Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Japanese Action Comedy "Battle League Horumo" on DVD in July



VIZ PICTURES RELEASES THE COMBAT ACTION COMEDY BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO ON DVD

Zany Action Film Based On Best-Selling Fantasy Novel Features Special Effects By Renowned Animation Studio GONZO

VIZ Pictures, an affiliate of VIZ Media, LLC that focuses on Japanese live-action film distribution, will debut the live-action combat comedy film BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO on DVD on July 6th. The release, which will be distributed by VIZ Media in North America, will carry an MSRP of $24.92 U.S. / $35.99 CAN.

VIZ Pictures also celebrates the release with a special theatrical screening of BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO – for one night only – on Friday, July 2nd at 7:00pm at VIZ Cinema in San Francisco. VIZ Cinema is the nation’s only movie theatre devoted to Japanese film and animation, located at 1746 Post St., in the heart of the city’s Japantown. $25 ticket includes a movie ticket, the brand new DVD and a poster! $10 regular admission is also available. Advance tickets, trailers and more details are available at: www.viz-pictures.com or www.vizcinema.com.

BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO is also set to be screened at the 2010 Anime Expo, taking place July 1-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA. Find details for the convention at www.anime-expo.org.

Based on the best-selling fantasy novel Kamogawa HORUMO written by Manabu Makime, the live-action BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO takes audiences on a wild adventure that blends the breathtaking backdrop of Kyoto with the bizarre legend of “Horumo.” After failing the entrance exam and enduring two years of cram school, Akira Abe (Takayuki Yamada) finally gets accepted to the prestigious Kyoto University. One day while on his way home with a friend, Akira meets a senior who invites them to a welcome party hosted by his club called the Azure Dragon. With nothing to lose, they decide to go for the free food, but while there Akira meets Kyoko Sawara, a beautiful girl with a perfect nose, and he falls head over heels for her. Now smitten, Akira goes in to persuade his friend to join the club with him in the hope that he can get closer to the girl of his dreams.

At first, the club appears to be an ordinary social group, but the new members soon discover the mysterious 1000 year-old tradition of the “Horumo” battle upheld by the four universities of Kyoto. The battle is fought between 10 players from each team who each manipulate an army of 100 spirits (referred to as Oni) to fight their opponents. The members each go through rigorous training to achieve fluency in the Oni language as well as learn the indefinable gestures that are required to complement it. Let the battles begin!

BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO features stunning visual effects that vividly bring the Oni spirits to life and were created by the renowned GONZO animation studio, which also produced animated features like Afro Samurai, Brave Story, and Basilisk.

BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO was directed by Katsuhide Motoki (Kitaro And The Millennium Curse, 10 Promises To My Dog). The film stars Takayuki Yamada, who is well-known for his role as the awkward and bumbling young man in Train Man: Densha Otoko (also available from VIZ Pictures), along with actress Chiaki Kuriyama, who appeared in the Japanese horror film Ju-on and made her Hollywood debut in director Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1.

For more information on BATTLE LEAGUE HORUMO or other VIZ Pictures titles, please visit www.viz-pictures.com.


About VIZ Pictures, Inc.:
Based in San Francisco, California, VIZ Pictures, Inc. licenses and distributes selective Japanese live-action films and DVDs, with focus on Japanese "kawaii (cute) and cool" pop culture. VIZ Pictures 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, 20TH CENTURY BOYS, and TRAIN MAN: DENSHA OTOKO. VIZ Pictures is also the producer of NEW PEOPLE, a part of the J-Pop Center Project, a unique entertainment destination bringing Japanese pop culture through film, art, fashion, and retail products. For more information please visit www.viz-pictures.com or www.newpeopleworld.com.


"The Twilight Saga: New Moon" Down with Love

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 12 (of 2009) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)
Running time: 130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violence and action
DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz
WRITER: Melissa Rosenberg (based upon Stephenie Meyer)
PRODUCERS: Wyck Godfrey and Mark Morgan
CINEMATOGRAHER: Javier Aquirrearobe
EDITOR: Peter Lambert

DRAMA/FANTASY/ROMANCE with elements of action and horror

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Ashley Greene, Jackson Rathbone, Peter Facinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Kellan Lutz, Nikki Reed, Sam Uley, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, Anna Kendrick, Michael Welch, Rachelle Lefevre, Justin Chon, Christian Serratos, and Edi Gathegi

In the 2008 smash hit film, Twilight, movie audiences saw romance bloom between high school student Bella Swan and her vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen. Now, in the follow-up, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Bella and Edward’s star-crossed romance crashes to earth.

New Moon opens on Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) 18th birthday, a day about which she is not particularly crazy. That evening, Edward’s (Robert Pattinson) family, also vampires, throws a birthday party for Bella, which starts nicely, but takes a shocking turn. Following Bella’s ill-fated birthday party, the Cullens abandon the town of Forks, Washington, in an effort to protect Bella from the dangers inherent in their world. The most shocking blow: Edward breaks up with Bella.

Heartbroken and depressed, Bella sleepwalks through the first half of her senior year of high school, totally shutting out her other friends. When her father, Forks Police Chief Charlie Swan (Billy Burke) demands that his daughter make a change, Bella goes on a date night with a girlfriend. It is on that night that Bella discovers that Edward’s image comes to her whenever she puts herself in jeopardy. Determined to see this vision more often, Bella begins to concoct ways that will put her life at greater and greater risk.

Bella seeks out childhood friend, Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), a member of the local Quileute Native American Indian tribe. A gifted mechanic, Jacob refurbishes an old motorbike that Bella will secretly use to put herself in danger. Something else surprising happens when Bella finds herself drawn to Jacob, a formerly scrawny boy. He is literally growing taller and more muscular (with killer washboard abs) every day and right before Bella’s very eyes. Jacob, however, also has a shocking supernatural secret of his own, which causes a rift to grow between him and Bella. Then, Edward’s sister, Alice (Ashley Greene), returns, seeking Bella’s help in saving Edward’s life, and the rift grows wider.

Like Twilight, New Moon is based upon a novel by Stephenie Meyer (The Host). Obviously, in the translation from novel to film, plot elements and scenes from the book are left out or changed in the film. However, screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg (who also adapted Twilight) retains the central themes, as well as the spirit, of the source material. The novel asks probing questions, such as: after the euphoria of new love, what is real about this relationship? What do Bella and Edward want of each other? What are their motivations, and how much are they willing to fight for their relationship? Just how deep and strong are Bella’s feelings for Jacob? The screenplay keeps those questions at the forefront of the narrative.

And speaking of fight, director Chris Weitz, an established Hollywood filmmaker (About a Boy, The Golden Compass), doesn’t fight the love story at the core of this franchise. New Moon may be filled with thrilling chases and riveting hunts in the forests around Forks. It may carry viewers breathlessly across the world, only to drop them in the mysterious world beneath a rustic Italian town. Weitz still manages to emphasize the ache and yearning of a young love blazing so brightly that it threatens to burn itself out.

The reported increase in the production budget for New Moon (as compared to Twilight), is evident in the flashy visual special effects. The werewolves are in a word – awesome. The spectacular cinematography is pitch-perfect in capturing the right mood and look for every setting in the film: from the forests surround Forks to the murky nights of Port Angeles. An improvement in the art direction also makes even the Swans’ humble home seem cosmopolitan.

New Moon is not perfect. Under Weitz’s direction and Peter Lambert’s editing, the film often moves too fast, sometimes hopping around like someone high on stimulants. Still, this film works. In the intimate moments when the actors, especially Stewart, Pattinson, and Lautner, convince us that they know these characters and that they are going to make the story real for us, New Moon seems less like a fantasy and more like a real love story.

7 of 10
B+

Monday, November 30, 2009


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AMPAS Invites New Members; Mo'Nique, Lee Daniels, Bono Among Invitees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - the organization that hands out the Oscars, has announced its annual list of actors and filmmakers who have been invited to join its ranks.  Previously, the list was not released to the public, but apparently has been since 2007.  The membership of the Academy, which reportedly hovers just under 6000 members, is still not made public.

