Thursday, September 30, 2010

Annette Bening, Robert Duvall to Be Honored at Hollywood Film Festival

Press release:

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE ANNETTE BENING AND OSCAR WINNER ROBERT DUVALL TO BE HONORED AT THE HOLLYWOOD AWARDS GALA

HOLLYWOOD, CA, September 29, 2010 -- The 14th Annual Hollywood Film Festival and Hollywood Awards, presented by Starz, are pleased to announce that Academy Award-nominated actress Annette Bening will be honored with the "Hollywood Actress Award" and Oscar-winning actor Robert Duvall will receive the "Hollywood Actor Award" at the festival's Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony.

"It is a privilege to honor and to celebrate Annette Bening's and Robert Duvall's extraordinary talent as well as remarkable work and to recognize their outstanding acting achievements," said Carlos de Abreu, Founder of the Hollywood Awards Gala.

The gala ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on October 25, 2010.


ABOUT ANNETTE BENING
Annette Bening has received three Academy Award nominations for her roles in "Being Julia," "American Beauty, " and "The Grifters." She can be seen recently in Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids Are All Right," which also stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Mia Wasikowska, and Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child."

Bening's other film credits include: Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child"; Diane English's "The Women"; Ryan Murphy's "Running with Scissors"; Kevin Costner's "Open Range"; Mike Nichols' "What Planet Are You From?"; Sam Mendes' "American Beauty"; Edward Zwick's "The Siege"; Warren Beatty's "Bulworth"; Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!"; Rob Reiner's "The American President"; Richard Loncraine's "Richard III"; Glenn Gordon Caron's "Love Affair"; Neil Jordan's "In Dreams" Barry Levinson's "Bugsy"; Mike Nichols' "Regarding Henry"; Irwin Winkler's "Guilty," "Postcards from the Edge"; Milos Forman's "Valmont"; and Howard Deutch's "The Great Outdoors."

ABOUT ROBERT DUVALL
Robert Duvall can be seen recently in Aaron Schneider's "Get Low" starring Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black. A leading man since the 1960s, Robert Duvall has specialized in taciturn cowboys, fierce leaders and driven characters of all types.He is respected by his peers and adored by audiences worldwide, he has earned numerous Oscar® nominations for his performances in "The Godfather," "Apocalypse Now," "The Great Santini," "The Apostle" and "A Civil Action." Duvall won the Academy Award® as Best Actor for his role in "Tender Mercies," and later earned the Golden Globe for his performance in the title role of HBO's "Stalin." More recently, Duvall was honored with the Golden Globe and Emmy Award for his iconic portrayal of "Prentice Ritter" in AMC's "Broken Trail." Duvall made his big screen debut in 1962, as the creepy "Boo Radley" in "To Kill a Mockingbird." He has gone on to star in such classics as "Bullitt," "True Grit," "M*A*S*H," "The Conversation," "Network," "The Natural," "Colors," "Days of Thunder," "The Handmaid's Tale," "Rambling Rose," "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway," "Phenomenon," "A Civil Action," "Open Range," and "Thank You For Smoking," among many others.

As a director and producer, Duvall got behind the camera for his labor of love project "The Apostle" in which he also starred. The film went on to earn many accolades, including being named on over seventy-five film critics? Top 10 Films for 1997 lists, including the "New York Times" and "Los Angeles Times." He also wrote, produced and starred in "Assassination Tango." Duvall was most recently see as the Old Man in "The Road," which stars Viggo Mortensen and is based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Previously announced honorees for this year's Hollywood Awards Gala include: Sean Penn for the "Humanitarian Award"; Helena Bonham Carter for the "Supporting Actress Award"; Sam Rockwell for the "Supporting Actor Award"; Andrew Garfield for the "Breakthrough Actor Award"; Mia Wasikowska for the "Breakthrough Actress Award"; Danny Boyle and Chris Colson for the "Producer Award"; Aaron Sorkin for the "Screenwriter Award"; Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3" and director Lee Unkrich for the "Animation Award"; Hans Zimmer for "Film Composer Award"; Wally Pfister for "Cinematographer Award"; Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall for the "Hollywood Editor Award"; Paramount Pictures' "Iron Man 2" and visual effects supervisors Ben Snow and Janek Sirrs for the "Visual Effects Award"; and Robert Stromberg for "Production Designer Award."

The festival and awards will mark their return on October 20 for a weeklong series of screenings, competitions and awards. The Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on October 25, 2010.

The festival and awards presenter is Starz Entertainment, LLC, a premium movie and original programming entertainment service provider operating in the United States. The company offers 16 premium channels including the flagship Starz® and Encore® brands with approximately 17.3 million and 31.9 million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment airs in total more than 1,000 movies and original series every month across its pay TV channels. Starz Entertainment is recognized as a pay TV leader in providing HD, On Demand, HD On Demand and online advanced services for its Starz, Encore and

MoviePlex brands. Starz Entertainment (http://www.starz.com/) is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, which is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation and is attributed to the Liberty Starz tracking stock group.

For more information:
Festival Contact: 1.310.288.1882
Hollywood Film Festival®
433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 600
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Alex Gibney Hits the Jackpot with "Casino Jack" Documentary



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 81 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – R for some language
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney
PRODUCER: Zena Barakat, Alison Ellwood, and Alex Gibney
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti
EDITOR: Alison Ellwood

DOCUMENTARY – Politics

Starring: Tom DeLay, Thomas Frank, Adam Kidan, Bob Ney, Ron Platt, Sue Schmidt, Melanie Sloan, Neil Volz with Stanley Tucci and Paul Rudd

For almost 20 years, Jack Abramoff was an American lobbyist. He was also a businessman, film producer, and political figure. His ascendancy as an influential and powerful man, both as a lobbyist and within the Republican Party, began when the Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress in 1994. Over the next 12 years, Abramoff lobbied Congress for Indian casinos, sweatshop owners in Saipan, and even shadowy Russian interests. He eventually went to prison for defrauding his Native American clients and corruption of public officials.

Written and directed by Alex Gibney, Casino Jack and the United States of Money is a documentary film about Jack Abramoff, his career, his lobbying activities, and the people around him – including Congressmen, congressional staffers, fellow lobbyists, and assorted figures within conservative and right-wing Christian politics. Gibney won an Oscar for his 2007 documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side, but Gibney deftly plumbed the depths of economic and political scandal in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

However, Casino Jack and the United States of Money is not just about Abramoff. It is really about the buying and selling of the American government with lobbyists as the go-betweens for the buyers (powerful business interests) and the sellers (Congress). Gibney dazzles with stories of Indian tribal councils spending millions of dollars to keep their casinos and to keep other tribes from having casinos. There is the sex slave industry in Saipan and a murdered Greek casino tycoon. Cold War intrigue mixes with African revolutionaries. Congressmen take lavish, overseas golf trips – transportation by private, corporate jet. But the real story is about the looting of the American government, our broken system of government, and the perilous state of our democracy.

