Welcome to Burlesque" from "Burlesque"

"You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me" from "Burlesque"

"There’s a Place for Us" from "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"

"Coming Home" from "Country Strong"

"Me and Tennessee" from "Country Strong"

"Despicable Me" from "Despicable Me"

"Prettiest Girls" from "Despicable Me"

"Dear Laughing Doubters" from "Dinner for Schmucks"

"Better Days" from "Eat Pray Love"

"If You Run" from "Going the Distance"

"Darkness before the Dawn" from "Holy Rollers"

"Sticks & Stones" from "How to Train Your Dragon"

"Le Gris" from "Idiots and Angels"

"Chanson Illusionist" from "The Illusionist"

"Never Say Never" from "The Karate Kid"

"To the Sky" from "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole"

"What If" from "Letters to Juliet"

"Life during Wartime" from "Life during Wartime"

"Made in Dagenham" from "Made in Dagenham"

"Little One" from "Mother and Child"

"Be the One" from "The Next Three Days"

"If I Rise" from "127 Hours"

"When You See Forever" from "The Perfect Game"

"I Remain" from "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

"Dream Big" from "Pure Country 2: The Gift"

"How I Love You" from "Ramona and Beezus"

"Darling I Do" from "Shrek Forever After"

"Noka Oi" from "Six Days in Paradise"

"This Is a Low" from "Tamara Drewe"

"I See the Light" from "Tangled"

"Rise" from "3 Billion and Counting"

"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3"

"Eclipse: All Yours" from "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse"

"Nothing" from "Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too"

"A Better Life" from "Unbeaten"

"Shine" from "Waiting for ‘Superman’"

"The Reasons Why" from "Wretches & Jabberers"

On Thursday, January 6, the Academy will screen clips featuring each song, in random order, for voting members of the Music Branch in Los Angeles. Following the screenings, members will determine the nominees by an averaged point system vote. If no song receives an average score of 8.25 or more, there will be no nominees in the category. If only one song achieves that score, it and the song receiving the next highest score shall be the two nominees. If two or more songs (up to five) achieve that score, they shall be the nominees. A DVD copy of the song clips will be made available to those branch members who are unable to attend the screening and who request it for home viewing. A mail-in ballot will be provided.

Under Academy rules, a maximum of two songs may be nominated from any one film. If more than two songs from a film are in contention, the two songs with the most votes will be the nominees.

To be eligible, a song must consist of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film. A clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition of both lyric and melody must be used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Review: Birthday Boy Samuel L. Jackson Shines in "Coach Carter"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Coach Carter (2005)
Running time: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, sexual content, language, teen partying, and some drug material
DIRECTOR: Thomas Carter
WRITERS: Mark Schwain and John Gatins (Inspired by the life of Ken Carter)
PRODUCERS: Brian Robbins, Mike Tollin, and David Gale
EDITOR: Peter Berger, A.C.E.
Black Reel Award winner


Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Ri’chard, Rob Brown, Debbi Morgan, and Ashanti, Rick Gonzalez, Antwon Tanner, Nana Gbewonyo, Channing Tatum, Denise Dowse, and Texas Battle

A true story inspires the film, Coach Carter, in which former high school basketball star named Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) takes the job as the head basketball coach at his alma mater, an inner city high school in Richmond, California. The film is not only inspirational, but is also an excellent look at what one person can do when he demands much of young people – the kind of whom no one expects much except prison, dead end jobs, or death by violence. To watch Carter take on a community that believes that playing on a winning team is the last good thing that will happen in the lives of these young athletes is rousing. It’s also depressingly true because so many people think that the only good thing many young black men have is sports; maybe they’re right, but Carter helped a few of them gain a little high ground.

Watching the team play before he formerly accepts the job, Carter is taken aback by the players’ lack of cohesiveness as a team and their disdain for rudimentary basketball skills. After he takes the job as coach of the Richmond High Oilers, he demands that the players respect both himself and one another. In order to stay on the team, the players must each sign a contract promising to attend class, maintain a 2.3 grade point average (they formerly only needed to maintain a 2.0 gpa), and wear a coat and tie on game day. Carter wants the boys to reach for more in life than just basketball, and he wants them to certainly see attending college as a realistically attainable goal. In the real life story, Carter received both high praise and staunch criticism when he made national news for padlocking the Richmond High gym, benching his entire team, and forfeiting games because some had failed to meet the academic requirements of their contract. The community, which had never had a championship basketball team, erupted in dissension when he refused to allow the players access to the gym for the failing to keep up their grades. The movie Coach Carter is a fictionalized account of the events, from the time Carter became Richmond’s coach to the resolution of the lockout.

Coach Carter is very much a basketball movie; although the script frequently delves into the lives of Ken Carter and some of his players off the court, it does so with a mixture of brevity and succinctness. There are nicely played, but rich subplots. One involves a player, Kenyan Stone (Rob Brown), and his girlfriend, Kyra (singer Ashanti), dealing with teen pregnancy. It is tough, heartfelt, and honest, rather than fake, cloying, and sociopolitical; there’s enough in that subplot to be a movie all its own. A second subplot follows Timo Cruz, superbly played by a rising talent, Rick Gonzalez (The Rookie), a troubled young man who almost becomes a victim of Richmond’s drug culture. One plot that was sadly glossed over (or underdeveloped) is the relationship between Ken Carter and his son, Damien Carter (Robert Ri’chard); Damien leaves a prestigious private school and transfers to Richmond to play for his father, much to Coach Carter’s chagrin, at least initially. That’s pretty much where that subplot ends.

The film really doesn’t deal with the opposition to Ken Carter as being villains. The thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of the community aren’t denigrated. In a non-stereotypical fashion, screenwriters Mark Schwain and John Gatins depict people’s disagreements with Ken Carter as the result of them having limited vision. He shows the good and bad of high school sports, and shows how it can exacerbate the reluctance to strive in people who already have narrow dreams. While Schwain and Gatins deal with the character and philosophical issues, director Thomas Carter makes sure Coach Carter works as a basketball movie. The game sequences have an edge-of-the seat feel to them, the kind of verisimilitude that suggests watching live games up close and personal, as if the viewer were actually in the game. That’s probably better than watching the majority of collegiate and pro basketball telecasts.

As usual, Samuel L. Jackson is the consummate professional actor, and he’s played the best African-American disciplinarian since Morgan Freeman in Lean On Me. He’s a star, and he sells this movie to the audience the way Ken Carter sold his athletes on his message – perhaps more so. Although a movie star, Jackson can climb into a fictional character and give it a skin, bringing the fictional to starkly radiant life. It’s evident from the first time Ken Carter confronts Richmond High Principal Garrison (Denise Dowse) who doesn’t see that both she and he, as well the entire school, must ask these young men to reach for more and to believe that they are capable of more than just being basketball players. This is the kind of really good movie that affirms our way of life and the belief in an American dream, and Jackson is the head salesman and best preacher.

8 of 10

2006 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Best Director” (Thomas Carter); 3 nominations: “Best Actor” (Samuel L. Jackson), “Best Breakthrough Performance” (Ashanti), and “Best Film”

2006 Image Awards: 1 win “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Samuel L. Jackson); 3 nominations: “Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film/Television Movie” (Thomas Carter), “Outstanding Motion Picture,” and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Ashanti)