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Monday, May 31, 2010
Ridley Scott Delivered Another Great Film in "Black Hawk Down"
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Running time: 144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language
DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott
WRITER: Ken Nolan (based upon the book by Mark Bowden)
PRODUCERS: Jerry Bruckheimer and Ridley Scott
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Slawomir Idziak (director of photography)
EDITOR: Pietro Scalia
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer
Academy Award winner
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Jason Isaacs, Tom Sizemore, William Fichtner, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, Ewen Bremner, Tom Hardy, Ron Eldard, Charlie Hofheimer, Hugh Dancy, and Tom Guiry
On October 3, 1993, just over 100 American Delta units and Ranger infantrymen were dropped by helicopter into the city of Mogadishu, Somalia to abduct two of Somali warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s lieutenants. Aidid had been stealing food provided by relief agencies for the Somalis; Somalia was suffering through a devastating famine, and images of the dead and dying filled the American television screens. By stealing the food, Aidid was using starvation to make his rivals submit to him.
The mission to capture his aides was only supposed to last an hour. However, a firefight between American military and Aidid’s forces led to the downing of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and that was the start of a prolonged and bloody fight. When the last American finally reached safety, the mission had lasted 15 hours. Nineteen Americans were killed and 73 wounded, and hundreds of Somalis were dead.
Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Hannibal), Black Hawk Down focuses on the efforts of the Rangers and Delta forces to rescue the men of the downed helicopters. The story follows different groups of American servicemen. In two of the stories Staff Sgt. Matt Eversmann (Josh Hartnett) and his Rangers engage Aidid’s forces in prolonged street fighting, and Lt. Colonel Danny McKnight (Tom Sizemore) leads a group of rescuers that gets lost in the maze of Mogadishu’s streets, where Somali gunmen and snipers rain gunfire upon the Americans.
Black Hawk Down is some of the best work Scott has ever done. While it shares the intensity of Saving Private Ryan, in particularly the hair-raising reenactment of D-Day landings on Normandy beach, much of Black Hawk’s impact comes from its dramatic structure, which emphasizes character and story. In addition to Sgt. Eversmann and Lt. Colonel McKnight’s group, the film also follows the plight of the only survivor of the second downed Black Hawk, Chief Warrant Officer Durant (Ron Eldard), who was a prisoner of Aidid’s forces for a few weeks after The Battle of Mogadishu. Staff Sgt. Ed Yurek (Tom Guiry) leads his decimated Ranger group through gunfire to safety. Scott follows the beleaguered Americans, moving deftly from one group of servicemen to the other, keeping the intensity of the drama very high.
Though very violent and occasionally quite gory, Black Hawk Down is the story of these brave men and their struggle to not only survive, but to also rescue and to save the lives of their fellow soldiers. Beyond issues of patriotism and bravery is the strength of dedication and skill of these men. Scott’s war movie is a movie about the camaraderie of soldiers.
While Scott is at the top of his craft in this film, the acting is also of the highest quality. The cast is quite convincing in their roles as soldiers, and the Somali extras aren’t bad either. Tom Sizemore delivers his usually quality work in a supporting role, but the surprise here is Josh Hartnett. A pretty boy in the Tom Cruise tradition, Hartnett hit his stride in this performance. His concentration and intensity in delivering on his role as Sgt. Eversmann is fascinating to watch. If the film’s ideas and intentions must, in the final analysis, hang upon the shoulders of one soldier, Hartnett ably supports the story.
Black Hawk Down will rise above many other war films because it is something more – a war story, a soldier’s story, and a combatant’s story. One cannot help but be impressed by how the storytellers and the cast convince us that in the face of the greatest of dangers, these men will not stick to their credo “Leave no man behind,” be they dead or alive. Black Hawk Down is special.
8 of 10
2002 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Editing” (Pietro Scalia) and “Best Sound” (Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, and Chris Munro); 2 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Slawomir Idziak) and “Best Director” (Ridley Scott)
2002 BAFTA Awards: 3 nomination: “Best Cinematography” (Slawomir Idziak), “Best Editing” (Pietro Scalia), and “Best Sound” (Chris Munro, Per Hallberg, Michael Minkler, Myron Nettinga, and Karen M. Baker)
OMG! Del Toro Out as Director of "The Hobbit"
“In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming “The Hobbit,” I am faced with the hardest decision of my life”, says Guillermo. “After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien’s Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I’ve been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director”.
With that statement, Guillermo Del Toro is out as director of the two movies that will adapt JRR Tolkein's book, The Hobbit, for the big screen. I first learned this news at the excellent Empire Online, but the story originated at The One Ring.net.
This seems to have something to do with the financial uncertainly of MGM, which has the distribution rights to any films based upon The Hobbit. The studio is currently in the midst of an ownership battle, and not only has this affected The Hobbit, but also the fate of the 23rd James Bond movie.
This is disappointing news, and as much as I'd wanted to see Del Toro's vision of Middle-Earth, I'd actually prefer another Hellboy movie.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Review: "A Soldier's Story" Still Fantastic
TRASH IN MY EYE No. 41 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux
A Soldier’s Story (1984)
Running time: 101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Norman Jewison
WRITER: Charles Fuller (based upon his play, A Soldier’s Play)
PRODUCERS: Patrick J. Palmer, Ronald L. Schwary, and Norman Jewison
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Boyd
EDITORS: Caroline Biggerstaff and Mark Warner
Academy Award nominee
Starring: Howard Rollins, Jr., Adolph Caesar, Art Evans, David Allen Grier, David Harris, Dennis Lipscomb, Larry Riley, Robert Townsend, Denzel Washington, William Allen Young, Trey Wilson, and Patti LaBelle
In this gripping film that takes place near the end of World War II (1944), Captain Davenport (Howard Rollins, Jr.), a proud black army attorney, is sent to Fort Neal near Tynin, Louisiana to investigate the shooting death of Sergeant Waters (Adolph Caesar), who was murdered by unknown assailants near the black army base. Davenport’s interviews with the men under Sgt. Waters’ command reveal that he was a vicious man who despised Negroes who didn’t meet his exacting standards of speech, appearance, and duty. Although two bigoted white officers seem to be the lead and likely suspects, Davenport is sure that there is something going on behind the scenes that either he isn’t seeing or is being hidden from him. But what is it and who is hiding it?
When it was released back in late 1984, A Soldier’s Story received a lot of attention not only because of its large and mostly black cast, but also because the leads were also black actors (unlike The Cotton Club). The film featured the star turn by up and coming actors including Robert Townsend (who would go on to direct Hollywood Shuffle), David Alan Grier, a character actor best known for being on the early 90’s TV sketch comedy, “In Living Colour,” and also a young but not-so-raw Denzel Washington – two years from the role that would earn him his first Oscar nomination.