There are some surprises - Bono and the Edge of U2 and actor Tobin Bell of the Saw franchise.  Jon Landau, producer of the Oscar-winning Titanic, is just now being invited?  Here's the list of the 135 invitees:

Actors

Tobin Bell – “Saw,” “The Firm”
Vera Farmiga – “Up in the Air,” “The Departed”
Miguel Ferrer – “Traffic,” “RoboCop”
James Gandolfini – “In the Loop,” “Get Shorty”
Anna Kendrick – “Up in the Air,” “Twilight”
Mo’Nique – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “Phat Girlz”
Carey Mulligan – “An Education,” “Public Enemies”
Jeremy Renner – “The Hurt Locker,” “28 Weeks Later”
Ryan Reynolds – “The Proposal,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
LaTanya Richardson Jackson – “Mother and Child,” “Losing Isaiah”
Peter Riegert – “Traffic,” “Crossing Delancey”
Sam Robards – “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” “American Beauty”
Saoirse Ronan – “The Lovely Bones,” “Atonement”
Zoe Saldana – “Avatar,” “Star Trek”
Adam Sandler – “Funny People,” “Punch-Drunk Love”
Peter Sarsgaard – “An Education,” “Boys Don’t Cry”
Gabourey Sidibe – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Shaun Toub – “Iron Man,” “The Kite Runner”
Christoph Waltz – “Inglourious Basterds”
George Wyner – “A Serious Man,” “American Pie 2”

Animators
Ken Bielenberg – “Monsters vs Aliens,” “Shrek”
Peter de Seve – “Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Ratatouille”
Steve Hickner – “Bee Movie,” “The Prince of Egypt”
Angus MacLane – “Toy Story 3,” “WALL-E”
Darragh O’Connell – “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty,” “Give Up Yer Aul Sins”
Simon Otto – “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Kung Fu Panda”
Bob Pauley – “Toy Story 3,” “Monsters, Inc.”
Willem Thijssen – “The Aroma of Tea,” “A Greek Tragedy”

Art Directors
Kim Sinclair – “Avatar,” “Cast Away”
Dave Warren – “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary”

At-Large
Darcy Antonellis
John Lowry

Casting Directors
Laura Rosenthal – “The Messenger,” “I’m Not There”

Cinematographers
Barry Ackroyd – “The Hurt Locker,” “United 93”
Christian Berger – “The White Ribbon,” “Cache”
Hagen Bogdanski – “The Young Victoria,” “The Lives of Others”
Shane Hurlbut – “Terminator Salvation,” “We Are Marshall”
Tom Hurwitz – “Valentino The Last Emperor,” “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”
Dan Mindel – “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”
Tobias Schliessler – “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” “Hancock”
Stephen Windon – “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” “House of Wax”
Robert Yeoman – “Get Him to the Greek,” “The Squid and the Whale”

Costume Designers
Catherine Leterrier – “Coco before Chanel,” “Avenue Montaigne”
Janet Patterson – “Bright Star,” “The Piano”

Directors
Jacques Audiard – “A Prophet,” “The Beat That My Heart Skipped”
Juan Jose Campanella – “The Secret in Their Eyes,” “Son of the Bride”
Lee Daniels – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “Shadowboxer”
Claudia Llosa – “The Milk of Sorrow,” “Madeinusa”
Lone Scherfig – “An Education,” “Italian for Beginners”
Adam Shankman – “Bedtime Stories,” “Hairspray”

Documentary
Nancy Baker – “Rehearsing a Dream,” “Born into Brothels”
Rick Goldsmith – “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” “Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press”
Davis Guggenheim – “It Might Get Loud,” “An Inconvenient Truth”
Tia Lessin – “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Trouble the Water”
Cara Mertes – “The Betrayal,” “My Country, My Country”
Frazer Pennebaker – “Al Franken: God Spoke,” “The War Room”
Julia Reichert – “The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” “Seeing Red”
Morgan Spurlock – “Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?,” “Super Size Me”

Executives
Christopher W. Aronson
Jim Berk
Philippe Dauman
Sheila DeLoach
Donald Peter Granger
Nathan Kahane
Andrew Karpen
Ryan Kavanaugh
David Kosse
David Andrew Spitz
Emma Watts

Film Editors
Robert Frazen – “Synecdoche, New York,” “Smart People”
Dana E. Glauberman – “Up in the Air,” “Thank You for Smoking”
Joe Klotz – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” “Grace Is Gone”
Bob Murawski – “The Hurt Locker,” “Spider-Man”
John Refoua – “Avatar,” “Reno 911!: Miami”

Live Action Short Films
Joachim Back – “The New Tenants”
Gregg Helvey – “Kavi,” “The Knife Grinder’s Tale”

Makeup Artists and Hairstylists
Kris Evans – “X-Men The Last Stand,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”
Jane Galli – “Knight and Day,” “3:10 to Yuma”
Mindy Hall – “Star Trek,” “World Trade Center”
Joel Harlow – “Star Trek,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
Jenny Shircore – “The Young Victoria,” “Elizabeth”

Music
Christophe Beck – “The Hangover,” “Bring It On”
Bono – “Gangs of New York,” “In the Name of the Father”
T Bone Burnett – “Crazy Heart,” “Cold Mountain”
The Edge – “Gangs of New York,” “GoldenEye”
Brian Tyler – “Fast & Furious,” “Aliens vs. Predator Requiem”

Producers
Stephanie Allain – “Black Snake Moan,” “Hustle & Flow”
Gregory Jacobs – “The Informant!,” “The Good German”
Jon Landau – “Avatar,” “Titanic”
Marc Turtletaub – “Away We Go,” “Little Miss Sunshine”
Glenn Williamson – “Sunshine Cleaning,” “Hollywoodland”

Production Designers
Kirk M. Pertruccelli – “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Patriot”
Edward S. Verreaux – “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Jurassic Park III”

Public Relations
Dwight Caines
Suzanne M. Cole
Tommy Gargotta
Sophie Gluck
Josh Greenstein
Pamela Levine
Wendy Lightbourn
Michele Robertson
Tony Sella

Set Decorators
Maggie Gray – “The Young Victoria,” “Ella Enchanted”
Douglas A. Mowat – “Role Models,” “The Sixth Sense”
Caroline Smith – “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” “Match Point”

Sound
Frank Eulner – “Iron Man 2,” “Hellboy”
Adam Jenkins – “I Love You, Man,” “Crash”
Tony Lamberti – “Inglourious Basterds,” “Sideways”
Dennis Leonard – “Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” “The Polar Express”
Tom Myers – “Up,” “WALL-E”
Paul N.J. Ottosson – “The Hurt Locker,” “Spider-Man 3”
Resul Pookutty – “Ghajini,” “Slumdog Millionaire”
Gary A. Rizzo – “How to Train Your Dragon,” “The Dark Knight”
Michael Silvers – “Up,” “Ratatouille”
Gwendolyn Yates Whittle – “Avatar,” “The Simpsons Movie”

Visual Effects
Matt Aitken – “District 9,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”
Karen Ansel – “Angels & Demons,” “Men in Black II”
Richard Baneham – “Avatar,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”
Eric Barba – “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Zodiac”
Paul Debevec – “Avatar,” “King Kong”
Russell Earl – “Star Trek,” “Transformers”
Steve Galich – “Date Night,” “Transformers”
Andrew R. Jones – “Avatar,” “I, Robot”
Dan Kaufman – “District 9,” “Ocean’s Thirteen”
Derek Spears – “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” “Superman Returns”
Steve Sullivan – “Avatar,” “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”
Michael J. Wassel – “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “The Bourne Identity”

Writers
Neill Blomkamp – “District 9”
Mark Boal – “The Hurt Locker,” “In the Valley of Elah”
Geoffrey Fletcher – “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Nick Hornby – “An Education,” “Fever Pitch”
Alex Kurtzman – “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”
Tom McCarthy – “Up,” “The Visitor”
Roberto Orci – “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible III”
Terri Tatchell – “District 9”

WALL-E the Best Film of 2008

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 48 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux


WALL-E (2008)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – G
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton
WRITER: Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon; from a story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter
PRODUCER: Jim Morris
EDITOR: Stephen Schaffer
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
Academy Award winner

ANIMATION/SCI-FI/DRAMA with elements of action and comedy

Starring: (voices) Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, and Sigourney Weaver

In terms of American animated films, WALL-E, a film from Pixar Animation Studios, is a visionary work, and even considering the few exceptional films released in 2008 (like The Dark Knight), WALL-E was the best film of that year. It is the extraordinary story of a lonely little robot that has been doing what he was built for until he accidentally discovers a new purpose in life when he falls in love.