Jack Abramoff was in prison while Gibney was making Casino Jack and the United States of Money, and although he was able to interview Abramoff in prison, Gibney was unable to film the former lobbyist for inclusion in the film. Not having Abramoff is a glaring omission, but this film is really about Casino Jack Abramoff AND the United States of Money. For all that the film covers Abramoff, his career, activities, associates, and business partners, the underlying theme of this documentary is the legalized bribery and influence peddling that has basically turned the American government over to people who can afford to buy it.

Gibney’s gift is to take subjects like accounting, finance, government, and law and make them interesting. Like the Enron movie, this Jack Abramoff movie is about corruption, and Gibney fills the film with interviews of the people involved and the people who are reporting on the takeover. What could be a boring piece of journalism is instead a compelling narrative that will wake up the viewer to corruption about which he should and must care. Gibney convinces the viewer that the corruption matters to him because it affects him and perhaps it will make that viewer become engaged and maybe even outraged.

Gibney can even find the humor in the con game. His interview with former Republican House Majority Leader, Tom Delay, reveals a man in denial about his activities with Abramoff. It is funny to watch Delay deliver half-truths and spin with smooth-as-silk dishonesty, as if he did not unethical, let alone wrong. I don’t know if Casino Jack and the United States of Money will make people take to the streets and demand change (probably not), but it is an important documentary in the modern history of American politics. It exists as a warning, a signpost on the road to American ruin. Ignore it at your peril.

9 of 10
A+

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


"Jesus Camp" Not as Passionate as its Subject Matter



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Jesus Camp (2006)
Running time: 85 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some discussions of mature subject matter
PRODUCERS/DIRECTORS: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Mira Chang and Jenna Rosher
EDITOR: Enat Sidi
Academy Award nominee

DOCUMENTARY – POLITICS/RELIGION

Starring: Pastor Becky Fischer

The documentary, Jesus Camp, takes a sharp look at a particular part of the Evangelical revivalist subculture that indoctrinates devout Christian children and trains them to become “Christian soldiers in God’s army.” These are the children will grow up to become the adults who deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages.

The film focuses on Pastor Becky Fischer and her Kids on Fire summer camp at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, where Fischer and her cohorts attempt to solidify and deepen the spirituality of the preteen children who come from around the country to attend the camp. Fischer and company also exhort the children towards political activism in which the goal is “taking back America for Christ.” The film also focuses on Levi, a boy who is already preaching to other children.

Early in Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s documentary film, a preteen girl finishes a faux-break dance routine, and then, tells the camera that she has to watch out and make sure that she isn’t “dancing for the flesh” and is instead dancing for Christ. Watching this film gives the viewer a chance to see how adults brainwash children and indoctrinate these impressionable young minds into whole heartedly buying the adults’ ideologies and beliefs. While this might appall some people, and, considering the politics of Jesus Camp’s subjects, also make liberals uncomfortable, brainwashing children is nothing new. As the film’s creepy star, Pastor Becky Fischer of Kids on Fire says, children never have a choice in what adults teach them. Thus, her attitude is more or less, why not program them with her ideas and lifestyle instead of allowing someone else to program them.

Certainly, Jesus Camp is excellent view of how religious factions and organizations indoctrinate children, but the directors certainly consider this a more important issue than I think it is. Ewing and Grady likely mean Jesus Camp to be more of a warning than a cautionary tale, and some viewers may find the contents of this documentary to be a sign of the looming apocalypse. No doubt there is a fair amount of shocking material here, but it’s shocking in a humorous sort of way. For instance, during a mini-rant about that literary “warlock,” Harry Potter, Pastor Becky mentions that Potter would have been killed in the Old Testament. When the members of a military family shown briefly in the film pledges allegiance to the “Christian flag” while holding an American flag, an Israeli flag, and some kind of flag with a cross on it, I laughed, (albeit with a bit of unease). Perhaps, the creepiest “star” of the picture is Levi, a boy who has really bought into the idea that he is going to be a preacher.

Why Jesus Camp received an Oscar nomination for “Best Documentary, Features,” over what I consider to be better documentary films (such as Why We Fight and Who Killed the Electric Car?), I’ll never know. There’s nothing cinematic about this documentary film, and it looks like something a television network such as CBS or ABC could have produced, although it is a co-production of A&E IndieFilms, a branch of the A&E cable network.

One thing that may have helped this film earn Oscar attention (and that of critics and audiences) is an appearance in the film by Pastor Ted Haggard of the Colorado Springs mega-church, New Life Church. In November 2006, Haggard resigned (or was removed) from his position at New Life Church after he confirmed some of the allegations of an alleged male prostitute that Haggard himself participated in homosexual sex and drug abuse. The resignation took place after Haggard was filmed for Jesus Camp.

5 of 10
B-

Thursday, February 01, 2007

NOTES:
2007 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Honors for Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin at Hollywood Film Festival

Press release:

Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Aaron Sorkin, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall to be honored at the Hollywood Awards Gala

Hollywood, CA, September 27, 2010 -- The 14th Annual Hollywood Film Festival and Hollywood Awards, presented by Starz, are pleased to announce that producers Danny Boyle and Christian Colson will be honored with the "Hollywood Producer Award," screenwriter Aaron Sorkin will get the "Hollywood Screenwriter Award," and Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall will be honored with the "Hollywood Editor Award" at the festival's Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony.

The announcement was made by Carlos de Abreu, Founder of the Hollywood Awards Gala.

"We are honored to recognize these exceptionally talented artists for their outstanding work and creative vision at this year's Hollywood Awards Gala," said de Abreu.

Previously announced honorees for this year's Hollywood Awards Gala include: Sean Penn for the "Humanitarian Award"; Helena Bonham Carter for the "Supporting Actress Award"; Sam Rockwell for the "Supporting Actor Award"; Andrew Garfield for the "Breakthrough Actor Award"; Mia Wasikowska for the "Breakthrough Actress Award"; Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 3" and director Lee Unkrich for the "Hollywood Animation Award"; Paramount Pictures' "Iron Man 2" and visual effects supervisors Ben Snow and Janek Sirrs for the "Hollywood Visual Effects Award"; Hans Zimmer for the "Film Composer Award"; Wally Pfister for "Cinematographer Award"; and Robert Stromberg for the "Production Designer Award."

The gala ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on October 25, 2010.


ABOUT DANNY BOYLE AND CHRISTIAN COLSON
DANNY BOYLE's (Director/Screenwriter/Producer) career started in the theatre with Howard Barker's "Victory," Howard Brenton's "The Genius" and Edward Bond's "Saved," which won the Time Out Award. Boyle also directed five productions for The Royal Shakespeare Company before moving into television where his work included producing Alan Clark's controversial "Elephant" and directing "Strumpet," "Vacuuming Completely Naked In Paradise" and the series Mr. Wroe's Virgins," for which he received a BAFTA nomination.