The film’s best roles belong to Howard Rollins, Jr. and Adolph Caesar (who were never on screen together), both of whom are now deceased. Rollins plays Captain Davenport with such gripping strength that he instantly commands the attention of the audience whenever he is on screen, even when he’s in the background. Rollins clearly understood that for Davenport to be a believable character in his particular situation, he would have to play Davenport as having a magnetic personality, an indomitable will, and a large amount of arrogance – if Davenport were to do his job while suffering the slings and arrows...
Caesar’s Sgt. Waters is a relentless force embodying the conflicting ideas of what a black man should be and how he should live in those particular times, a black America in an America on the verge of the Civil Rights movement. He wants black men to be proud, but he understands that a black man most live in a white world as an intelligent black man, although not as one who threatens white men. It’s this dichotomy of pride and deference that festers in Waters’ mind.
Charles Fuller adapted A Soldier’s Story from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Soldier’s Play. As good as the performances are, it’s this incredible script that is simultaneously a fine mystery, an amazing depiction of history, and precise social commentary. Although director Norman Jewison directs this at times as if it were a TV movie, he understands the complex issues brought forward by Fuller’s writing. Jewison allows the script’s flashbacks to define the elements of the murder mystery: the victim, the suspects, and the context. Through Rollins’ performance as Capt. Davenport, Jewison doesn’t intrude as Fuller’s script brings everything together into the present while dealing with the conflicting notions of what it means to be a black man. It’s spellbinding movie stuff. So what does it mean to be a real black man? Who knows? But A Soldier’s Story, a remarkable film ably performed by a fine cast, gives us something to think about.
9 of 10
1985 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Adolph Caesar), “Best Picture” (Norman Jewison, Ronald L. Schwary, and Patrick J. Palmer), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” (Charles Fuller)
1985 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Adolph Caesar), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Charles Fuller)
Monday, February 20, 2006
Saturday, May 29, 2010
On Dennis Hopper
I will always have fond memories of Hopper because of Easy Rider, which I first saw over 20 years ago. I love that film and heartily recommend it.
Dennis Lee Hopper, who was born in 1936, was 74-years-old. This AP article via Yahoo provides a broad account of his life.
"It's Complicated" is Complicated
It’s Complicated (2009)
Running time: 120 minutes (2 hours)
MPAA – R for some drug content and sexuality
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Nancy Meyers
PRODUCERS: Nancy Meyers and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toll
EDITORS: Joe Hutshing and David Moritz
COMPOSERS: Heitor Pereira and Hans Zimmer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Rita Wilson, Alexandra Wentworth, Hunter Parrish, Zoe Kazan, Caitlin Fitzgerald, and Emjay Anthony
Whatever it may have seemed like in the commercials and trailers, It’s Complicated, a film from writer/director Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give), is not simply a bubbly comedy about a divorced woman having sex on the side with her ex-husband, while her new boyfriend is caught in the middle. This movie is a family melodrama, romantic comedy, relationship drama, soap opera… well, it actually is complicated.
A divorced mother of three grown children, Jane (Meryl Streep) doesn’t date much. Self-reliant, she focuses her attention on her thriving Santa Barbara bakery and restaurant. After a decade of divorce, Jane has an amicable relationship with her ex-husband, attorney Jake (Alec Baldwin), although Jane still feels uncomfortable in the presence of Jake’s hot young wife, Agness (Lake Bell). For her son’s college graduation in New York City, Jane finds herself staying at the same hotel as Jake, and an innocent meal with him ends with the two having sex.
Thus, begins an unimaginable affair between ex-wife and ex-husband that features frequent sexual encounters. Jake is cheating on Agness, and Jane is sort of cheating on Adam (Steve Martin), an architect hired to remodel Jane’s home. Adam is also healing from a divorce, and he is starting to fall in love with Jane. Jane finds herself forced to confront a number of issues, including if she really is in love with Jake, again.
Early on in It’s Complicated, in particularly the scenes that detail the beginning of Jane and Jake’s “affair,” the movie tries to come across as a bubbly romantic/screwball comedy. I say try because everything seems forced. Early in the movie, Meryl Streep, who hasn’t starred in many comedies, makes a vain attempt at playing the flighty heroine. Streep’s attempts at playing someone caught in comically awkward situations look ridiculous – all that laughing makes her sound like a horse. It is as if the only thing she can think to do with her character is laugh.
Alec Baldwin is usually next to Streep, also forcing it just as hard, doing his schtick. In this film, he just looks like a fat, middle-aged guy desperately trying to pass a reluctant turd. At this point, I have probably made It’s Complicated seem like an awful movie, but it really isn’t.
When the story leaves New York and returns to Santa Barbara, It’s Complicated seems to mature, leaving the silliness behind. The comic tone turns lighter, and the story gets serious about the implications of Jane and Jake’s affair. That is when Streep and Baldwin seem more like themselves, and the better parts of their talents show themselves. Suddenly, the NYC sequence seems like a bad dream, and the real story begins.
Once she makes the other major characters aware of the affair, Nancy Meyers really begins to play with the complications and story angles and situations such an almost taboo romance as depicted here offers. At that point, the audience can do more than just “Ooh” and “Ah” at the scandalous and embarrassing moments. They will feel engaged, because when Meyers really gets to the heart of this complicated matter, she forces the viewer to do more than just be a voyeur looking for easy chuckles. Meyers makes the viewer think: How do Jane and Jake get out of this? Should they do this? How does this affect everyone else? Whom should Jane choose?
It’s Complicated isn’t anyone’s best work – not Meyers, Streep, Baldwin, or even the passive Steve Martin. Still, it is good to see a thoughtful romantic comedy and love story in which the love interests are all over 50.
6 of 10
2010 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actor” (Alec Baldwin)
2010 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Meryl Streep), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Nancy Meyers)
Saturday, May 29, 2010
On Gary Coleman (1968-2010)
I felt sorry for Coleman, mainly because Hollywood ignored him after "Diff'rent Strokes," which surprised me. I always thought he had a persona tailored may to entertain us on TV and in film for decades, but that never happened. I must say that I was shocked to learn that "Diff'rent Strokes" ran for 8 seasons (7 on NBC and the last on ABC), from 1978 to 1986. I thought that it had only lasted a few seasons.
Anyway, Coleman was 42 years old.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Pefect for Memorial Day Weekend: The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Running time: 172 minutes (2 hours, 52 minutes)
DIRECTOR: William Wyler
WRITER: Robert E. Sherwood (from the novel by MacKinlay Kantor)
PRODUCER: Samuel Goldwyn
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gregg Toland
EDITOR: Daniel Mandell
Academy Award winner
Starring: Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Cathy O’Donnell, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Russell, Gladys George, Roman Bohnen, Ray Collins, Minna Gombell, Walter Baldwin, and Steve Cochran
The Best Years of Our Lives is a quasi-epic film about three veterans who return from World War II to small-town America and discover that the war irreparably changed their lives and their families. The three vets didn’t know each other before the war, but they meet and become associates then friends, bonded by the horrors they experienced in overseas.