WALL-E is set centuries in the future on a ravaged Earth, devoid of vegetation and with its cities now largely empty ruins. Mountains of garbage, waste, junk, etc. cover the planet, and humans long ago fled the planet in spaceships that resemble cruise-line ships. Left behind to clean up the mess are small robots with melancholy binocular eyes called Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class or WALL-Es, for short.

For hundreds of lonely years, one WALL-E (Ben Burtt) has been compacting garbage into small cubes and piling them up until they form skyscraper-like heaps. WALL-E also collects knick-knacks, keeps a plucky cockroach as a pet, and obsesses over the 1969 film, Hello, Dolly. WALL-E’s life changes when he meets a strange new visitor to the planet, an advanced probe robot called Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator or EVE (Elissa Knight), and falls in love with the sleek female robot at first sight. After EVE comes to realize that WALL-E has inadvertently stumbled upon the key to the Earth’s future, she races into space to return to the human flagship, the Axiom, where she will report her findings. Meanwhile, the smitten WALL-E has followed her.

WALL-E has the usual ingredients of that help make Pixar movies such huge hits, like exotic settings, splendid storytelling, winning characters and quirky but charming concepts. What makes WALL-E even more special is that it is the first Pixar film that is also a cautionary tale. The film assaults so many things that we hold dear: our materialism (as exemplified by the world-controlling mega-corporation, BnL or “Buy n Large”), gluttony (which results in obesity), our throwaway lifestyle (thus, the piles of garbage), and the instant gratification that high-tech gadgets offer.

This is the kind of thoughtful science fiction that American audiences rarely get. Director Andrew Stanton and his co-writers, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, tackle our modern malaise and short-sightedness, the grasping corporation with their voracious appetites for wealth in almost any form, and our insipid and incompetent politicians.

Yet WALL-E, like other Pixar flicks is inimitably entertaining. All the robots, not just WALL-E and EVE, have such sparkling characters. Perhaps, that is the true magic of Pixar, the ability to fabricate humanity in any fictional characters – from a pack rat robot that picks up garbage and collects odds and ends to a busy-body sanitation robot neurotically cleaning contaminants. The voice performances (especially Ben Burtt’s) make all the characters, even the robots, seem uncannily human. The eventual robot mini-rebellion, which is a much smarter spin on man vs. machine than even The Terminator or The Matrix, provides the frenetic action-comedy that Pixar films always offer.

Thomas Newman’s exuberant score is consistently pitch perfect. It gives color to the film’s silent movie-like first act and helps brings the budding romance of WALL-E and EVE to life. Newman’s compositions turn the drama, conflict, and tension of the last half-hour into a whirlwind of action that just might take your breath away.

What else can I say? As usual, Pixar delivers, but this time WALL-E is especially special. It tells a wonderful love story, and asks us to love our world and to take care of ourselves. This is a visionary work.

10 of 10

NOTES:
2009 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Andrew Stanton); 5 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Thomas Newman); “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Peter Gabriel-music/lyrics and Thomas Newman- music for the song "Down to Earth"), “Best Achievement in Sound” (Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, and Ben Burtt), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood), “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Andrew Stanton-screenplay/story, Jim Reardon-screenplay, and Pete Docter-story)

2009 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Film” (Andrew Stanton); 2 nominations: “Best Music” (Thomas Newman) and “Best Sound” (Ben Burtt, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, and Matthew Wood); 2008 BAFTA Children's Award Best Feature Film (Jim Morris and Andrew Stanton)

2009 Golden Globes: 1 win: Best Animated Feature Film; 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Peter Gabriel-music/lyrics and Thomas Newman-music for the song "Down to Earth")

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Siggraph 2010 Winners Announced; Pixar Entry Among Highlights

SIGGRAPH 2010 Announces Computer Animation Festival Winners

CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--SIGGRAPH announces the Computer Animation Festival’s Best in Show, Jury Award, and Best Student Project recipients for SIGGRAPH 2010 to be held in Los Angeles this July. Nominees were chosen from 750 submissions from around the globe, presented by both professional studios and students alike.

“It was difficult to narrow the pool of submissions because of the high level of quality and technical expertise,” said Isaac Kerlow, Computer Animation Festival Director from The Earth Observatory of Singapore/NTU ADM. “Attendees will experience an endorphin rush as they watch the screenings of independent and commercial films, and will get a behind-the-scenes perspective from the planned Production Sessions featuring the visionaries behind some of this year’s most successful Hollywood films. Whether you are an industry veteran or someone who just enjoys quality visual effects and animation, there is something for everyone this year.”

In all, approximately 100 films will be shown during the Computer Animation Festival. The Electronic Theater, the iconic and tribal SIGGRAPH experience, features an identical program three nights in a row, including most of the Jury Selections. Four thematic Special Screenings show the best in TV Commercials and Cinematics, Long Shorts, Student Animations, and for the first time a special focus on Chinese Student Animations. Truly an international event, the festival had entries from 49 different countries and five continents. Fifty-two of the accepted entries are international, and 18 countries are represented in the final selection.

Some of the year’s top visual effects for feature films are featured in the Computer Animation Festival including “Avatar,” “The Last Airbender,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “Iron Man 2,” “Prince of Persia,” “2012,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Plus, eight Live Real-Time Demos, ranging from mainstream to independent work, also contribute to making the Computer Animation Festival a memorable experience.

Since 1999, the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival has been an official qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “Best Animated Short Film” Academy Award®. The film “French Roast” became an Academy nominee in the Best Animated Short category after winning Best in Show at last year’s Festival. For the third consecutive year, the Festival’s screenings, panels and production sessions will be open to the public, allowing general audiences to get a glimpse behind the making of computer generated effects, visualizations, and animations that is rarely available.

A complete preview video of the 2010 Computer Animation Festival is available here.

Here are just a few highlights of this year’s Computer Animation Festival films and Live Real-Time Demos:

BEST IN SHOW AWARD
“Loom”
(Germany)
Directed by Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, and Csaba Letayat

“Loom” tells the story of a moth being drowned in one of nature’s complex cycles. “Loom” was the final project of Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck, and Csaba Letayat at the Filmakademie Baden Württemberg, Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction. The production time, including story development and preproduction, was one year.

JURY AWARD
“Poppy”
(New Zealand)
Directed by James Cunningham

“Poppy” is an independent short set on France’s western front in World War One. Two New Zealand soldiers are trapped behind enemy lines. They find a baby in a muddy ditch, under its dead parents. One of the men wants to save it—the other does not. Based on true events, “Poppy” was written by the great-grandson of one of these soldiers. An innovative combination of motion capture with exquisite facial animation.

BEST STUDENT PROJECT PRIZE
“The Wonder Hospital”
(USA)
Directed by Beomsik Shimbe Shim, California Institute of the Arts

In this student project, a girl enters a mysterious hospital that alters her way of seeing beauty. She is given a choice between two images of her face, “Before” and “After.” As she continues on this illusionary journey, she realizes that beauty is something very different from what she expected.


“2012” — The Last Fluid Simulation
(USA/Germany)
Visual Effects by Scanline VFX, Los Angeles/Munich
“2012 - The Last Fluid Simulation” shows the underlying technology that was used for more than 100 massive fluid simulation shots on “2012”. Included are examples of fully computer-generated shots with massive tidal waves, simulated ice and snow, and, finally, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy smashing into the White House.

Assassin’s Creed 2
(Hungary)
Cinematic by Digic Pictures for Ubisoft Entertainment
Stunningly rendered and animated, this cinematic narrative follows an assassin on the prowl in a street carnival, on his quest to reveal a secular conspiracy during the masquerades of the Italian Renaissance.

“Animated History of Poland”
(Poland)
Directed by Tomek Bagiński, Platige Image
A tale about 1,000 years of Polish history in the format of a musical-visual poem. The story starts with the beginning of the Polish nation in the ninth century, and shows the most important events and processes that took place until the 21st century. The project is a presentation-educational piece produced for the EXPO 2010 in Shanghai.

“Guinness World”
(United Kingdom)
Commercial by The Mill for AMV BBDO
This commercial spot shows how a pint of Guinness comes to life when poured, opening with a man striking a match and lighting a rocket as a voiceover whispers, “It’s time to bring this place to life.” There begins an exhilarating journey, bringing life to barren landscapes across the planet.

“Day & Night”
(USA)
Directed by Teddy Newton, Pixar Animation Studios
When Day encounters Night, sparks fly! At first frightened and suspicious of each other, they get off on the wrong foot. But as they discover each other's unique qualities—and realize that each offers a different window onto the world—the friendship helps them gain a new perspective.