In 1994 his first feature, "Shallow Grave, earned him the Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTA Awards, among a host of other accolades. Boyle's second film, "Trainspotting," is one of the highest grossing British independent films of all time. The critically acclaimed film won four Empire Awards including Best Director and Best Film and was nominated for a BAFTA Alexander Korda Award and an Academy Award® for Best Adapted Screenplay.

In 2002 the smash hit horror film "28 Days Later" earned Boyle a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Boyle's other feature films include "Millions" starring James Nesbitt, Alex Etel and Lewis McGibbon; "The Beach," starring Leonardo DiCaprio; "A Life Less Ordinary," starring Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz and "Sunshine," starring Cillian Murphy. "Slumdog Millionaire," his eighth internationally theatrically released film, won the People's Choice Award at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win more than 100 international industry awards including 4 Golden Globes, 7 BAFTAs and 8 Academy Awards including best picture. Boyle's latest feature "127 HOURS" stars James Franco in the extraordinary true story of outdoorsman Aron Ralston's entrapment in Blue John Canyon, Utah and will be released theatrically by Fox Searchlight on November 5th 2010. The film marks Boyle's second collaboration with producer Christian Colson and the duo are together developing a slate of new films.

CHRISTIAN COLSON (Producer) is an Academy Award® winning film producer, and Chairman of the London-based production company Cloud Eight Films. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1968, Christian graduated with a First Class Honours degree in English from Oxford University. In 1994 he began his film industry career at the talent agency London Management before becoming Head of Development UK for Harvey Weinstein's Miramax Films in 1998.

Between 2002 and 2009, Christian was Managing Director of Celador Films where he produced seven features including Neil Marshall's 2005 worldwide horror hit THE DESCENT, which won a Saturn Award for Best Horror Film from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and the Empire Award for Best Horror Film. In 2008 Christian produced Danny Boyle's multiple award-winning "Sumdog Millionaire," for which he received the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2008. 127 HOURS marks his second collaboration with Danny Boyle and will be released theatrically by Fox Searchlight on November 5th 2010.

Christian is currently in pre-production on the Civil Rights drama "Selma," to be directed by Lee Daniels, and is developing a slate of films with Danny Boyle.

ABOUT AARON SORKIN
Screenwriter and playwright Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for the highly anticipated film "The Social Network," directed by David Fincher and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. The film is about the formation of Facebook and is set to be released on October 1.

Sorkin made his Broadway playwriting debut with the military courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," for which he received the John Gassner Award as Outstanding New American Playwright. He made his screenwriting debut with the film adaptation of "A Few Good Men," starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore, which was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Sorkin followed this success with the screenplays for "Malice" and "The American President." He also created and wrote the television series "Sports Night" and "The West Wing," for which he won numerous awards, including the Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series for each of his four years on "The West Wing." Sorkin recently adapted "Moneyball," directed by Bennett Miller and starring Brad Pitt, which is currently in production at Sony. He has also acquired the rights to "The Politician," the best-selling book by Andrew Young about the downfall of former Senator John Edwards. Sorkin will adapt the book and make his directorial debut with "The Politician," which he will also produce.

ABOUT KIRK BAXTER AND ANGUS WALL
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall were both nominated for an Academy Award for their editing work on "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Together they edited David Fincher's latest masterpiece "The Social Network" that stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake. In addition, they both edited David Fincher's "Zodiac" starring Jake Gyllenhaal.

Baxter's previous credits include title designer for HBO's "Big Love" and editor on the Academy Award nominated short live action film "Killing Joe." Wall's previous editing credits include Mike Mills' "Thumbsucker"; John Woo's "Hostage" starring Clive Owen; David Fincher's "Panic Room" starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, and Forest Whitaker; and Adam Collis' "Sunset Strip" starring Simon Baker.

The festival and awards will mark their return on October 20 for a weeklong series of screenings, competitions and awards. The Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on October 25, 2010.s

The festival and awards presenter is Starz Entertainment, LLC, a premium movie and original programming entertainment service provider operating in the United States. The company offers 16 premium channels including the flagship Starz® and Encore® brands with approximately 17.3 million and 31.9 million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment airs in total more than 1,000 movies and original series every month across its pay TV channels. Starz Entertainment is recognized as a pay TV leader in providing HD, On Demand, HD On Demand and online advanced services for its Starz, Encore and MoviePlex brands. Starz Entertainment (www.starz.com) is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, which is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation and is attributed to the Liberty Starz tracking stock group.

For more information please go to
Festival Contact: 1.310.288.1882
Hollywood Film Festival®
433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 600
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Iron Man Film Was Good - Surprisingly Good



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Iron Man (2008)
Running time: 126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
WRITERS: Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (based upon characters created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby)
PRODUCERS: Avi Arad and Kevin Feige
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Libatique, ASC (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Dan Lebental, A.C.E.
Academy Award nominee

SUPERHERO/FANTASY/SCI-FI/ACTION

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Leslie Bigg, Faran Tahir, Clark Gregg, Sayed Badreya, and Shaun Toub

After years of watching other movie studios make hundreds of millions bringing its comic book characters to the big screen (Spider-Man, X-Men), Marvel Studios makes its first foray into financing and making its own superhero movie. It’s called Iron Man, and this first Marvel Studios movie is as bold and as brash as Marvel’s attempt to bring the classic armored superhero to the silver screen on its own dime.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a billionaire industrialist and genius inventor, and his Stark Industries is the U.S. government’s top weapons contractor. He has celebrity status as the protector of American interests around the globe and lives a carefree lifestyle. While in Afghanistan, his military convoy/escort is attacked, Stark is gravely injured by life-threatening shrapnel embedded near his already weakened heart. Kidnapped and held hostage by a group of insurgents, Stark is forced to build a devastating weapon for Raza (Faran Tahir), the mysterious leader of the insurgents. Instead, Tony uses his intelligence and ingenuity to build a high-tech suit of armor and escapes captivity.

Returning to America, Stark is determined to come to terms with his past and vows to take Stark Industries in a new direction, but meets resistance from Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), his right-hand man and top executive, who took the reigns of the company while Stark was gone. Spending his days and nights in his workshop, Tony develops and refines the suit of armor that gives him superhuman strength and physical protection. When he uncovers a nefarious plot with global implications, Stark once again dons his new, more powerful armor, and with the help of his longtime assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and his trusted military liaison, Jim “Rhodey” Rhodes (Terrence Howard), Tony Stark fights evil as his new alter ego “Iron Man.”

There are several reasons why this Iron Man film turns out to be such a joyous and entertaining film. The main reason is Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. Much has been made that Downey has used his experience as an addict to play Stark (a heavy-drinking playboy), who, in some of the Marvel comic books, was portrayed as an alcoholic. The truth is that Downey is simply a superb actor whose talent has been overshadowed by his public battle with his demons. Here, Downey offers a complicated view of both the man and superhero just as Tobey Maguire has done as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Christian Bale as Batman (in Batman Begins).