Al Stephenson (Fredric March) is an alcoholic who returns to his bank job and finds that adjusting to civilian life only fuels his addiction. Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) has trouble obtaining gainful employment. Homer Parrish (Harold Russell) is a Navy man who lost both his arms in an on-ship explosion while he was below deck. Adding to the melodrama, Fred’s wife’s Marie (Virginia Mayo) is a good-time gal, and she refuses to give up the loose and carefree life she had while Fred was at war. Bruised by Marie’s surface-only interest in him, Fred begins a fling or light affair with Al’s daughter, much to Al and his wife’s chagrin. Homer’s old girlfriend Wilma Cameron (Cathy O’Donnell) is still in love with him, but he won’t marry her because he thinks that she feels sorry for him, as he thinks all his family does. Thus, in a fit of pride, he won’t marry Wilma and does whatever he can to discourage the young woman.
The Best Years of Our Lives won several “best film of the year awards” awards including the “Best Picture” Oscar®, one of its seven Academy Award wins. Other Oscars® wins included Best Actor for Fredric March and Best Director for William Wyler (his second of three wins and his sixth of 12 nominations). For his role as the handicapped vet, Homer Parrish, Harold Russell won for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and he was awarded an Honorary Oscar® for bringing hope to other veterans through his role. See, Russell’s handicap was real; he’d lost both his hands and lower arms when TNT exploded in his hands when he was training paratroopers while stationed in the United States. Ironically, the accident occurred on D-Day.
The film is nearly perfect, from direction to acting (except for a little histrionics and melodrama from some of the actresses). Wyler makes the drama palatable without making it overwrought; it’s a masterful job of subtly. The actors easily convey the veterans’ sense of confusion and sadness, as well as the misunderstandings that come from their readjustment to civilian life. The film is hard-hitting; it doesn’t flinch from stating quite bluntly how much the veterans sacrificed only to return to America and find that most people show no special consideration for them. The country won’t adjust to them or their physical and psychological wounds; the veterans have to adjust and make their own way. It’s because of the help of people who care that they make it, if the vets are willing to reach out and meet their concerned loved ones half the way.
The Best Years of Our Lives is a great American film – timeless in its portrayal of postwar civilian life. I heartily recommend it.
10 of 10
1947 Academy Awards: 7 wins: “Best Picture,” “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Fredric March), “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Harold Russell), “Best Director” (William Wyler), “Best Film Editing” (Daniel Mandell), “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture” (Hugo Friedhofer), and “Best Writing, Screenplay” (Robert E. Sherwood); 1 nomination: “Best Sound, Recording” (Gordon Sawyer-Samuel Goldwyn SSD); 1 Honorary Award (Harold Russell for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans through his appearance in The Best Years of Our Lives)
1948 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Film from any Source”
1947 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Motion Picture – Drama” and 1 Special Award (Harold Russell for Best Non-Professional Acting)
1989 National Film Preservation Board, USA: National Film Registry
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Warner Bros Announces "Something Borrowed"
ALCON ENTERTAINMENT'S "SOMETHING BORROWED" BEGINS PRODUCTION IN NEW YORK
ROMANTIC COMEDY, BASED ON BEST-SELLING NOVEL, STARS GINNIFER GOODWIN, KATE HUDSON AND JOHN KRASINSKI
BURBANK, CA - May 26, 2010 - Production has begun in New York on Alcon Entertainment's romantic comedy "Something Borrowed," starring Ginnifer Goodwin ("He's Just Not That Into You," HBO's "Big Love"), Academy Award(R) nominee Kate Hudson ("Almost Famous," "Nine"), Colin Egglesfield (TV's "Melrose Place"), Steve Howey ("Bride Wars") and John Krasinski (TV's "The Office," "It's Complicated").
Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a talented attorney at a top New York law firm, a generous and loyal friend, and, unhappily, still single...as her engaged best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) is constantly reminding her. But after one drink too many at her 30th birthday party, perpetual good girl Rachel unexpectedly ends up in bed with the guy she's had a crush on since law school, Dex (Colin Egglesfield)...who just happens to be Darcy's fiance. When Rachel and Darcy's lifelong friendship collides with true love, it leads to unexpected complications and potentially explosive romantic revelations.
Krasinski plays Ethan, who has been Rachel's constant confidante and sometimes conscience, and who has been harboring a secret of his own. Howey plays Marcus, an irrepressible womanizer, who can't keep his mind out of the gutter or his hands off any girl within reach.
"Something Borrowed" is being directed by Luke Greenfield ("The Girl Next Door"), from a screenplay written by Jennie Urman, Jennie Snyder and Jordan Roberts, adapted from the best-selling novel of the same name by Emily Giffin.
The film is being produced by Alcon Entertainment principals Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, who just earned a Best Picture Oscar® nomination for "The Blind Side"; Molly Smith ("The Blind Side," "P.S. I Love You"); two-time Oscar®-winning actress Hilary Swank ("Million Dollar Baby," "Boys Don't Cry"); Pamela Schein Murphy ("Purple Violets"); and Aaron Lubin ("The Groomsmen"). Ellen H. Schwartz ("The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement") is serving as executive producer.
Collaborating with Greenfield behind the scenes are director of photography Charles Minsky ("Valentine's Day"), production designer Jane Musky ("The Bounty Hunter"), editor John Axelrad ("Crazy Heart"), and costume designer Gary Jones ("Valentine's Day").
"Something Borrowed" is shooting entirely in New York, with locations in New York City, the Hamptons and on Long Island.
Slated for release in Summer 2011, "Something Borrowed" will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
Review: Nicholson, Keaton Sparkle in Excellent "Something's Gotta Give"
TRASH IN MY EYE No. 176 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux
Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content, brief nudity and strong language
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Nancy Meyers
PRODUCERS: Bruce A. Block and Nancy Meyers (uncredited)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Ballhaus (director of photography)
EDITOR: Joe Hutshing
COMPOSER: Hans Zimmer
Academy Award nominee
COMEDY/ROMANCE with elements of drama
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Amanda Peet, Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, Jon Favreau, and Paul Michael Glaser
In his new film, Something’s Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson plays Harry Langer, a 63 year-old New York City music executive with a taste for younger (than 30) women. He follows his latest trophy, Marin (Amanda Peet), to her mother’s East Hampton beach house, where he meets her 50-something mother, Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), who takes an immediate disliking to him. However, Harry’s world is turned upside down when he suffers a mild heart attack. When Marin goes back to the city, she leaves Harry at the beach house in the care of her mother and his doctor, Julian (Keanu Reeves). Soon Harry and Julian are competing with each other for Erica’s affections. For Harry, it’s a new stress in his life, as he’s never dated a woman Erica’s age, and Erica hasn’t loved in the decade since her divorce. Awkwardness and hijinks ensue as Jack’s film becomes Jack and Diane’s film.
Simply put, this is a fantastic film, and I enjoyed nearly every minute in; in fact, there are very few missteps in this film. Nancy Meyers, who directed the smash hit What Women Want, has proved herself to have a deft touch with romantic comedies made for the adult sensibilities. Her script is confident and exudes the assurance of a writer who knows exactly where she’s going. You can see the ending coming, but the trip there is a hoot. When it all wraps up, SGG will still surprise you with how it closes the curtain on this very nice love story amongst the senior set.