“Suiren”
(Japan)
Directed by Tomoya Kimpara, wow.inc
“Suiren” is a poetic science-fiction visual music piece where the ocean is a symbol of life, and machine-seeds are born to devote themselves to the creation of beautiful creatures.

“Upgrades”
(USA)
Directed by Anya Belkina, Emerson College
“Upgrades” is a hilarious and breakneck-paced animated parody chronicling major upgrades in computer graphics software. Set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumble Bee”.

“Making of Nuit Blanche”
(Canada)
Directed by Arev Manoukian, Visual Effects by Marc-André Gray, Stellar Scene
In this reel we explore the making of “Nuit Blanche”, an elegant and poetic short film that explores a fleeting moment between two strangers, revealing their brief connection in a hyper-real fantasy heavily dependent on visual effects.

“Visualizing Empires Decline”
(Portugal)
Directed by Pedro Cruz, Centre for Informatics and Systems of the University of Coimbra
This information visualization project narrates the decline of the top four maritime empires in the 19th and 20th centuries. A physics engine is used to build a visual mood that conveys the tone of the empires’ decline.

“Cours Toujours”
(France)
Directed by Olivier Barré and Elise Garcette, La Station Animation
An intrepid creature throws himself into a wild pursuit of a bird, which gets him into comically frantic situations.

“Making Love”
(Sweden, Live Real-Time Demo)
Quel Solaar
This game exploration demo is an exploration of the world of the procedural one-man indie “MMO LOVE.” The demo also showcases the tools used to create assets, like sketch-based modeling, 100 percent automatic UV mapping, shader and asset management tools, and the layer-based procedural texturing tool.

God of War III
(USA, Live Real-Time Demo)
Sony Computer Entertainment of America
God of War III is the latest entry in the successful God of War commercial video game series and the first on PlayStation 3. It combines epic set pieces with exquisite fine detail, and its visuals display both technical and creative virtuosity.


About SIGGRAPH 2010
SIGGRAPH 2010 will bring approximately 25,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from six continents to Los Angeles, California, USA for the industry's most respected technical and creative programs focusing on research, science, art, animation, music, gaming, interactivity, education, and the web from Sunday, 25 July through Thursday, 29 July 2010 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. SIGGRAPH 2010 includes a three-day exhibition of products and services from the computer graphics and interactive marketplace from 27-29 July 2010. More than 200 international exhibiting companies are expected. More details are available at www.siggraph.org/s2010

About ACM SIGGRAPH
The ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques www.siggraph.org is an interdisciplinary community interested in research, technology, and applications in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Members include researchers, developers and users from the technical, academic, business, and art communities. ACM SIGGRAPH enriches the computer graphics and interactive techniques community year-round through its conferences, global network of professional and student chapters, publications, and educational activities.

About ACM
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery www.acm.org is the world's largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

"Finding Nemo" Recalls the Drama of Disney's "Bambi"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 84 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux


Finding Nemo (2003) – animated film
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton with Lee Unkrich
WRITERS: Bob Peterson, David Reynolds, and Andrew Stanton, from a story by Andrew Stanton
PRODUCER: Graham Walters
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Sharon Calahan (director of photography) and Jeremy Lasky (director of photography)
EDITOR: David Ian Salter
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
Academy Award winner

ANIMATION/FANTASY/ADVENTURE/COMEDY

Starring: (voices) Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Joe Ranft, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Stanton, Eric Bana, and Elizabeth Perkins

Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clown fish, and his wife Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) live in an underwater suburban utopia for fish. They are about to be new parents as they await the hatching of over 400 eggs, when suddenly tragedy strikes in the form of a natural predator. After a horror that recalls the Disney classic Bambi, all that is left to Marlin is one tiny egg.

As the story moves to the future, Marlin has never really recovered from his loss. He is overprotective of his son Nemo (Alexander Gould), who was born with an underdeveloped fin (formerly known as a handicap), so he doesn’t swim well. Naturally, Nemo hates his father coddling him. One day he rebels by approaching a shipping vessel where a human captures him. Devastated, Marlin begins a desperate quest to find his only child. A blue tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who has short term memory loss, joins Marlin on the search for the boy. In the meantime, Nemo has found himself in the aquarium at an Aussie dentist’s office. He befriends a group of fellow captives who plot to help Nemo escape before he ends up an unfortunate gift to the dentist’s niece.

This is the fifth Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios co-production, and the union has produced five beautiful films. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 are two of the best animated films ever made. A Bug’s Life was a big hit, and I adore Monster’s Inc. more every time I see it. Finding Nemo ably stands with its brethren as another very fine achievement in the very short his story of computer animated feature films. I can say this without hesitation: Finding Nemo is a great animated film. I’ll save you the time reading this unless you really want to know what I have to say – rush out and see this film. It’s not perfect, and I can forgive the filmmakers the awfully syrupy fish suburbia that they created for the film’s opening scene; still, excellence must be noticed.

Directed by Andrew Stanton (co-director of A Bug’s Life) with Lee Unkrich (Monster’s Inc. and Toy Story 2) the film has the emotional resonance of the Toy Story films. Yes, it is inspired wacky fun for the kids, and they’ll laugh at lot; adults will probably laugh more than the tykes. Yes, the film has a gorgeous color palette that just dazzles the senses; it’s a colorful, visual treat on par with the great Technicolor films of yesteryear. However, the most important thing about the film is how it touches upon the relationships between people, both entertaining and connecting with the audience. You know there is something special about using animals to tell human stories. People have told these “anthropomorphic” tales since we could tell stories. It is easier for people to laugh at human foibles when we see our foolishness copied by cartoon animal-people. Animated films, cartoons, and comic art stories use this genre extremely well and through this animators and cartoonists take the craft of storytelling and make it an art.

The central story is about the protective bond between parents and their children, in this specific case, a father and his son. Marlin lost so much when he seemed about to have it all that he is way too overprotective of Nemo, essentially the only person he has left in his life. Marlin can’t deal with the fact that the older his son gets, the harder it is to micromanage the boy’s life. He can’t stop every bad thing that may happen to his child from happening. He’s also afraid of the environment in which he lives, the ocean, so he doesn’t really enjoy life. Nemo wants to be independent, but buried in the back of his mind is that he may be as physically inadequate as his father treats him. There are also many notable subplots: friends overcoming obstacles, learning to accept the differences in others instead of prejudging negative traits on them, people joining together to help a stranger in need, and of keeping hope alive.

I know that this might seem to be a bit heady for a cartoon, but this ability of a Pixar film to entertain and delight and to teach and to inspire simply continues that which is a tradition of the best Disney animated films. We’ve often considered classic Disney animation to be amongst the best films ever made (well, at least some of us), and Pixar just shows audiences that an animated film can be just as fun as the funniest comedy, that a cartoon can mimic the drama of humanity as well the best “real” movies.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2004 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature” (Andrew Stanton); 3 nominations: “Best Music, Original Score” (Thomas Newman), “Best Sound Editing” (Gary Rydstrom and Michael Silvers), and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Andrew Stanton-screenplay/story, Bob Peterson-screenplay and David Reynolds-screenplay)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds)

2004 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy”


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lionsgate Acquires Gerard Butler Action Flick for 2011

Press release from Lionsgate:

LIONSGATE HITS BULLSEYE WITH MARC FORSTER’S MACHINE GUN PREACHER

Studio Acquires North American Distribution Rights To Fact-Based Action Drama Starring Gerard Butler

Fall 2011 Release Planned – Principal Photography Begins In July

SANTA MONICA, CA, June 21, 2010 – LIONSGATE® (NYSE: LGF), the leading next generation studio, today announced that it has acquired North American distribution rights to the fact-based action drama MACHINE GUN PREACHER, directed by Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE). The film is the studio’s first collaboration with Forster since the Oscar®-winning MONSTER’S BALL. Gerard Butler (LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, 300) stars as Reverend Sam Childers, known as “the machine gun preacher.” Michelle Monaghan (EAGLE EYE, GONE BABY GONE) co-stars as his wife, Lynn Childers; Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (THE RUNAWAYS, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD) portrays Childers’s best friend, Donnie; Madeline Carroll (THE SPY NEXT DOOR, SWING VOTE) plays Childers’s daughter, Paige; Kathy Baker (LAST CHANCE HARVEY, STREET SMART) plays Childers’s mother, Daisy Childers; and Souleymane Sy Savane (GOODBYE SOLO, “Damages”) plays Deng, Childers’s right hand in Africa. The screenwriter is Jason Keller. Forster will produce under his Apparatus shingle alongside Robbie Brenner; Gary Safady and Craig Chapman of Kaushi Entertainment; and Deborah Giarratana of GG Filmz. Executive producers are Myles Nestel of Merlina Entertainment, Brad Simpson of Apparatus, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel and Louise Rosner. The announcement was made by Joe Drake, Lionsgate Chief Operating Officer and Motion Picture Group President, and Mike Paseornek, Lionsgate President of Motion Picture Production.