Downey presents Tony Stark as a hard worker and hard player. He’s dedicated to creating the best weapons for the United States, but he focuses on his down time with equal zeal; he’s all work and all play. This is how Downey presents Stark as a man who is so self-centered and so focused only on what he wants to do that he essentially ignores everything and everyone else around him. Stark takes his friends for granted, and although he works hard to create the best inventions for his company, he actually ignores how Stane is running it. By presenting such a fully developed character, Downey uses that performance to drive both the narrative and its central conceit – in order to better the world, Tony Stark, with the help of Iron Man has to better himself.

Iron Man’s visual effects are another element that sells the film. The CGI and other special effects look slick, as would befit a futuristic hero who wears shiny, beyond state-of-the-art technology. Still, there is an earthy quality to it that becomes this tale of a knight in shining armor that saves both the world and the man inside the armor.

The third and fourth elements about Iron Man that really stand out are actor Jeff Bridges and director Jon Favreau (who also has a small acting role here). Bridges is a consummate actor, and I would be hard-pressed to find an instance in which he gave a poor performance. Stane, for the most part, is a small role, but Bridges so easily creates the duplicity, menace, and outright evil of Stane that the character’s dark presence and ominous machinations straddle the narrative just the way a villain and his wrongness should do in a superhero movie.

Finally, Jon Favreau already has a blockbuster to his directing resume, the heart-warming and wonderfully endearing Christmas flick, Elf. It was, however, his thoroughly underrated children’s sci-fi flick, Zathura (2005) that gave him the chance to show how much he understood handling a complicated technical production. In Elf and Zathura, Favreau also showed his knack for constantly offering surprises in his film narratives. It doesn’t matter if it is a quiet moment, a moment of intense drama, or a sequence of slam-bang action and SFX; Favreau always offers something visually appealing – the presentation of an event or a bit of dialogue that keeps the film fresh and moving. The viewer’s interest is usually stimulated and kept focused on the film. With Iron Man, Favreau wisely takes Downey’s witty and droll turn and makes a film that from beginning to end is absolutely fun to watch – with no time for a dull moment.

7 of 10
A-

Monday, May 19, 2008

NOTES:
2009 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Frank E. Eulner and Christopher Boyes) and “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (John Nelson, Ben Snow, Daniel Sudick, and Shane Mahan)

2009 BAFTA Awards: 1 nominations: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Hal T. Hickel, Shane Mahan, John Nelson, and Ben Snow)

2008 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actor” (Terrence Howard)


Happy Birthday, Jay!

A quarter-century, huh?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Legend of the Guardians" a Strange, But Entertaining Bird



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 80 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010)
Running time: 90 minutes  (1 hour, 30 minuntes)
MPAA – PG for some sequences of scary action
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
WRITERS: John Orloff and Emil Stern (based on the Guardian of Ga’Hoole novels by Kathryn Lasky)
PRODUCER: Zareh Nalbandian

ANIMATION/FANTASY/ACTION/WAR

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Emily Barclay, Adrienne DeFaria, Miriam Margolyes, Ryan Kwanten, Helen Mirren, Sam Neill, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, Joel Edgerton, Anthony LaPaglia, Abbie Cornish, Hugo Weaving, and David Wenham

The film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a computer animated film based upon the Guardians of Ga’Hoole fantasy book series by Kathryn Lasky. Legend of the Guardians, which is apparently a loose adaptation of the first three books in the series, follows the adventures of a young owl kidnapped by a patrol of evil owls and thrown into an ages old conflict.

Legend of the Guardians is directed by Zack Snyder, master of the faux-historical 300 and the superhero faux pas, Watchmen. The computer animation is the work of Australian digital visual effects company, Animal Logic, which also produced the Oscar-winning Happy Feet. Unlike Happy Feet, Legend of the Guardians may be too dark, too violent, and too intense for children younger than 8 or 9 years-old.

An easy way to describe this film is as Lord of the Rings with owls. Like LotR, Legend of the Guardians is visually astounding, especially when its characters (mostly all owls) take to the air for breathtaking displays of avian aerial prowess. The story features all the familiar characteristics of the hero’s quest, and the character drama is sometimes as dull as the flying and fighting are attention-grabbing. But this is done with owls, and that’s the hook that makes this movie work.

The film focuses on Soren (Jim Sturgess), a young owl enthralled by the epic stories his father, Noctus (Hugo Weaving) tells him. These are heroic and historical legends of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, a mythic band of owl warriors that fought a great battle to save the Kingdom of Ga’Hoole from the Pure Ones, a group of evil owls.

Soren dreams of someday joining his heroes at their home, the Great Ga’Hoole Tree, but his older brother, Kludd (Ryan Kwanten), scoffs at the notion. Kludd is jealous of the attention his father gives Soren. Kludd’s jealousy leads to the brothers being kidnapped by minions of the Pure Ones and taken to their leaders Metalbeak (Joel Edgerton) and his mate, Nyra (Helen Mirren). When Soren learns of the true evil the Pure Ones are planning, his only hope is to find the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, but are these owls real? He and an elf owl named Gylfie (Emily Barclay) escape the Pure Ones and embark on a journey to find the truth and to perhaps save the owl kingdoms.

Legend of the Guardians is relentlessly dark in terms of the story, but is relentlessly splendid in terms of 3D animation. Ga’Hoole’s story treats war as something that is occasionally needed to stop evil and aggression. Here, war is an extraordinary event meant for warriors, and not for warrior-wannabes. It is just this attitude that gives the film’s battles so much weight and importance.

Legend of the Guardians is also a 3D movie, but the computer animation – in terms of stimulating character action, movement, blocking, and camera movement – make seeing it in plain old 2D quite a bracing experience. I saw it in 2D, and that did not keep me from marveling at the texture of owl feathers and the surface consistency of the costumes and implements the birds wore. Unreal feathers have never looked so real. Even the skin of the snake character, the nest maid, Miss Plithiver (Miriam Margolyes), looks like real snake skin. The drawing and design style tends towards realism, especially in the landscapes and backgrounds, but the colors keep the animation from going too far by giving everything a sense of magic and fantasy.

Geoffrey Rush as the wise old warrior owl, Ezylryb, and Helen Mirren (as Nyra), give excellent voice performances. Rush is great at making supporting characters zany and attractive, and Mirren would be award worthy even taking orders at McDonald’s. Jim Sturgess is also good as Soren, but no one else really does anything that stands out.

Where the film falters is character drama. When Legend of the Guardians shows its characters in flight or in a fight, the movie is fierce, passionate, and awesome. When it slows down for some drama, the movie feels grounded, even a bit a silly. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole is a strange bird indeed. It is an excellent action fantasy movie, but like some of children’s fantasy films, it lacks heart. Its sentiment and messages feel phony and thrown in out of a sense of obligation. Where does that leave the viewer? Enjoy the action and patiently tolerate everything else.