Jack Nicholson gives yet another of his great performances as an actor. This isn’t one of those times when “Jack’s being Jack.” He really tries to bring a character to life and yet still color it with the charm of his film personality. The surprise is a surprise that she’s a surprise – Diane Keaton. When it comes down to it, this is her film, and the character and situation are very similar to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, which earned Keaton a Best Actress Oscar. She grabs Erica by the hair and gives it her all – funny, charming, witty, self-deprecating, smart, strong, vulnerable, and human.
Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand are very funny. Peet’s character is more or less just a vehicle to get the leads together, but Ms. Peet makes herself a strong presence in every scene in which she appears. The biggest pity is that Ms. McDormand could have made this film great; not only is she a fine actress, but her character is strong enough to steal scenes no matter who else is around. Each time she’s in the film, she leaves you wanting more. As for Keanu, he is what he is – a pretty face that tries hard, but fails half the time. It’s a good thing that his part is small; there’s no way he could have kept up with Nicholson and Ms. Keaton.
Something’s Gotta Give is a fine romantic comedy filled with love, loss, confusion, passion, and redemption. It’s about the surprises life, both painful and pleasurable, that life has. It’s a fun film for people with grown up minds.
8 of 10
2004 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Diane Keaton)
2001 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Diane Keaton) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Jack Nicholson)
"Just Another Day" Features Stars from "The Wire"
Jamie Hector (who played the drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield) and Wood Harris (who played the drug kingpin Avon Barksdale), two actors who appeared on HBO's critically acclaimed series, The Wire, are reunited in Just Another Day, a Hip-Hop film coming to home video on July 20.
Just Another Day, which is directed by Peter Spirer, focuses on two men – one struggling at the top and the other struggling at the bottom of the volatile hip-hop scene. Their paths cross over the course of 24 hours.
Hector plays Young Eastie, a rapper who is willing to do anything to get his first record deal. Young Eastie hopes to get a deal through his hero, the legendary A-Maze (Harris), who believes that he is losing his own place at the top of the Hip-Hop industry. A-Maze will use anyone to stay on top, to hold onto his notoriety – even Young Eastie.
Rappers Trick Daddy, Lil Scrappy, Ja Rule and Petey Pablo also appear in the film.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Review: Emily Blunt Powers Tasty "Young Victoria"
The Young Victoria (2009)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK/USA
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild sensuality, a scene of violence, and brief incidental language and smoking
DIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallée
WRITER: Julian Fellowes
PRODUCER: Sarah Ferguson, Tim Headington, Graham King, and Martin Scorsese
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hagen Bogdanski (director of photography)
EDITOR: Jill Bilcock and Matt Garner
Academy Award winner
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rupert Friend, Paul Bettany, Miranda Richardson, Jim Broadbent, Thomas Kretschmann, Mark Strong, Jesper Christensen, Harriet Walter, Jeanette Hain, Julian Glover, Michael Maloney, and Michiel Huisman
Some period dramas are classy affairs. They are pretty to look at because of the lush production values, from sumptuous costumes to lavish sets. They can also be quite boring. Then, there are period dramas like the Oscar-winning Dangerous Liaisons and Shakespeare in Love, which are beautiful and lavish productions. They are also highly entertaining. Seeing them is to understand why some critics and reviewers sometimes describe movies as “delicious.”
The Young Victoria is one of those tasty period dramas. This film boasts an impressive list of producers, including Martin Scorsese, Graham King, and Sarah, Duchess of York (among others). It is a romantic dramatization and partly fictional account of the events preceding and following the coronation of Queen Victoria.
The 18-year old British royal, Victoria (Emily Blunt), is destined to ascend to the throne because her three uncles, the sons of King George III, do not have any surviving legitimate children. As her uncle, King William IV (Jim Broadbent), nears death, people plot to control Victoria. Victoria’s mother, Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her private secretary, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), bully Victoria to allow them to form a regency government, which would put them in control, but she resists.
Meanwhile, her uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), plots to influence the future queen by marrying her to one of his nephews, Prince Albert (Rupert Friend), who is also Victoria’s cousin. Albert is willing to court Victoria solely for political motives, but he soon finds himself falling for her. However, Victoria is determined to rule as her own woman, but a constitutional crisis forces her to reconsider her feelings for Albert.
When Emily Blunt delivered her acclaimed performance as “Emily Charlton,” the snide assistant to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, many thought she was a star in the making. Blunt, certainly a fine actress, delivers on that promise in The Young Victoria, and she depicts all sides of the young Queen with aplomb and skill. Blunt’s performance is rich, and she gives Victoria such depth, presenting the young royal as playful, petulantly, brave, grim, and even romantic as Victoria finds her heart ensnared by Prince Albert.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée relies on Blunt because it is her performance that sells the political intrigue. Although the romance between Victoria and Albert is nice, The Young Victoria is really about palace intrigue, political machinations, and the lust for power. Vallée deftly uses all the scheming offered by Julian Fellowes’ screenplay to transform what could have been a staid period drama into a rollicking costume drama. Laugh at the scandal; gasp at the political scheming, and cry at the romance and reconciliation.
Marked by good performances throughout – especially Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne and Miranda Richardson as Duchess of Kent, The Young Victoria relies less on subtlety and more on power – the power of the darker side of human nature – lust and wanting after power and control. The Young Victoria reveals that royalty is just like rabble. Both will stab you in the back; the royals are just better dressed. Yes, being bad looks so good on film.
8 of 10
2010 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Sandy Powell); 2 wins: “Best Achievement in Art Direction” (Patrice Vermette-art director and Maggie Gray-set decorator) and “Best Achievement in Makeup” (John Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore)
2010 BAFTA Awards: 2 win: “Best Costume Design” (Sandy Powell) and “Best Make Up & Hair” (Jenny Shircore)
2010 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Emily Blunt)
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Khalil Kain in Typer Perry's "For Colored Girls"
Kain played "Raheem Porter," the murder victim shot by Tupac's "Rolland Bishop", in the 1992 film, Juice. Kain was also a series regular on the late sitcom, Girlfriends. According to the blog, Kain's character will be paired with a character played by Anika Noni Rose of Dreamgirls and Walt Disney's The Princess and the Frog.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette" Pretty, Empty
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Running time: 123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual content, partial nudity, and innuendo
DIRECTOR: Sofia Coppola
WRITER: Sofia Coppola (based upon the book Maria Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser)
PRODUCERS: Ross Katz and Sophia Coppola
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lance Acord, A.S.C. (director of photography)
EDITOR: Sarah Flack
2007 Academy Award nominee
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Jamie Dornan, Marianne Faithful, and Steve Coogan
In her film, Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola directs a stylized portrait of a naïve princess, who became Queen of France when she was 19 years old.