Principal photography for MACHINE GUN PREACHER is scheduled to begin on July 5th in Detroit and South Africa. Lionsgate plans to release the film in fall 2011.

Said Paseornek, “MACHINE GUN PREACHER combines a fascinating, action-packed story and unique characters with great talent on both sides of the camera. We’re delighted to be back in business with our friend Marc, one of the most gifted and versatile filmmakers working today. And Gerard Butler is the ideal actor to capture the strength, complexity and charisma of this film’s real-life hero, Sam Childers.”

Said Brenner, “When I learned about Sam Childers, I thought, ‘here is a man who is making a difference, defying the odds and not just talking about what he believes but actually doing it.’ Seldom do you find a story that is gripping and relatable but is also about something bigger. Here was a movie that begged to be made. Jason Keller wrote an exceptional screenplay, and I can think of no one better able to depict this story than my dear friend, Marc Forster."

Said Safady, “I am honored to play an integral part in telling the amazing story of Sam Childers. I think this is the perfect movie as a foray into the film business, as it is both commercial and topical. In today's society, stories like his are rare and this is one that deserves to be told.”

Said Forster, “I am thrilled to be working again with Lionsgate. They have a keen understanding for the complexity of the material and will give our film the care and guidance it needs to expose the story to the masses.”

The deal was negotiated for Lionsgate by Rob McEntegart, Senior Executive Vice President, Motion Picture Group, and by Merlina Entertainment’s Nestel, on behalf of the filmmakers. Forster, Keller, Butler and Shannon are represented by CAA. Forster and Keller are represented by Guymon Casady of Management 360. Forster is represented by attorney Linda Lichter of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman.


SYNOPSIS – MACHINE GUN PREACHER
After renouncing his outlaw ways, Sam Childers embarks on a spiritual path, becoming a warrior for the desperate and helpless children in a war-torn country in Africa.


ABOUT LIONSGATE
Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF - News) is the leading next generation studio with a strong and diversified presence in the production and distribution of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment, video-on-demand and digitally delivered content. The Company has built a strong television presence in production of prime time cable and broadcast network series, distribution and syndication of programming through Debmar-Mercury and an array of channel assets. Lionsgate currently has nearly 20 shows on 10 different networks spanning its prime time production, distribution and syndication businesses, including such critically-acclaimed hits as "Mad Men," "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie" along with new series such as "Blue Mountain State" and "Running Wilde" and the syndication successes "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," its spinoff "Meet The Browns" and "The Wendy Williams Show."

Its feature film business has generated such recent hits as TYLER PERRY’S WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO?, the action film KICK-ASS, which opened at #1 at the North American box office and the critically-acclaimed PRECIOUS, which has garnered nearly $50 million at the North American box office and won two Academy Awards®. The Company’s home entertainment business has grown to more than 7% market share and is an industry leader in box office-to-DVD revenue conversion rate. Lionsgate handles a prestigious and prolific library of approximately 12,000 motion picture and television titles that is an important source of recurring revenue and serves as the foundation for the growth of the Company’s core businesses. The Lionsgate brand remains synonymous with original, daring, quality entertainment in markets around the world.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"The Karate Kid" is Still a Winner

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 47 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Karate Kid (2010)
Running time: 140 minutes (2 hours, 20 minutes)
MPAA – PG for bullying, martial arts action violence and some mild language
DIRECTOR: Harald Zwart
WRITERS: Christopher Murphey; from a story by Robert Mark Kamen
PRODUCERS: James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, Ken Stovitz, and Jerry Weintraub
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Pratt
EDITOR: Joel Negron
COMPOSER: James Horner

DRAMA/MARTIAL ARTS

Starring: Jaden Smith, Jackie Chan, Taraji P. Henson, Wen Wen Han, Zhenwei Wang Rongguang Yu, Zhensu Wu, Zhiheng Wang, and Luke Carberry

The Karate Kid 2010 is, of course, a remake of the 1984 film of the same name. The new film stars Jaden Smith (son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith) and international martial artist and actor, Jackie Chan. The new film is an absolutely lovable, well-made film that stands on its on and does the original proud. This time, however, kung fu, not karate, is the martial art of choice.

Twelve-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) moves to Beijing from Detroit with his mother, Sherry Parker (Taraji P. Henson), because of her new job. Dre experiences love-at-first-sight when he sees a young violinist named Mei Ying (Wen Wen Han), practicing in the park, and the feeling is mutual. However, Dre’s feelings for Mei Ying make an enemy of the class bully, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), a kung fu prodigy and rival for Mei Ying’s affections.

Dre knows a little karate, but it is not enough to help this karate kid from America safely navigate his new home. Cheng uses kung fu to beat the crap out of him. Dre finds a friend and mentor in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), the maintenance man of Dre’s apartment complex, after he rescues Dre from a beating. After a futile attempt to settle the dispute between Dre and Cheng peaceably, Mr. Han enters Dre in the “Open Kung Fu Tournament” where Dre may face off against his nemesis. Han begins to teach Dre real kung fu, but although he is being trained by a master, Dre realizes that surviving the tournament will be the fight of his life.

At its heart, The Karate Kid is a wonderful story about a teacher-student relationship that develops into a surrogate father-son bond. It is a superbly written (by screenwriter Christopher Murphey) example of a bond between two people in which each not only helps the other heal, but also soar to new heights of achievement and happiness.

The relationship between Dre and Mr. Han works so well because of the strong screen chemistry between Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan. Their performances make the characters’ actions and emotions seem authentic and sincere. They not only ground the story’s more fantastical moments, but they also give it a touch of goofy charm, which lightens the movie’s overall dark and sometimes edgy and grim atmosphere. Jaden has inherited his father, Will Smith’s cheeky cockiness, but the young actor seems like more of a natural talent, as if he doesn’t have to try as hard as his father.

In this film, Jackie Chan gives what is by far his best performance in an American production. Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am. Chan gives a complex, layered performance to create in Han, a complicated and inscrutable man. This is best exemplified in the scene in which Cheng’s Master Li (Rongguang Yu) and Mr. Han have a tense confrontation. Chan plays the scene with barely checked but mostly concealed fury. It is difficult to figure out what is going on in Mr. Han’s mind at that moment, and that’s the way Chan probably wanted it because it adds another layer of mystery to Han.

Fresh of the maligned Pink Panther 2, director Harald Swart has delivered a winner. This film, however, is as much a Chinese and American take on Rocky as it is a remake of The Karate Kid 1984, itself a teen, martial arts spin on 1976 Oscar winner for “Best Picture.” It is unsettling to see 12-year-olds beating each other up, as they do here, but The Karate Kid 2010 is excellent family entertainment. Its messages about setting goals and being open-minded and resilient make it even more of a winner.

8 of 10
A

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Friday, June 25, 2010

Now, Peter Jackson Wants to Direct The Hobbit Films

Entertainment Weekly or EW.com has the details here.

Strange "Little Nicky" was Also a Romantic Comedy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 165 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


Little Nicky (2000)
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude sexual humor, some drug content, language, and thematic material
DIRECTOR: Steven Brill
WRITERS: Tim Herlihy, Adam Sandler, and Steven Brill
PRODUCERS: Jack Giarraputo and Robert Simonds
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Theo van de Sande
EDITOR: Jeff Gourson

FANTASY/COMEDY/ROMANCE

Starring: Adam Sandler, Patricia Arquette, Harvey Keitel, Rhys Ifans, Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr., Rodney Dangerfield, Allen Covert, Peter Dante, Jonathan Loughran, (voice) Robert Smigel, Reese Witherspoon, Kevin Nealon, Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz, Carl Weathers, Quentin Tarantino, Michael McKean, Rob Schneider, John Witherspoon, Clint Howard, The Harlem Globetrotters (Orlando Antigua, Matthew Jackson, Curley “Boo” Johnson, Herbert Lang, William Stringfellow, and Lou Dunbar), George Wallace, Ellen Cleghorne, Reggie McFadden, and Philip Bolden with (uncredited) Dan Marino, Henry Winkler, and Ozzy Osbourne

Satan (Harvey Keitel) was about to give up his throne (after 10,000 years of ruling Hell) to one of his three sons: the sly Adrian (Rhys Ifans), the brutal and abusive Cassius (Tom “Tiny” Lister, Jr.) or his sweetest son, Nicky (Adam Sander). However, the King of Damnation decided to keep his throne for another ten thousand-year rule, much to the chagrin of both Adrian and Cassius, so they decide to escape to Earth and create a hell there where they can rule. Their rash behavior freezes the gates of hell, and Satan begins to disintegrate. Nicky reluctantly goes to Earth to bring his dastardly brothers back (by trapping them in a flask and returning both brothers at the same time), but he falls in love with a shy girl named Valerie (Patricia Arquette). Nicky’s love interest and his brothers’ bullying complicate his task while Adrian and Cassius turn Manhattan into a hell on Earth.