[Also, before Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole begins, audiences in movie theatres get a new Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon short called “Fur of Flying.” However, unlike most Road Runner cartoons, which are 2D or hand-drawn animation, “Fur of Flying” is 3D or computer-animated. 3D animation is a weird way to see Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner, but this short isn’t bad at all.]

6 of 10
B

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Happy Feet Tap Dances to Success



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 246 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Happy Feet (2006)
Running time: 108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild peril and rude humor
DIRECTOR: George Miller with Warren Coleman and Judy Morris
WRITERS: George Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris, and Warren Coleman
PRODUCERS: Doug Mitchell, George Miller, and Bill Miller
EDITOR: Christian Gazal
SONG: “The Song of the Heart” by Prince
Academy Award winner

ANIMATION/FANTASY/COMEDY
ADVENTURE/ACTION/MUSIC with elements of drama and romance

Starring: (voices) Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Johnny A. Sanchez, Carlos Alazraqui, Lombardo Boyar, Jeff Garcia, Steve Irwin, Fat Joe, and E.G. Daily

Happy Feet is the new computer animation feature film from George Miller, the director of two hit movie franchises, Mad Max and Babe. Filled with breathtaking action sequences, impressive tap dancing, and rousing musical numbers, it may be the first computer animated flick that tries to be everything to everyone. Happy Feet’s story is also a bit darker than its “PG” rating would suggest.

Deep in Antarctica, in the land of the Emperor Penguins, a baby penguin named Mumble (E.G. Daily) is born dancing to his own tune – tap dancing. That’s not good; for emperor penguins discover their mates with their Heartsong, which is how Mumble’s parents, his mom Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and his dad Memphis (Hugh Jackman, doing a strange Elvis Presley impersonation) met. Mumble can’t sing, and without a Heartsong, he may never find true love.

Later, when he grows up, the adult Mumble (Elijah Wood) still can’t sing, but he’s satisfied with his dancing. Mumble even has one close friend, Gloria (Brittany Murphy), who is the best singer in the land. Although she struggles with what the penguins consider Mumble’s “hippity-hoppity” ways, she has strong feelings for him. Still, that doesn’t keep Noah the Elder (Hugo Weaving), the stern leader of Emperor Land, from banishing Mumble.

Far away from home, Mumble finds himself in the land of the Adelie Penguins, who aren’t nearly as tall as the emperor penguins. Mumble is immediately befriended by the Adelie Posse. Led by gabby Ramon (Robin Williams), the Adelie Posse absorbs Mumble into their group because they’re impressed by Mumble’s tap dancing. With his new friends, Mumble sets out on the epic adventure of lifetime to discover why penguins’ chief food source (fish) is disappearing.

First, the computer animation in Happy Feet is some of the best seen yet, easily rivaling computer animation gold standard, Pixar (Finding Nemo, Cars). The film does have some live action sequences with human actors. The sequences of penguins sliding over ice fields or dodging avalanches, predators (killer whales and seals), and human machinery, are heart stopping, eye-popping, and just simply striking This has to be seen to be believed, because I can’t accurately convey the wonder of what’s on screen.

The story, however, is a jumble of genres, themes, and sub-plots. Happy Feet is an ecological tale about over fishing the penguins feeding grounds. It’s a tale of religious intolerance, dogma, and superstition. Mumble being made an outcast hits on themes of bigotry, discrimination, and narrow-mindedness. The relationship between Mumble and his father Memphis even brings up issues of parental acceptance.

Still, Happy Feet is a fun movie. Between the dizzying action scenes, rousing musical numbers, and the dancing, it’s hard to leave the theatre unhappy. It’s hard to not like that much singing and dancing, especially when the film mixes hit pop songs with modern hip-hop and tap dancing. George Miller used motion capture to record the moves of live dancers, and the penguins were animated over that. Famed American tap dancer Savion Glover provided Mumble’s remarkable and stirring moves.

The voice acting is also notable, especially Elijah Wood as Mumble and Robin Williams doing three roles (Ramon, Lovelace the Guru, and Cletus). While the entire cast is good at bringing the characters to life, Wood simply finds away of standing out as the protagonist, which isn’t necessarily easy; sometimes the voice actor playing the lead character seems lost in the cacophony of the supporting cast (like Brad Pitt in DreamWork’s Sinbad animated flick). Williams’ manic persona is now best suited for voice over work (as it seems tired in live action movies), and his three characters give Happy Feet energy and color.

Happy Feet is fun for the whole family, in spite of its unevenness and how it leaves out crucial details at key moments in the film. The singing, the dancing, and the epic adventure make Happy Feet a happy surprise.

7 of 10
A-

Sunday, December 3, 2006

NOTES:
2007 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (George Miller)

2007 BAFTA Awards: “Best Animated Feature Film” (George Miller); 1 nomination: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (John Powell)

2007 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Prince for the song "The Song of the Heart"); 1 nomination: “Best Animated Film”


Sean Penn to Be Honored for Humanitarian Work at Hollywood Film Festival

Press release:

HOLLYWOOD, CA, September 22, 2010 -- The Hollywood Film Festival and Hollywood Awards, presented by Starz, are pleased to announce that Sean Penn will be recognized for his outstanding humanitarian achievements at the festival's Hollywood Awards Gala Ceremony.

Sean Penn will be bestowed with the "Hollywood Humanitarian Award" for his incredible selfless and dedicated humanitarian efforts in saving lives, as well as bringing relief to the human suffering in Haiti.

The announcement was made today by Carlos de Abreu, Founder and Executive Director of the Hollywood Film Festival.

"It is an honor to recognize the inspiring humanitarian efforts that Sean Penn and his J/P Haitian Relief Organization have been providing to the great people of Haiti," said Mr. de Abreu.

Prior recipients of this prestigious award include director of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, Father Rick Frechette, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and President of East Timor, Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ms. Jody Williams.

The gala ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills on October 25, 2010.


ABOUT SEAN PENN
Two-time Academy Award® winner Sean Penn has become an American film icon in a career spanning nearly three decades. Penn has been nominated five times for the Academy Award® as Best Actor for "Dead Man Walking," "Sweet and Lowdown," "I Am Sam" and won his first Oscar® in 2003 for his searing performance in Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" and his second Oscar® as Best Actor in 2009 for Gus Van Sant's "Milk." The performance as gay rights icon Harvey Milk also garnered Penn "Best Actor" awards from The Screen Actors Guild, New York Film Critics Circle and Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

As a journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, Rolling Stone and The Nation magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper reporting from Iran during the election which led to the Ahmadinejad regime. Penn's landmark interviews with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Cuba's President Raul Castro, were published in The Nation and The Huffington Post. Penn's interview with President Castro was the first-ever interview with an international journalist.