Austria, 1768: Austrian princess Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) becomes betrothed to the dauphin (heir) of the French crown, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman). At the age of 14, Marie is stripped of all her possessions and thrown into the opulent French court at Versailles (near Paris) where vicious gossip defines everyone. Marie is alone and mostly without guidance, and Louis remains distant even after marriage – even refusing to consummate their union. By 19, Marie is Queen.
Adrift in Versailles’ dangerous world of conspiracy and scandal, Marie dives into the decadent life of French aristocracy, living the lavish life of a young royal. She buys extravagant clothing and jewelry for herself and has hugely expensive tastes when it comes to decorating the estate. She even has an affair with an alluring Swede, Count Fersen (Jamie Dornan). Many, however, view Marie as out of touch with her subjects, and the youthful indiscretions and frivolity that are her only releases from the confining life as Queen also become her undoing.
Coppola, who won a screenplay Oscar for her film, Lost in Translation, focuses Marie Antoinette on the life of the super wealthy and aimless. Coppola’s stated goal was to capture life in 18th century Versailles from the point of view of a lonely foreigner, so the narrative follows Marie through a whirlwind of extravagant costumes, opulent surroundings, and luxurious foodstuffs. In fact, one might consider this movie to be a lavish soufflé of kaleidoscopic operas, revelries, and even a costume ball that looks like a 21st century bash. Watching the film, you might get hungry for this pastel-colored world where cookies, candies, and cakes, and other sweets are so abundant, even a chamber pot might hold a multi-tiered cake.
Don’t think of Marie Antoinette even as historical fiction. It has little or no historical or political weight; this is all about the look. Visual anachronisms (as well as the modern rock, new wave, alternative soundtrack) mark this as more Coppola’s personal cinematic vision (a colorful art project) than it does cinema as history or even docu-drama. To that end, Marie Antoinette sure is a beautiful film. The costumes (Oscar-nominated), art direction/set decoration, cinematography, and makeup are some of the most stunningly beautiful that I’ve ever seen on film. So while the acting (Kirsten Dunst is wooden, except for a moment here and there) and the story are dry, stiff, and sometimes missing in action, the setting is splendid eye candy. Two hours of pretty style and no substance, however, is just too much to bear.
5 of 10
2007 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Milena Canonero)
2007 BAFTA Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Milena Canonero), “Best Make Up & Hair” (Jean-Luc Russier and Desiree Corridoni), and “Best Production Design” (K.K. Barrett and Véronique Melery)
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Janeane Garofalo Has One-Hour Special on EPIX
Premieres Saturday, June 26 at 10:00 pm EDT
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Janeane Garofalo brings her comedic observations to a one-hour special premiering Saturday, June 26 at 10:00 pm EDT on the multiplatform premium entertainment service, EPIX. Featuring Garofalo’s unique insights and hilarious riffs on life, culture and politics, the performance was filmed live in front of a sold-out audience at Seattle’s legendary Moore Theatre.
The television and film actress, known as much for her roles on 24 and The Truth About Cats and Dogs, as for her liberal politics on Air America Radio, is at home in her return to the comedic stage. The audience follows her every leap from the sheer perfection of Natalie Portman to her fantasy of a dog park just for firemen. And as always, some of the biggest laughs come when the comedic lens is focused inward, in her trademark self-deprecating style, in which she admits, “I cringe myself to sleep every night.”
“We’re thrilled that Janeane has chosen to do her first comedy special in over a decade with EPIX,” said EPIX President and CEO Mark Greenberg. “Janeane is a rebel with her own set of rules and that’s wildly appealing to our audience. She is the perfect fit for our growing brand of edgy, smart comedy. ”
Garofalo joins fellow comedians Lewis Black, Eddie Izzard and David Cross on a list of major artists creating original programming on EPIX.
EPIX, a joint venture between Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM) and Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), is a next-generation premium entertainment channel, video-on-demand and online service launched on October 30, 2009. With access to more than 15,000 motion pictures spanning the vast libraries of its partners and other studios, EPIX provides a powerful entertainment experience with more feature films on demand and online and more HD movies than any other service. It is the only premium service providing its entire monthly line-up of new Hollywood titles, classic feature films, original series, music and comedy specials through the linear channel, video-on-demand and online at EpixHD.com, the leading online destination for movies. EPIX has made the commitment to deliver the industry’s most expansive online collection of movies, making more than 3,000 titles available online to subscribers via its enhanced service, EPIX Megaplex, on www.EpixHD.com. The service is available to over 30 million homes nationwide through carriage agreements with Verizon FiOS, DISH Network, Cox Communications, Mediacom Communications, Charter Communications and NCTC.
For more information about EPIX, go to www.EpixHD.com.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Michael Caine Made a Star Turn in "Alfie"
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
Running time: 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
PRODUCER/DIRECTOR: Lewis Gilbert
WRITER: Bill Naughton (based upon his play)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Otto Heller
EDITOR: Thelma Connell
Academy Award nominee
Starring: Michael Caine, Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin, Julia Foster, Jane Asher, Shirley Anne Field, Vivien Merchant, Eleanor Bron, Denholm Elliot, Alfie Bass, Graham Stark, and Murray Melvin
Michael Caine earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the Oscar® “Best Picture” nominee, Alfie. It’s the tale of Alfie (Michael Caine), a cad and “lady killer” who specializes in loving women and leaving them. However, Alfie’s fortunes take a turn when he impregnates Gilda (Julia Foster). At first, Alfie shows interest in the baby boy, but when Gilda pushes for marriage, Alfie pushes off. Gilda accepts a proposal of marriage from Humphrey (Graham Stark), an old suitor who has been pining after her for ages. Alfie callously brushes aside the entire situation and marches on to new lovers until he gets his comeuppance.
Alfie is one of those pictures where the directing, screenwriting, and lead actor come together so seamlessly that the film comes off as a harmonious enterprise. The script is tightly written, but allows the actors room to breath. The director expertly follows the lead of the writing and the star, and crafts a perfect rhythm to which the performances can move. Of course, the star Michael Caine. He deftly moves back and forth, breaking the fourth wall to explain the film narrative and his situation directly to the movie audience. He smoothly breaks it every time he wants to explain his philosophy of life, his method of operation in matters of lust, and the evolution of the his story. Alfie is a charming rogue, a callous jerk, and a selfish and self-centered boy, but Caine makes him such an engaging and likeable character. He makes him so human and so sympathetic that one can’t see Alfie as evil man, just a man certain that he is the captain of his ship and that he can live with both his conquests and his errors. Alfie is certainly one of those times we find ourselves rooting for the cad/lover boy.