Many fans consider Little Nicky to be Adam Sandler’s worst film as a headlining star, but the film probably put off people for two reasons. First, it is a genre film that plays with magic and the supernatural, with Hell also as a major setting for the film. Secondly, it is a transition film that displays both the juvenile attitude and crude humor of Sandler’s mid to late 90’s star making turns in such films as Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy and the romance of the comedy date films like Mr. Deeds and 50 First Dates that Sandler would emphasize in the new century. The young male audience that makes up a large part of Sandler’s fan base prefers the former gross out comedy to the latter relationship films.

What also may have most turned people away is the Little Nicky’s excessive vileness, particularly in regards to religion, religious authority, and religious institutions. I found that aspect shocking, mildly offensive, and unnecessary; still, I applaud the filmmakers’ boldness in handling religion in such a fashion. That’s just one of the things that makes Little Nicky stand out from the crowded field of juvenile comedy. There’s lots of crude humor, and most of it is quite hilarious, and it’s not just visual gags because there is a frankly raw use of language that really gives this film zing. There is also a wonderful romance between the shy couple of Nicky and Valerie that works because they are such a perfectly matched, mismatched couple.

The film does go a little wrong in its second half. Nicky’s pursuit of his brothers abruptly begins to dim the film’s comedy, and more time should have been spent on the Nicky/Valerie relationship. Still, for all its rawness and crudeness, Little Nicky is a feel good film, and it accomplishes its feel good attitude with lots of movie star cameos. Even small appearances by well-known actors give a film brief bursts of energy, and Sandler fills the film with friends, especially fellow alumni of “Saturday Night Live” where Sandler starred from 1991-95.

As for Sandler’s performance, it is a bizarre part that he actually plays with a touch of sweetness and goofy charm that really sells the character. He, however, keeps his fire low to allow his wonderful supporting cast to shine, and they make Little Nicky as much theirs as it is his – an unusual film that is uncommonly funny.

7 of 10
B+


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jamie Foxx Developing Mob TV Series

BET.com's blog, Stay Tuned..., cribbed a story from Deadline Hollywood that Jamie Foxx is developing a mob drama that he plans to pitch to the major cable networks.  You want details:

Jamie Foxx is getting entrepreneurial with a new drama TV project. I hear the Oscar winner over the past two weeks shot a trailer for a potential drama series entitled Tommy’s Little Girl. Selma Blair and Paul Sorvino star in the trailer for the project, which is based on an idea by Foxx. It revolves around several older mobster guys, played by Sorvino, Sopranos alum Tony Sirico and James Russo, and centers on Sorvino’s relationship with his daughter, played by Blair. Foxx is currently editing the trailer for the project, which is being financed by a private investor. When ready, it will be taken out to the top cable networks. Foxx has been focusing on TV producing lately.

Paul Sorvino!  I'm there already.

"Quantum of Solace" Finds Bond with a Hard-On for Payback

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 46 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux


Quantum of Solace (2008)
Running time: 106 minutes (1 hour, 46 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
WRITERS: Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade
PRODUCERS: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roberto Schaefer (director of photography)
EDITORS: Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson
MAIN THEME: “Another Way to Die” performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White and composed by Jack White
BAFTA Awards nominee

ACTION/DRAMA/THRILLER

Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, and Joaquín Cosio

The 2006 version of Casino Royale rebooted the James Bond film franchise. The follow up film, Quantum of Solace (the 22nd Bond film), is a rough and tumble, rip-roaring action movie that is probably more Jason Bourne than it is James Bond. Still, this is a very good action thriller.

Quantum of Solace continues immediately after the events of Casino Royale. James Bond (Daniel Craig) rushes the captured Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to Siena, Italy, where Bond and M (Judi Dench), his M16 superior, will interrogate White. The interrogation is interrupted, however, by a double agent. Bond follows the trail of the double agent to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the charismatic leader of an ecological organization called Greene Planet. Behind Greene Planet’s seemingly legitimate business interests and benevolent aims hides Quantum, a powerful terrorist organization plotting to overthrow the government of Bolivia.

For Bond, this mission is as much about vengeance as it is about duty. Quantum is also connected to the death of the woman Bond loved, Vesper Lynn, (who betrayed him and died in Casino Royale). In Bolivia, Bond is joined by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), a young woman hunting the murderer of her family, Bolivian general, Medrano (Joaquín Cosio), and a co-conspirator of Greene’s. As he gets closer to finding the man responsible for the betrayal of Vesper, Bond leaves a pile of bodies in his wake, and soon the CIA and his own agency are hunting him.

By now, moviegoers are used to the fact that the Daniel Craig James Bond is not the “shaken, not stirred” Bond of the past. Bond is now as much an ass-kicking action hero, leaping and running all over the place, as he is a cool secret agent (if not more). And Quantum of Solace is certainly kick-ass. It isn’t more of the same; the film simply takes the cool action scenes of Casino Royale and multiplies them.

Craig is ultra-cool as the ruthless “blunt instrument,” and his performance here – balancing a broken heart with a barely concealed hard-on for revenge – is tasty. Mathieu Amalric is smashing as Dominic Greene; rarely has such a weasel of a villain been so attractive. Judi Dench and Jeffrey Wright deliver their usually good performances.

From the opening rollicking car chase (one of the best I’ve seen in a long time) to the desert hotel showdown, this Bond packs a wallop. Quantum of Solace lacks the smart elegance of the typical James Bond movie (which even Casino Royale had), but I’ll take solace in this quick, sweet, brutal gem of an action movie.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
2009 BAFTA Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Sound” (James Boyle, Eddy Joseph, Chris Munro, Mike Prestwood Smith, and Mark Taylor) and “Best Special Visual Effects” (Chris Corbould and Kevin Tod Haug)


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cast of 2011 "Footloose" Remake Now Complete

BREWER’S CAST COMES TOGETHER FOR “FOOTLOOSE”

Paramount Pictures Will Release On April 1, 2011

Adam Goodman, President of Paramount Pictures Film Group, announced today the completion of principle casting on writer / director Craig Brewer’s “Footloose”. Following an extensive worldwide search, newcomer Kenny Wormald will play the highly coveted role of ‘Ren’, opposite previously announced star Julianne Hough as ‘Ariel’. Dennis Quaid also joins the cast in the role of ‘Reverend Moore’, along with Miles Teller as ‘Willard’.

Craig Zadan, who also served as a producer on the original film, joins his longtime creative partner Neil Meron (“Chicago”) and producers Brad Weston and Dylan Sellers (“Agent Cody Banks”) on the remake. OscarÒ winning songwriter Dean Pitchford, who wrote the screenplay and songs for the original movie, will executive produce. Brewer (“Hustle And Flow,” “Black Snake Moan”) will shoot from a script he adapted from Pitchford’s original.

Julianne Hough will make her feature film debut in “Burlesque” in November, opposite Christina Aguilera and Cher, which will also coincide with the release of the two-time “Dancing With the Stars” champion’s second country album. She will co-star alongside newcomer Wormald, who appeared in the MTV series “Dancelife”, and most recently toured with Justin Timberlake. The film will mark the first major U.S. feature film role for the Boston native.

Actor Dennis Quaid, known for his starring roles in countless hit movies including “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Traffic,” and most notably for his Golden Globe and SAG nominated role in the acclaimed movie “Far From Heaven”, also joins the cast. The actor most recently starred in the critically praised HBO movie “The Special Relationship”.

Miles Teller, who will next appear in John Cameron Mitchell’s “The Rabbit Hole” starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, will also appear in the film.