Penn's humanitarian work has found him in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and more recently in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. In January 2010, Penn founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organization which focuses on medical aid, protection, and re-location. His organization is currently serving as UN IOM designated Camp Management for one of the largest IDP camps in Port-au-Prince and established the first emergency re-location in the country. They work with both government and non government agencies to deliver immediate results where the need is greatest. Their efforts include but are not limited to providing emergency medical and primary care services, delivering badly needed medical equipment and medicine, distributing food and water purification systems, improving communication systems, and rubble removal in the neighborhoods surrounding the Petionville Camp when they are camp managers. J/P HRO's goal is to help lift the nation of Haiti out of the rubble and give the Haitian people a better life

The J/P Haitian Relief Organization have recently started clearing rubble, on average about 3,500 - 4,000 cubic meters of rubble a week. Each neighborhood has an average of 150,000 cubic meters of rubble which needs to be removed. The rubble clearing has encouraged Haitians to participate in spontaneous clearing efforts themselves. Each day, as they return to work sites, the J/P HRO volunteers can see evidence of people clearing rubble from their home sites by hand, almost doubling the effectiveness of their work. Town squares, now cleared of rubble, have quickly filled with children playing kickball. Teachers, police, nurses, and residents of local IDP camps have already settled into temporary shelters in their old home sites. The emotional, physical and spiritual impact of the rubble removal cannot be underestimated.

For his efforts in Haiti, Penn received the Commander's Award for Service (US Army 82nd Airborne Division), 82nd Airborne Award for Meritorious Service, the Operation Unified Response JTF Haiti Certificate from Lieutenant General, US Army Commander P.K. Keen, along with the 1st Recon 73rd Division Coin of Excellence, 2nd Brigade Combat Team Coin of Excellence, Commendation of Excellence United States Southern Command, and Award of Excellence by the Deputy Commander US Southern Command. Earlier this year, Penn was honored with the "Children's and Families Global Development Fund Humanitarian Award" presented by the Ambassador of the Republic of Haiti, Raymond A. Joseph and his wife, Lola Poisson-Joseph. Additionally, in July 2010 Penn was knighted by Haitian President Rene Preval in a ceremony in Port-Au-Prince.

To learn more about the J/P Haitian Relief Organization and to join this cause please visit http://www.jphro.org/

The festival and awards presenter is Starz Entertainment, LLC, a premium movie service provider operating in the United States. It offers 16 movie channels including the flagship Starz(r) and Encore(r) brands with approximately 17.1 million and 31.1 million subscribers respectively. Starz Entertainment airs more than 1,000 movies and new original series every month across its pay TV channels and offers advanced services including Starz HD, Encore HD, Starz On Demand, Encore On Demand, MoviePlex On Demand, Starz HD On Demand, Encore HD On Demand, MoviePlex HD On Demand, and Starz Play. Starz Entertainment (www.starz.com) is an operating unit of Starz, LLC, which is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation, and is attributed to Liberty Starz, a tracking stock group of Liberty Media Corporation.

Festival Contact: 1.310.288.1882
Hollywood Film Festival®
433 N. Camden Drive, Suite 600
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Alex Gibney's Enron Documentary Still Riveting



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)
Running time: 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some nudity
DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney
WRITER: Alex Gibney (based upon the book, The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind)
PRODUCERS: Jason Kliot, Susan Motamed, and Alex Gibney
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Maryse Alberti
EDITOR: Alison Ellwood
Academy Award nominee

DOCUMENTARY

Starring: Peter Coyote (narrator), Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind Gray Davis, Mike Muckleroy, Amanda Martin-Brock, Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, and Andrew Fastow

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is director Alex Gibney’s documentary and adaptation of Bethany McLean and Peter Elkin’s book about energy trading company Enron, The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron. The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at Enron, from its auspicious beginnings and meteoric rise to its shocking fall into bankruptcy.

By the turn of the century, Enron was the seventh largest corporation in America, but the company was built on fraudulent accounting and phantom profits. By the time the company died, its top executives had milked the company for over a billion dollars in personal income, while investors, retirees, and employees lost everything including retirement benefits and 401k’s. Enron the film has the usual blend of archival, video, and news footage one would expect of a documentary. It also has interviews and a wealth of information from documents and insiders including former executives and employees of the company. The film even includes an interview with former California Governor Gray Davis who took the fall for the mess a few energy companies, Enron in particular, made of the state’s electrical supply earlier this decade.

The film is a riveting and fascinating documentary, and though it may seem like a left-leaning political movie (and it does take swipes at the Bush Administration), Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a crime story about a business climate in which corporate executives not only steal money and commit fraud, but it is also about people whose greed seems to know no limits. The film does have a few weaknesses, which keeps it from being a truly great documentary. First it’s not long enough to cover the complicated mess that was Enron. Secondly, Gibney needed to slow down and explain in simple terms complicated accounting and business practices and explain exactly what products Enron sold or what services it provided. Thirdly, the film is too much geared towards people already very familiar with the Enron story.

But for people who already know what’s going on, this is good stuff that will leave you wanting more – much more. Gibney smartly interviews so many people intimately involved with Enron at one point or another in the film, and the interviews with former Enron traders and other employees make this film more than just some documentary. It is a vital American movie.

8 of 10
A

Friday, January 27, 2006

NOTES:
2006 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Documentary, Features” (Alex Gibney and Jason Kliot)


"Despicable Me" on DVD in December


This Holiday Season, Bring Home The $250 Million Comedy Blockbuster!

DESPICABLE ME

For a Limited Time Only, Get Three New Mini-Movies Starring The Minions!

Available on the Blu-ray™ and Blu-ray™ 3D Combo Packs for the Ultimate Experience and on the DVD Double Pack

Available December 14, 2010 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Universal City, California, September 22, 2010 – The perfect gift for the holidays arrives in the hilarious and heartfelt animated box office sensation, Despicable Me, available December 14, 2010 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. For a limited time only the fun continues with a trio of all-new, hilarious adventures starring the film’s endearingly mischievous Minions, available only on the Blu-ray™ and Blu-ray 3D Combo Packs and the DVD Double Pack. All three products include a digital copy of the movie to watch anytime, anywhere. A single disc DVD will also be available.

“‘Despicable Me is one of those rare titles that moviegoers of all ages have enthusiastically embraced,” said Craig Kornblau, President of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. “It’s not only one of the highest-grossing movies of the year but also one of the most popular animated films of all time. Perfectly timed for the holidays, Despicable Me will be high on everybody's wish list as the must-have Blu-ray/DVD of the season.”

The latest film from producer Chris Meledandri (executive producer of Ice Age and Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!), Despicable Me’s all-star cast of unforgettably funny heroes and villains includes Steve Carell (Date Night, Get Smart, Horton Hears a Who!, TV’s The Office), Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man), Miranda Cosgrove (Nickelodeon’s No. 1 live-action show iCarly), legendary Academy Award® winner Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The Princess Diaries series), Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), Kristen Wiig (Date Night, Saturday Night Live), Will Arnett (Monsters vs. Aliens, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, Ratatouille), Danny McBride (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express), Jack McBrayer (TV’s “30 Rock”, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”, Dinner For Schmucks). The hilarious tale of a wannabe super-villain whose life is unexpectedly changed by a trio of determined little orphans packed theaters and delighted families nationwide this summer.