8 of 10
June 21, 2005
1967 Academy Awards: 5 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Michael Caine), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Vivien Merchant), “Best Music, Original Song” (Burt Bacharach-music and Hal David-lyrics for the song "Alfie"), “Best Picture” (Lewis Gilbert), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium” (Bill Naughton)
1967 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles” (Vivien Merchant); 5 nominations: “Best British Actor” (Michael Caine), “Best British Cinematography (Colour)” (Otto Heller), “Best British Film” (Lewis Gilbert), “Best British Film Editing” (Thelma Connell), and “Best British Screenplay” (Bill Naughton)
1967 Golden Globes: 1win: “Best English-Language Foreign Film”; 6 nominations: “Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama” (Michael Caine), “Best Motion Picture Director” (Lewis Gilbert), “Best Original Song in a Motion Picture” (Burt Bacharach-music and Hal David-lyrics for the song "Alfie"), “Best Screenplay” (Bill Naughton), and 2 “Best Supporting Actress” (Vivien Merchant and Shelley Winters)
Film from Thailand Wins Top Honor at Cannes 2010
Feature Film Awards:
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat) by Apichatpong Weerasethaku.
Les Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) by Xavier Beauvois
Award for Best Director
Mathieu Amalric for Tournee (On Tour)
Award for Best Screenplay
Lee Chang-dong for Poetry
Award for Best Actress
Juliet Binoche in Copie Conforme (Certified Copy) directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Award for Best Actor (tie)
Javier Bardem in Biutiful directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Elio Germano in La nostra vita (Our Life) directed by Daniele Luchetti
Un homme qui crie (A screaming man) directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Short Film Awards:
Palme d’Or – Short Film
Chienne d’histoire (Barking Island) directed by Serge Avedikian
Jury Prize – Short Film
Micky Bader (Bathing Mickey) directed by Frida Kempff
This AP article (via Yahoo) talks about the big awards and this IMDb blog goes into more detail about the various festival honors.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Review: "Shrek Forever After" is an Upgrade from Third Film
Shrek Forever After (2010)
Running time: 93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language
DIRECTOR: Mike Mitchell
WRITER: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke
PRODUCERS: Teresa Cheng and Gina Shay
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yong Duk Jhun
ANIMATION/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE and COMEDY/FAMILY
Starring: (voices) Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch, and Walt Dohrn
The magic is not gone! Shrek Forever After arrives in theatres and reminds us that the disappointing Shrek the Third was a fluke in the Shrek franchise. When Shrek debuted in 2001, it was certainly different from the typical animated film. Instead of being an update of some fairy tale meant to appease children, Shrek turned the fairy tale on its ear, spoofed pop culture, and introduced odd ball characters that were so endearing a few of them gradually became pop culture stars. The 2004 sequel, Shrek 2, was as good as the first film, but not as fresh and original. Shrek the Third was a misfire. While it may not be an original, Shrek Forever After returns to what the first two films did well.
The new film finds the title character, that lovable ogre, Shrek (Mike Myers), not loving being a lovable ogre. He fought an evil dragon to rescue Prince Fiona (Cameron Diaz), married her, and saved his in-laws’ kingdom, Far Far Away. Before that, however, Shrek was ogre who scared villagers and took mud baths. Now, he is a domesticated family man, changing diapers, and autographing pitchforks for admiring villagers, and his once-fearsome ogre’s roar has become a children’s favorite. Shrek longs for the days when he was “real ogre,” but there is someone with the magic to help him be bad again.
A smooth-talking dealmaker named Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) meets Shrek and offers him a magical contract. Shrek can get a day to feel like a real ogre again, in exchange for ANY day from Shrek’s past. Shrek signs the contract, but the deal creates a twisted, alternate version of Far Far Away. This is a world in which he and Princess Fiona never met, and his friends, even Donkey (Eddie Murphy), don’t know him. He has 24 hours to restore his world or disappear forever.
Shrek Forever After is essentially a spin on director Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, in which a man on the verge of suicide gets to see how unfortunate life would be for his family, friends, and community without him. Because it uses themes similar to the Capra film, this fourth Shrek movie is probably the most heartfelt and sentimental about the importance of close relationships. The narrative is insistent that each individual character is essential to the well-being and happiness of his or her fellow characters. [That said, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is getting a spin-off film.]
The entire story plays off the idea that the audience, by now, is familiar with these characters, knows their personalities, and has expectations about how the characters will entertain them. And Shrek Forever After delivers. All the voice performances are good, and, unlike in Shrek the Third, Eddie Murphy and Donkey have lots of screen time, which they use to spectacular results. This film also introduces another good Shrek villain, the winning Rumpelstiltskin, superbly performed by animator and voice actor, Walt Dohrn.
Shrek Forever After like the original is big and jolly. Cleverly chosen songs still populate the soundtrack and set the tone for key scenes in the story. Pop culture is slyly referenced and spoofed (like the funny break dancing witches routine), and the main characters still have some of the best jokes and one-liners the audience will hear during the summer movie season. But Shrek Forever After has heart. If this is indeed the last Shrek film (at least for awhile), we are left with a movie that reminds us how much fun Shrek and company are and how much we really like them or even love them.
8 of 10
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Latest "Black Lagoon" Anime Screens at Anime Expo 2010
ANAHEIM, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Anime Expo® is pleased to announce today that the world premiere of the third and the latest installment of the popular BLACK LAGOON anime series, Roberta’s Blood Trail, will be screened at its July convention. Anime Expo, North America’s largest anime and manga convention, is scheduled for July 1 – 4, 2010, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The exclusive uncut version of BLACK LAGOON Roberta’s Blood Trail, Episode 1, will premiere on July 1, 2010, at 1:30 p.m.
The BLACK LAGOON anime series began as an adaptation of the manga by the same title, created by one of Anime Expo’s 2010 Guests of Honor, Rei Hiroe. The series debuted in 2006 to much critical acclaim and has since been released worldwide. BLACK LAGOON made its North American broadcast debut on the Starz Edge channel in February 2008. The DVD version of the first two series is currently available through FUNimation Entertainment.
BLACK LAGOON is known for its hard-boiled storytelling, clever dialogue and its ultra-violent and stylized gun fight sequences, often compared to Hong Kong noirs and Hollywood action films. Its high-quality animation is produced by MADHOUSE Ltd., one of Japan’s most prestigious animation studios, known for titles like Hellsing Ultimate, Death Note and Trigun the Movie: Badlands Rumble.
The world premier screening of BLACK LAGOON Roberta’s Blood Trail will precede the Japanese Blu-ray/DVD release scheduled for July 17. This special screening is made possible by the courtesy of Geneon Universal Entertainment Japan, LLC, and Shogakukan Inc.
Anime Expo’s 2010 Guest of Honor line-up includes manga artist Rei Hiroe; musical artist MELL; supergroup AKB48; voice actor Katsuyuki Konishi; Eden of the East trio Kenji Kamiyama, Satoru Nakamura and Tomohiko Ishii; voice actor Kyle Hebert; animation director Toshihiro Kawamoto; seiyuu Yuu Asakawa; J-rock band Sophia; and anime director Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe. To stay updated on all of the latest Anime Expo 2010 news, follow us on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook and check us out on YouTube.
To register for Anime Expo 2010, please visit our website.