The movie will feature choreography from Jamal Sims, who recently worked with Madonna on her Sticky & Sweet Tour. Sims has choreographed countless movies and videos, and will next choreograph the Neil Patrick Harris' production of the award-winning musical Rent starring Nicole Scherzinger and Vanessa Hudgens, from August 6-8 at the Hollywood Bowl.

“I saw ‘Footloose’ in my hometown theater when I was 13-years-old and it rocked my world. It was a teenage rebellion movie that explored the struggles of faith and family in a small town, and it had an awesome soundtrack. I can promise ‘Footloose’ fans that I will be true to the spirit of the original film. But I still gotta put my own Southern grit into it and kick it into 2011,” said Brewer. "It's going to be a blast!"

"When we discovered Kevin Bacon in 1984, we were both excited and gratified – and also knew the chances of ever duplicating that effort was a million to one shot. Decades later Kenny Wormald proved history could repeat itself,” said Zadan. “We've wanted to work with Brewer ever since we saw ‘Hustle & Flow.’ His fresh and contemporary vision will bring ‘Footloose’ to a whole new generation of moviegoers when the movie opens in 2011."


ABOUT PARAMOUNT PICTURES CORPORATION
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. The company's labels include Paramount Pictures, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Digital Entertainment, Paramount Famous Productions, Paramount Home Entertainment, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., Paramount Studio Group, and Worldwide Television Distribution.


Bond Refreshed and Thuggin' Out in "Casino Royale"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 238 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux


Casino Royale (2006)
Running time: 144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content, and nudity
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
WRITERS: Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (based upon the novel by Ian Fleming)
PRODUCERS: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phil Méheux, BSC
EDITOR: Stuart Baird, A.C.E.
THEME SONG: “You Know My Name” performed by Chris Cornell (written by Chris Cornell and David Arnold)
BAFTA Award winner

ACTION/DRAMA/THRILLER

Starring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen with Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench, and Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic, Simon Abkarian, Sébastien Foucan, and Jesper Christensen

Back in 1995, director Martin Campbell launched the first Pierce Brosnan James Bond film, GoldenEye. Eleven years later, Campbell helms another re-launch of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale, the 21st James Bond movie. This new film takes Bond back to early in his career, and we get a new actor playing Bond, Daniel Craig (Layer Cake, Munich), who brings a bit of the thug to the venerable secret agent.

In his first big mission as 007 (Double 0 means the agent has a license to kill… but you knew that), James Bond tackles terrorism. M (Judi Dench), the head of British Secret Service, M16, is unsure of her new agent, who tends to leave a pile of bodies in his wake. Still, Bond travels to Madagascar where he engages in a pulse pounding chase of the would-be bomber, Mollaka (Sébastien Foucan). This is the kind of hard work Bond must do to learn that the key figure in a terrorist money laundering scheme is Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to the world’s terrorists.

In order to stop Le Chiffre and bring down the terrorist network, Bond eventually has to face Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game (Texas Hold ‘em) at Casino Royale (located in an unnamed town in Montenegro). In his corner, Bond has a beautiful British Treasurer official named Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and of course, their initial disinterest in each other becomes a mutual attraction that goes farther. Meanwhile, dark forces have gathered around Le Chiffre, and Bond is finding that some of his own allies may be on Le Chiffre’s side.

How is Daniel Craig as James Bond? Imagine Sean Connery, but darker, edgier, and much more dangerous. Personally, I like it, but having Bond as a cold, killing machine is a bit off-putting. Still, Craig has an absolutely magnetic screen presence, and it’s hard not to focus on him even in a crowd scene. And he has a rock hard body.

Meanwhile, the overall film is pretty good. Almost gone are the sci-fi elements that have been a staple of Bond films, to one extent or another, since the beginning. Casino Royale is like the Jason Bourne films (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy), but darker still. The film has several dry spots, but the narrative makes up for that with several edge-of-the-seat action sequences – each one mesmerizing. Martin Campbell does an excellent job keeping up the heart-pounding thrills by taking us from Europe to Madagascar to the Bahamas to Miami and back to Europe again (to an eventual explosive finale in Venice). In fact, Campbell does an excellent job staging the thrills so quickly and pacing them so well that the bad moments in Casino Royale seem like a figment of the viewer’s imagination. Even the poker game, which makes up the middle act of Casino Royale, is great.

While Craig is quite good, the rest of the cast is mostly average. Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd hardly registers as a Bond girl, and Mads Mikkelsen is a half-menacing and half comic stock villain. Judi Dench, however, has a lot of bite in her as M, and Dench, a truly fine actress, hits the right note in each of her scenes – so much so that her M is missed whenever she leaves.

I’m reluctant to compare Casino Royale to other Bond films because it is so different, but judged on its own, this is a fine film. Whether this new direction will stand firm over the long run is a question for the future, but right now, Casino Royale is a good thing.

7 of 10
B+

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

NOTES:
2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Sound” (Chris Munro, Eddy Joseph, Mike Prestwood Smith, Martin Cantwell, and Mark Taylor); 8 nominations: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Martin Campbell, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis), “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (David Arnold), “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Steven Begg, Chris Corbould, John Paul Docherty, and Ditch Doy), “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Daniel Craig), “Best Cinematography” (Phil Meheux), “Best Editing” (Stuart Baird). “Best Production Design” (Peter Lamont and Simon Wakefield), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Paul Haggis)


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Latest Episodes of Bleach Anime at VIZAnime - FOR FREE!


LATEST EPISODES AIRED IN JAPAN OF POPULAR BLEACH ANIME SERIES TO START STREAMING ON VIZANIME.COM

Fans Are Invited To View New Episodes On VIZAnime.com

Beginning Today For FREE!

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, continues to generate tremendous momentum for its popular BLEACH series with the announcement that English-subtitled episodes from the most current story arc will begin streaming for free in the U.S. via the company’s premier website for anime, VIZAnime.com. Starting today with Episode 275, VIZAnime.com will stream a new BLEACH episode one week after it has aired in Japan.

BLEACH is one of the most popular Japanese anime and manga properties in the world and this near simulcast schedule is part of VIZ Anime’s ongoing strategy to bring hit animated properties to a national audience via the web.

BLEACH is a popular manga and animated series (both rated ‘T’ for Teens), distributed domestically by VIZ Media, that follows the adventures of Ichigo, a 15-year old student with the ability to see ghosts. When his family is attacked by a Hollow — a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo encounters Rukia, a Soul Reaper, and inadvertently absorbs her powers. Now, he’s dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping tortured souls find peace. Episode 275, from the newest story arc in Japan, marks the start of a thrilling storyline and guarantees a series of face-offs that are sure to excite old and new BLEACH fans!

VIZAnime.com is the official online home to some of VIZ Media’s best-loved animated series, and a burgeoning social network for fans to connect and form an interactive community. Over 1,000 episodes are currently available, and new content is added on a weekly basis.

“BLEACH remains one of the most successful and popular anime series in North America, and VIZ Media continues to break down time and distance barriers by making new episodes available within days of their original airing in Japan,” says Ken Sasaki, Sr. Vice President & General Manager, VIZ Media. “VIZAnime.com is the ultimate destination for the many popular VIZ Media animated titles, and currently contains an extensive catalog of hundreds of episodes from popular shows like BLEACH, INUYASHA, NARUTO, THE PRINCE OF TENNIS and more, all offered with accurate, high-quality streaming video that is completely free for viewers!”

BLEACH is a tremendously successful multimedia property internationally. The manga has been licensed in numerous countries around the world and has sold over 2 million copies in the US. In North America, the manga has been a sales hit and the popular animated series is viewed weekly by millions. This success also includes an array of related video games, apparel, action figures and other merchandise.

BLEACH animation can be viewed on Adult Swim and through a variety of other web-based video download and streaming outlets that have partnered with VIZ Media, including iTunes®, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Amazon, and HULU. For more information on BLEACH, please visit bleach.viz.com. To view subtitled BLEACH animated episodes, please visit VIZAnime.com.


Solid Performances, Excellent Directing Shape "Up in the Air"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 45 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux


Up in the Air (2009)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
WRITERS: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (based on the novel by Walter Kirn)
PRODUCERS: Jeffrey Clifford, Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, and Jason Reitman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Steelberg (director of photography)
EDITOR: Dana E. Glauberman
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/COMEDY

Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey, Danny McBride, J.K. Simmons, Sam Elliot, Zach Galifianakis, and Marvin Young (Young MC)

When I first heard all the praise for the 2009 film, Up in the Air, from director Jason Reitman (Juno), I was skeptical. Now, I have finally seen the film, and I like it. I like it a lot. Up in the Air is one of those “movies of the moment” that speak to our times, but this one works because it has excellent actors creating characters the audience will like and some may even love.