The ultimate entertainment for the entire family, Despicable Me is packed with never-before-seen bonus features including games, behind-the-scenes featurettes and filmmaker commentaries that will keep the entire family enchanted for hours.

CRITICS FIND DESPICABLE DELIGHTFUL

Despicable Me charmed critics across America with Minion madness! Claudia Puig of USA Today described Despicable Me as “Whip-smart. A fun-filled adventure with a whimsical story and terrific voice casting. Steve Carell as the voice of Gru is hilarious”. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film as “An all-around winner. Funny, clever and warmly animated with memorable characters.” In Touch Weekly’s Matt Sullivan raved, “A blast for all ages. Hilarious!” and Pete Hammond of Boxoffice Magazine wrote, “Rousingly funny, heartfelt and imaginative…blessed with the vocal talents of Steve Carell and loaded with whimsy and smarts.” Lisa Schwartzbaum of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “The movie works not because of the parts – the voice work, the drawing style, the pleasing, matter-of-fact use of 3D – but because the whole is as much a unified vision as anything the Great and Mighty Pixar produces.”

BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVELY ON BLU-RAY™ 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD Double Pack:
· THREE ALL NEW, MINI-MOVIES Starring THE MINIONS — The fun continues with three all-new mini-movies, created exclusively for the Blu-ray Combo Packs and DVD Double Pack! Available for a limited time only! Get more laughs and more minion mayhem with "Home Makeover", "Orientation Day" and "Banana" - you'll want to watch them again and again!

· THE VOICES OF DESPICABLE ME —Go behind-the-scenes with Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Miranda Cosgrove, Kristen Wiig and Julie Andrews as they give life to their animated characters. Includes character profiles for each of the cast members!

· SUPER SILLY FUN LAND—Join Agnes, Margo and Edith at the Super Silly Fun Land Theme Park and play Feed the Creatures and Freeze the Floating Minions to win super cool prizes.

BONUS FEATURES EXCLUSIVELY ON BLU-RAY 3D COMBO PACK AND BLU-RAY COMBO PACK:
· GRU-CONTROL - Through a picture-in-picture window, see the making of the film with behind-the-scenes footage and cast/filmmaker interviews

· MISS HATTIE’S TOP SECRET COOKIE RECIPES—Margo is proud to present the recipes for those wonderful cookies that the loveable orphans under Miss Hattie’s care enjoy so much!

· BD-LIVE™—Access the BD-Live™ Center through your Internet-connected player to get even more content, watch the latest trailers and more.

o MY SCENES—Bookmark your favorite scenes from the movie.

· pocket BLU™ app— For the first time available on iPad®, owners can enjoy a new, enhanced edition of pocket BLU™ made especially to take advantage of the tablet’s larger screen and high resolution display. Consumers will be able to browse through a library of Blu-ray™ content and watch entertaining extras on-the-go that’s bigger and better than ever before. USHE’s groundbreaking pocket BLU™ app uses iPhone™, iPod® touch, iPad™, Blackberry®, Nokia® Smartphone, Android™, PC and Macintosh to work seamlessly with a network-connected Blu-ray™ player and offers advanced features such as:

o MINION ME—Exclusively for iPhone® and iPad® -- Personalize photos of friends and family by turning them into Minions. Pictures can be customized with glasses, bowties, hats and hairstyles to make it really hilarious! Send it to your friends with a Minion laugh.

o MINION DOMINION APP—Exclusively for iPhone® and iPad® Control a Minion by turning, tilting, rotating and shaking your phone. Tap the screen to make him speak, tap it again to hear him laugh. Or do battle with the two-player “minion mash up.” Download to your iPhone and see who can inflict the most damage on the other’s minion.

o Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray™ player. Users can navigate through menus, playback and BD-Live™ functions with ease.

o Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the movie.

o Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray™ discs to save to mobile devices or to stream from anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy exclusive content on the go, anytime, anywhere.

o Keyboard: Enter data into a Blu-ray™ player with your device’s easy and intuitive keyboard to facilitate such Blu-ray™ features as chatting with friends and sending messages.

BONUS FEATURES AVAILABLE ON DVD AND ALL VERSIONS:
· The World of Despicable Me
· Despicable Beats—Director Chris Renaud talks about the cool factor of renowned music producer Pharrell Williams.
· Gru's Rocket Builder—In an all-new game, Vector has stolen some of the most famous landmarks from around the world and replaced them with the pieces to Gru’s rocket. Players must return all the stolen landmarks to the correct countries in order to build their own rockets before Vector hacks into the system and steals the rocket plans. The reward for completing the rocket is a launch to the moon!
· A Global Effort—Learn all about the global effort behind Despicable Me. A director from France and another from the USA, plus an American and English cast created a movie in France, with artists from all over the world for a truly international movie!
· Commentary with directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, featuring the Minions!

Visit http://www.despicableme.com/ for the latest updates.


SYNOPSIS
In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences with flowering rose bushes, sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden deep beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Surrounded by an army of tireless, little yellow Minions, we discover Gru (Steve Carell), planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon. Yes, the moon!

Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad.

One of the world’s greatest super-villains has just met his greatest challenge: three little girls named Margo, Edith and Agnes.


Universal Studios Home Entertainment is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (http://www.universalstudios.com/). Universal Studios is a part of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80%-owned by General Electric, with 20% owned by Vivendi.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Davis Guggenheim Captured Power of Al Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth"



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 33 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Davis Guggenheim
PRODUCERS: Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, and Scott Z. Burns
EDITOR: Jay Lash Cassidy and Dan Swietlik
Academy Award winner

DOCUMENTARY – Social, Environmental, Political

Starring: Al Gore

In An Inconvenient Truth, director Davis Guggenheim captures former Vice-President Al Gore in the midst of waging his passionate campaign to inform people about global warming. The former presidential candidate has traveled the world for several years delivering a visual presentation (think slide show using Apple’s Keynote presentation program) on global climate change. His argument is that people and their governments must confront global warming now or face devastating consequences in the coming decades.

Guggenheim’s documentary film captures this presentation on film, and intersperses Gore’s show with the story of Gore’s personal journey from childhood to idealistic young college student who saw an environmental crisis on the horizon and from brash young Senator to environmental advocate. Gore also allows Guggenheim to open a door into the personal tragedies of his life.

Gore had been showing his global warming presentation in school auditoriums and hotel conference rooms for years with little fanfare. When a group of filmmakers approached him about committing this presentation to film, they may not have known then that they would be creating the most popular documentary film of 2006. Since An Inconvenient Truth debuted at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, many people have been surprised that Al Gore could be so engaging with a disarming sense of humor. The funny and passionate Gore of An Inconvenient Truth existed throughout his political career, but much of the media portrayed him otherwise during his 2000 presidential run.