About Anime Expo®
Anime Expo is located in Los Angeles and is the nation’s largest anime and manga convention. The Expo serves to foster trade, commerce and the interests of the general public and animation industry. This event serves as a key meeting place for the general public to express their interest and explore various aspects of both anime and manga, as well as for members of the industry to conduct business. AX 2010 will be held July 1 – July 4, 2010, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Southern California. More information can be found at www.anime-expo.org.
About the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to popularize and educate the American public about anime and manga, as well as provide a forum to facilitate communication between professionals and fans. This organization is more popularly known by its entertainment property, Anime Expo®. More information can be found at www.spja.org.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
"Whatever Works" Doesn't Always Work
Whatever Works (2009)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, brief nude images and thematic material
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
PRODUCERS: Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Harris Savides
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter
Starring: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley Jr., Conleth Hill, Olek Krupa, Michael McKean, Henry Cavill, Christopher Evan Welch, and Jessica Hecht
Back in the mid-1970s, Woody Allen apparently wrote the screenplay for the film, Whatever Works, intending to have the late actor, Zero Mostel play the lead. When Mostel died, Allen put the script aside. He revived it in order to make a movie before a potential 2009 Screen Actors Guild strike, which didn’t happen. Although this movie was supposed to be made in the 70s, Whatever Works is actually similar to Allen’s mid to late 1990s films (at least to me).
Set in New York City, the film focuses on Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David), a 60-something man who has failed at his career, his marriage, and a suicide attempt (which left him with a limp). A world-class grouch, Boris makes a living teaching chess to children he constantly insults. He spends his days irritating his still-loyal friends with his never-ending tirades about the worthlessness of absolutely everything and everybody. He proclaims himself a genius because he was almost nominated for a Nobel Prize in physics.
One night, Boris finds Melodie St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), a simple-minded, 21-year-old, Southern belle lying near his doorstep. Boris lets Melodie stay the night, but she eventually “convinces” him to let her live with him until she can get settled financially. While Melodie tries to get to know him, Boris responds to her lack of intellect with sarcasm and insults, but their relationship turns serious. Then, separately, Melodie’s mother, Marietta (Patricia Clarkson), and father, John (Ed Begley, Jr.), arrive in town, bringing chaos back into their daughter’s new life.
Thirty-five years ago, the subject matter of Whatever Works might have been considered scandalous to movie audiences of that time. Now, the following elements: a gay couple, a ménage à trois, a mother trying to find a new lover for her daughter, a misanthrope married to a woman four decades his junior, and mocking self-righteous Christians (among other things) may still be controversial to some, for instance, right wing Evangelicals who go to Rentboy.com to hire a travel companion. However, these things really don’t warrant much attention for those of us who watch a lot of movies. Boris even “breaks the fourth wall” by talking directly to us, the audience, but that also feels like an empty gesture which does little for the story.
Because the screen chemistry between Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood is so tepid, however, Whatever Works needs a ménage à trois to kick start the narrative. The first 40 minutes of this film are dull, and it is not until Melodie’s mother Marietta appears that the story perks up. Woody Allen spends the remaining 50 minutes of the film cramming in the pithy comedy, sparkling social critiquing, and zany romance audiences have come to expect from his films. Still, shoving all the best sub-plots and character bits into the last half of the film makes Whatever Works seem rushed and hurried.
Many of Woody Allen’s films have a neurotic intellectual as the central character, usually with Allen playing that role. Sometimes, Allen casts another actor to play the part, as Larry David does here. David gives an uneven performance that makes Boris sometimes ridiculously shrill. That is a shame because the other performances are good, even though the characters the actors have to work with are not well developed, the fault of the writing. Still, the cast manages to give this film a good-natured vibe that is endearing. They make a mediocre film a little better, and the cast may also make you wish that you could spend more time with them.
At the beginning and the end of the film, Boris breaks the fourth wall to tell us his basic philosophy about life, “…whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works.” In order to enjoy Whatever Works, grab whatever joy you can filch.
5 of 10
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Lee Daniels at American Black Film Festival
Friday, May 21, 2010
Review: "Alamo Bay" is Powerful, But is Also Too Angry
TRASH IN MY EYE No. 138 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux
Alamo Bay (1985)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Louis Malle
WRITER: Alice Arlen
PRODUCERS: Louis Malle and Vincent Malle
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Curtis Clark
EDITOR: James Bruce
COMPOSER: Ry Cooder
Starring: Amy Madigan, Ed Harris, Ho Nguyen, Donald Moffat, Truyen V. Tran, Rudy Young, Cynthia Carle, and Bill Thurman
When filmmakers tackle difficult subjects, especially subjects dealing with social and class conflict, they often produce films that fail financially or that get lost in the shuffle of the movie making industry. Louis Malle’s (Atlantic City) film, Alamo Bay, is just such a movie. It’s about a clash of two cultures and two different ethnic groups. When one doesn’t understand the other, when one feels threatened by the other, and when has no regard for or cannot understand the other, the result is violent confrontation. This conflict may seem to have an easy solution - a coming together of the two groups to talk through their differences, but the process to joining hands is long, strained, difficult, painful, and often unlikely. The film reflects the absence of an easy solution, so it can be painful to watch.
Shang (Ed Harris, The Right Stuff) is a Vietnam veteran despondent over loosing his livelihood as a shrimp fisherman when he cannot meet his boat payments. He and his fellow townsmen clash with the newly arrived refugees from Vietnam who move to their (fictional) town of Alamo Bay. The Vietnamese immigrants work harder and labor longer hours to catch shrimp. Shang and his cohorts see this as undercutting them. His old girlfriend, Glory (Amy Madigan, Places in the Heart), returns to Alamo Bay further complicates his life, as does her friendship with a newly arrived young immigrant, Dihn (Ho Nguyen).
Malle and screenwriter Alice Arlen don’t spare us the nasty words, ugly confrontations, and brutal bigotry the white townspeople unleash against the immigrants. What the movie sorely lacks is better view of the Vietnamese townsfolk – their feelings, their grudges, and their ethics. Very few of Vietnamese characters speak English in the film, and the Vietnamese dialogue in the film does not come with English subtitles. That does help to create a sense of the immigrants as the other, as well as convey the sense that they have a difficult time communicating with their hostile new neighbors who really don’t want to talk to them. Still, the film felt like it needed more interplay from the new arrivals, because as the film is, it’s mostly about whitey’s anger.
The entire cast is very good. They absorbed their characters without overplaying them. They seemed up to the task, but many of townsfolk were left with little room to maneuver outside of being cardboard bigots or victims. Madigan’s character has dimension, but she spends a lot of time crying and pining over her lost love with Chang and whining in general. Harris is the true star of this film; he passionately takes on his part, and in his eyes, the audience can read a novel’s worth of history and information on this man. Sadly, except for a few snippets, all we get is the angry bigot.
This film is built on anger, and although it gets the emotions and feelings correct, the story itself acts like an outsider, as if it just walked in on the bad situation in the town. It claims to be inspired by real events, but it only snatches up bit and pieces of the whole story. Powerful and visceral, it’s a noble attempt, but it could have been so much more.