Up in the Air focuses on Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), who works for Career Transition Counseling out of Omaha, Nebraska. The job requires him to travel around the country and visit companies where he fires employees so that their bosses don’t have to do it. Ryan loves his life up in the air, and he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles. Ryan is also a motivational speaker who encourages people to live a life free of relationships and without attachments to things. But change is coming.

First, Ryan’s boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), hires a new employee, an ambitious recent college grad, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick). Natalie proposes that the company ground the employees and conduct layoffs (firings) over the Internet. Secondly, Ryan meets another frequent flyer, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), and they begin a casual sexual relationship. Ryan’s younger sister, Julie Bingham (Melanie Lynskey), is getting married, and Ryan’s been invited, although he isn’t really part of his family’s life anymore. Now, Ryan is starting to make connections, but will that be enough to make him give up living a life with nothing and with nobody?

Whatever Up in the Air’s philosophy may be, it relies on good performances and engaging characters to sell it, especially the three major characters: Ryan, Natalie, and Alex. George Clooney is one of the few modern actors who remind me of movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Like Humphrey Bogart, Clooney seems to be playing himself, but he is so good as an actor that he makes us believe that he can be any character, from a fisherman (The Perfect Storm) to a brilliant con man (Ocean’s Eleven). Clooney sells us Ryan Bingham, and instead of coming across as shallow, Ryan comes across as a solid guy with real motivation and personality.

Vera Farmiga usually delivers deceptively smooth performances that, combined with her unique, not-cookie cutter beauty, make for attractive, even alluring characters. Alex Goran is a mysterious, rich with many layers, and Farmiga makes us want to peel back all those layers. Anna Kendrick also turns Natalie, who could have been an annoyance, into someone charming and engaging. Whenever Natalie walks away from the camera, the movie seems lonesome without her.

Perhaps, the lion’s share of the credit should go to director Jason Reitman, a major new talent. Everything about this movie works, and the director is the one who has to bring out the best in his cast and crew. Up in the Air, with its themes of loneliness, disconnected people, shallow relationships, and corporate callousness could have been a downer. When it depicts people getting fired, the movie seems too close to home, but that is a testament the sense of verisimilitude here. The truth is that Up in the Air is timeless because it tells us a story we recognize, in one way or another, and gives us characters with which we identify, in part or in whole.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2010 Academy Awards: 6 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman, and Jason Reitman), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Jason Reitman), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (George Clooney), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Vera Farmiga), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Anna Kendrick), “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner)

2010 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner); 5 nominations: “Best Editing” (Dana E. Glauberman), “Best Film” (Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman, and Daniel Dubiecki), “Best Leading Actor” (George Clooney), “Best Supporting Actress” (Vera Farmiga), “Best Supporting Actress” (Anna Kendrick)

2010 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner); 5 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Jason Reitman), “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (George Clooney), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Vera Farmiga), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Anna Kendrick)


"Bleach" Anime Stars to Appear at Anime Expo 2010

Anime Expo® 2010 Announces Musical Group, RSP, and Voice Actor, Masakazu Morita, as Official Guests of Honor

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Anime Expo® is pleased to announce today that Japanese musical group, RSP, and voice actor, Masakazu Morita, will be official Guests of Honor 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. RSP and Masakazu Morita come to Anime Expo to celebrate their respective involvement with the popular anime, BLEACH.

Musical group RSP is scheduled to perform live in Nokia Plaza L.A. Live on July 1, at 1:00 p.m. RSP, or Real Street Performance, is a Japanese pop group made of members Ai and Saki. The group has released several fan-favorite singles, including A Street Story and the female version of Lifetime Respect. RSP also recorded two ending songs for BLEACH – Kansha and Tabidatsu Kimi e.

Famous voice actor Masakazu Morita is most known for his role as Ichigo Kurosaki in BLEACH. He has also lent his talents to the anime titles Final Fantasy X as Tidus, Gundam Seed Destiny as Auel Neider, and Sengoku Basara as Maeda Keiji. In addition, Mr. Morita was featured as the voice of Troy Bolton in the wildly popular Japanese version of High School Musical 1 and 2.

RSP and Masakazu Morita join Anime Expo’s 2010 guest line-up along with singer BENI; voice actresses Yui Horie and Eri Kitamura; Internet sensation Danny Choo; musical artists Megumi Nakajima and May’n; 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 register for Anime Expo 2010, please visit the event's 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.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Aaron Eckhart Lights it Up in "Thank You for Smoking"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 229 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux


Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Running time: 93 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
WRITER: Jason Reitman (based upon the novel by Christopher Buckley)
PRODUCER: David O. Sacks
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jason Whitaker (director of photography)
EDITOR: Dana E. Glauberman
Golden Globes nominee

COMEDY with elements of drama

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Cameron Bright, Sam Elliot, Katie Holmes, David Koechner, Rob Lowe, William H. Macy, J.K. Simmons, and Robert Duvall, Kim Dickens, Adam Brody, and Todd Louiso

As Vice-President of the Academy of Tobacco Studies, Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is the main lobbyist and primary spin doctor for Big Tobacco. Naylor is on a mission to make the country forget the dangers and health risks of smoking cigarettes. However, his mission gets tougher with health advocates and the opportunistic Senator Ortolan K. Finistirre (William H. Macy) determined to put a new poison label (in the form of an image of the skull & bones) on cigarette packs. Naylor goes on the PR offensive with a strategy to get big Hollywood actors to smoke on screen, as the movie stars of yesteryear did in the Golden Age of Hollywood movies. Nick enlists, Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe), a Hollywood super-agent, to help him get smoking on screen again.

However, Nicky’s newfound notoriety does not go unnoticed by Big Tobacco’s head honcho, The Captain (Robert Duvall), who gives his blessing to Nick’s Hollywood plan. Nick’s activities also get the attention of a beautiful, young investigative reporter, Heather Halloway (Katie Holmes), who is willing to use her body to get Nick to tell her his secrets. Even with a busy schedule, Nick still finds time to hold forth with two comrades – two other lobbyists for industries also facing public backlash: Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) of the alcohol industry and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) of the gun industry. Together, the three of them are the Merchants of Death or M.O.D. Squad. Nick’s also a father, and he’s trying to remain a role model to his young, impressionable son, Joey Naylor (Cameron Bright), who thinks his dad is a god, but Nick’s ex-wife, Jill Naylor (Kim Dickens), isn’t sure a tobacco lobbyist is the best dad material.

Jason Reitman, the son of famed comedy director, Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters), has a more cerebral approach to film comedy than his father, and that’s clearly evident in the clever, offhand satire, Thank You for Smoking, which Reitman adapted from the novel by Christopher Buckley. The film comes across as a savage satire of the tobacco industry, but Reitman directs the film with such elegance that Thank You for Smoking sometimes comes across as glib and soulless. In his attempt to impale Big Tobacco, and also throw sand in the face of shallow Hollywood, opportunistic big media, and shameless Congress, Reitman’s movie ends up gabby and has no real villains. This is a satire that comes across as if it’s teasing its targets rather than criticizing them.

While Thank You for Smoking holds up the characters and subject matter for detached scrutiny, the cast isn’t afraid to get down and dirty. The actors take delight in revealing the characters for all their oily selfishness. They’re all out for their own interests, and what little guilt they feel merely adds a light pungent flavor to the characters. The best performance is delivered, of course, by Aaron Eckhart as the film’s protagonist/quasi-villain, Nick Naylor. A character actor who can play an amazing range of lead characters, Eckhart gives Thank You for Smoking its gift of gab. Eckhart’s screen chemistry with Cameron Bright, the young actor who plays Nick’s son, Joey, is supernaturally real. It’s like a real father and son duo.

Eckhart humanizes Naylor, and makes the viewer like him and want to engage him. Thank You for Smoking is well-written and well-directed (considering the inexperience of the director), and the technical aspects are pretty good. But it’s Aaron Eckhart who makes Thank You for Smoking something more than just another satirical film essay. He makes it memorable.

7 of 10
B+

Monday, November 06, 2006

NOTES:
2007 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Aaron Eckhart)