6 of 10
Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote to Return in 3D Shorts
Warner Bros. Animation Brings Classic Characters Back to the Big Screen in Three All New Shorts to Be Released with Upcoming Family Features
BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, two of the most popular Looney Tunes characters of all time, are returning to the big screen in three all-new animated 3D shorts. The studio will attach the cartoon shorts to three of its upcoming family features—all three features to be released this year in 3D. The first short will be seen with “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” on July 30th; the second with “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” on September 24th; and the third with “Yogi Bear,” on December 17th. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. Pictures President of Domestic Distribution.
In the new cartoon shorts, each three minutes in length, Wile E. Coyote is as determined as ever to catch the elusive Road Runner, who continues to leave his hapless nemesis in the dust with a taunting “beep-beep.” However, bringing the classic characters into the 21st century, the resourceful Wile E. will now be employing an arsenal of state-of-the-art ACME gadgets to snag his quarry—with all of the action in stereographic 3D.
In making the announcement, Fellman said, “Audiences have always delighted in Wile E. Coyote’s dogged pursuit of the Road Runner, with hilarious, albeit predictable, results. We are thrilled to be presenting these characters for the first time in 3D, which will heighten the excitement and humor of the chase, not to mention the impact—at least for Wile E. We’re sure these three new adventures will entertain a new generation of fans while reminding us all why these two characters have been beloved for so long.”
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Review: "Fantastic Mr. Fox" Actually Not Fantastic
TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Running time: 87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
MPAA – PG for action, smoking and slang humor
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
WRITERS: Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach (based upon the novel by Roald Dahl)
PRODUCERS: Allison Abbate, Wes Anderson , Jeremy Dawson, and Scott Rudin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Oliver
EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum (supervising editor)
COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat
Academy Award nominee
Starring: (voices) George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wally Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Robin Hurlstone, Hugo Guinness Brian Cox, and Adrien Brody
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a 2009 stop-motion animation film from director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums). The film is based on a children’s book of the same title by author Roald Dahl first published in 1970. It is the story of a human-like fox who outwits his human neighbors and steals their livestock and food right from under their noses.
Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a thief. To feed his family, he steals livestock from three wealthy local farmers, and during one such mission, he is joined by his wife, Mrs. Felicity Fox (Meryl Streep). However, the couple is ensnared in a cage, but escape after Felicity reveals that she is pregnant. Years later, the couple is living an idyllic home life with their sullen son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), and Mr. Fox’s visiting young nephew, the soft-spoken and talented Kristopherson Silverfox (Eric Chase Anderson).
After 12 years of domesticity, Mr. Fox feels his wild animal instincts coming to the fore, and this bucolic existence starts to bore him. With the help of his pal, an unassuming opossum named Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), Mr. Fox soon slips back into his old ways as a sneaky and highly successful thief stealing chickens, turkeys, and apple cider from the wealthy farmers, Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon), Walter Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), and Nathan Bunce (Hugo Guinness). Doing this endangers not only his beloved family, but also the whole animal community, when Bean leads a vicious, total war campaign to capture Mr. Fox. Trapped underground and without enough food to go around, will the animals band together or will they turn Mr. Fox over to the farmers?
Fantastic Mr. Fox is what happens when quirky drowns whimsical. Instead of a fanciful animal fable, what Wes Anderson gives us with this stop-motion animated film is weird and peculiar. It is sometimes entertaining, even delightful, but still weird and peculiar. The script by Anderson and Noah Baumbach tries to impart wisdom, but much of it is lost in the idiosyncratic visual vibe of this film.
There are some good voice performances, especially Wallace Wolodarsky as Kylie. Because their performances, Jason Schwartzman as Ash and Eric Chase Anderson as Kristopherson end up being the best pairing in the film – the most interesting team.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a sometimes fun ride, although much of it seems awkward. The strange textures of the animation are a mixed bag. Fantastic Mr. Fox looks like a Tim Burton stop-motion animation picture done with tattered puppets and shabby sets. Ultimately, I find myself sitting on the fence about this film because it entertains and perplexes in equal measure.
5 of 10
2010 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Alexandre Desplat) and “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Wes Anderson)
2010 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Animated Film” (Wes Anderson) and “Best Music” (Alexandre Desplat)
2010 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film”
Thursday, May 20, 2010
New Book Unveils the History of "Shrek" Film
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--According to a new book, The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Nicole LaPorte, Shrek almost did not happen. LaPorte, who covered DreamWorks, the company founded by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, for Variety, details many of the fascinating decisions that changed movie history in this new book.
As LaPorte writes, before Shrek, the company was floundering financially, largely because none of the studio’s previous animated films were working. Shrek was DreamWorks’s first, all-out blockbuster; it grossed $484 million worldwide. The fourth installment of the Shrek franchise releases on Friday, May 21.
But DreamWorks Animation’s biggest, most lucrative franchise ironically almost didn’t get made and struggled along for years. As LaPorte writes, in the beginning (way back in 1994) when the project was just being discussed, Jeffrey Katzenberg hired four recent college grads, dubbed the “Propellerheads” who were experimenting with 3-D. The group, which included J.J. Abrams (who would eventually be called the “next Steven Spielberg”), Rob Letterman, Loren Soman, and Andy Waisler. After months of working on the film, their one-minute test so underwhelmed Katzenberg that he shut down production and threatened to scrap the project. Several millions in development costs were written off. As the movie floundered in oblivion, animators began referring to working on Shrek as being sent to “the Gulag.” Several writers (Ted Elliott Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger Schulman) and directors (Henry Selick) gave Shrek a shot but when Andrew Adamson took over, the film was finally set on the right path. At that point, Jeffrey Katzenberg had far less to do with the film, than with other movies he had micromanaged, such as Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado--both flops.
Saturday Night Live actor Chris Farley was originally cast as the voice of Shrek. The animators relied heavily on Farley’s own looks and Tommy Boy hairstyle to draw the early versions of the ogre. After Farley’s death, Mike Myers was brought on to replace him. Myers decided near the end of production to give Shrek a Scottish accent and could not be dissuaded, which meant $4 million in reanimation for the ogre’s mouth and facial expressions.
The film also served as DreamWorks’ biggest ammunition in its battle against Disney. Shrek is essentially the anti-Disney movie, taking beloved characters like Snow White and the Gingerbread Man and turning them on their heads. And Lord Farquaad's pointed resemblance to Michael Eisner was icing on the cake for Katzenberg who was in a heated legal battle with Eisner. Eisner had once called Katzenberg a “little midget” publically during the trial, and as an inside joke, the Farquaad character was made to be very short.
About the Author
Nicole LaPorte is a former film reporter for Variety, where she covered the Hollywood movie industry for several years. She also wrote "The Rules of Hollywood" column for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and has written for the New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Observer, Sunday Telegraph Magazine, and W Magazine. LaPorte is currently the West Coast Reporter for Daily Beast. She lives in Venice, California.