Honestly, I don’t know if An Inconvenient Truth will convince many, if any, viewers about the dangers of global warming and the problems it is causing and will cause. For the most part, this documentary comes across as preaching to the choir and to the converted. Still, like many people with a cause for which they are mega passionate, Gore, for all his warmth, does come across as somewhat strident in the film.

An Inconvenient Truth is like a visual document of a toasty lecture by our favorite, old crusty professor. This may be nothing more and nothing less than PBS, The Discovery Channel, and their like have been showing for years. The difference here is that if you like Gore, you’ll be very entertained and informed by this and like the fact that he’s the one doing the entertaining and informing.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2007 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Documentary, Features” (Davis Guggenheim) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Melissa Etheridge for “I Need to Wake Up”)

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Waiting for "Superman" Gets New Pledge Pal

Press release:

$5 MILLION TO CREATE HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR MORE CHILDREN

NewSchools Venture Fund Joins WaitingforSuperman.com “Pledge Progress Meter” at the 150,000 Pledge Level

HOLLYWOOD, CA (September 23, 2010) – Paramount Pictures, Participant Media and Walden Media jointly announced today NewSchools Venture Fund has joined the WaitingforSuperman.com “Pledge Progress Meter” for the award-winning documentary film WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” at the 150,000 pledge level. The Fund has committed to investing $5 million in entrepreneurial organizations to create high quality public education opportunities for more of America’s children.

NewSchools is committed to transforming public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed. To achieve this goal, they support education entrepreneurs, help them grow their organizations to scale, and help connect their work to broader systems change. These entrepreneurs increase the supply of new high-quality schools, teachers, and tools that serve students. They also contribute to the momentum toward more significant improvement within the existing system.

“The most pressing domestic issue today is the achievement gap that blunts the potential of low-income children and steals from our national economy. WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” will help our country recognize the urgency for each of us to take action, in exactly the same way that ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ did,” said Ted Mitchell, President and Chief Executive Officer of NewSchools Venture Fund and President of the California State Board of Education.

NewSchools is the sixth major organization to join the WaitingforSuperman.com “Pledge Progress Meter.” FirstBook, OfficeMax®, DonorsChoose.org, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Adopt-A-Classroom / Jones New York in the Classroom have already committed to making a difference in education.

WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” directed by Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) will be released under the Paramount Vantage banner and distributed by Paramount Pictures. It examines the crisis of public education in the United States through multiple interlocking stories. Designed to start a national conversation, the movie and corresponding “Take the Pledge” campaign aim to inspire everyone to create innovative and long-term solutions to help change the course of our kids’ lives for the better. The “Pledge Progress Meter” launched in May as a way for non-profits, foundations and corporations to match individual pledge levels with powerful action items aimed at helping both students and public schools.

The film opens in New York and Los Angeles on September 24, nationwide in October.

The film is produced by Lesley Chilcott, with Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann serving as executive producers. It is written by Davis Guggenheim & Billy Kimball.

For more information about the NewSchools Venture Fund, please visit http://www.newschools.org/

For more information about the movie, or to take the pledge go to http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/

To join the conversation visit us on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/WaitingForSuperman

What does your school need? Tell us by Tweeting #MySchoolNeeds at http://www.Twitter.com/WaitingSuperman


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.

About Participant Media
Participant Media is a Los Angeles-based entertainment company that focuses on socially relevant, commercially viable feature films, documentaries and television, as well as publishing and digital media. Participant Media is headed by CEO Jim Berk and was founded in 2004 by philanthropist Jeff Skoll, who serves as Chairman. Ricky Strauss is President.

Participant exists to tell compelling, entertaining stories that bring to the forefront real issues that shape our lives. For each of its projects, Participant creates extensive social action and advocacy programs, which provide ideas and tools to transform the impact of the media experience into individual and community action. Participant’s films include The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson’s War, Darfur Now, An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, Standard Operating Procedure, The Visitor, The Soloist, Food, Inc., The Informant!, The Cove, The Crazies, Oceans, Furry Vengeance, CASINO JACK and the United States of Money, Countdown to Zero and Waiting for “Superman.”

About Walden Media
Walden Media specializes in entertainment for the whole family. Past award-winning films include: the "Chronicles of Narnia" series, "Journey to the Center of the Earth", "Nim’s Island" and "Charlotte’s Web." Upcoming films include "Ramona & Beezus" based on the best-selling book series by Beverly Cleary and starring Selena Gomez, and the latest installment in "Narnia" franchise: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."

About NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund seeks to transform public education through powerful ideas and passionate entrepreneurs so that all children – especially those in underserved communities – have the opportunity to succeed. As a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm, NewSchools supports education entrepreneurs, a special breed of innovators who create new nonprofit and for-profit organizations that redefine our sense of what is possible in public education. Founded in 1998, NewSchools has invested in more than 35 nonprofit and for-profit organizations and raised nearly $150 million. NewSchools takes an active role with each venture in our portfolio to help them create sustainable organizations that generate breakthrough results at scale for the students they serve. In addition to this direct support to entrepreneurs, NewSchools also connects their work to the broader public education reform movement to catalyze systems change.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Walt Disney's The Black Cauldron Has a Good Side

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 79 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Black Cauldron (1985)
Running time: 80 minutes (1 hour, 20 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some scary images
DIRECTORS: Ted Berman and Richard Rich
WRITERS: David Jonas, Vance Gerry, Ted Berman, Richard Rich, Al Wilson, Roy Morita, Peter Young, Art Stevens, and Joe Hale (based upon the novel series The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander)
PRODUCER: Joe Hale
EDITOR: Armetta Jackson, Jim Koford, and James Melton
COMPOSER: Elmer Bernstein

ANIMATION/FANTASY

Starring: (voices) Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, Arthur Malet, John Byner, John Hurt, and John Huston

Considered a box office failure and a critical disappointment, The Black Cauldron, released in 1985, was Walt Disney’s 25th full-length animated feature film. The film is a loose adaptation of The Chronicles of Prydain, a five-book children’s fantasy series from author Lloyd Alexander, specifically the first two books, The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron.

The film takes place in the land of Prydain and focuses on a young man named Taran (Grant Bardsley), the Assistant Pigkeeper to the enchanter, Dallben (Freddie Jones). Dallben has charged Taran with the task caring for and protecting Hen Wen, a magical oracular pig (meaning she can see into the future). Hen Wen’s powers will allow her to see the location of the mystical Black Cauldron, which has the power to raise the dead.

The evil lord known as the Horned King (John Hurt) desires to use the cauldron to create an invincible legion of undead warriors that will help him conquer the world. When he loses Hen Wen, Taran must battle the Horned King, who will stop at nothing to attain Hen Wen, his key to the cauldron’s whereabouts. Luckily, Taran gathers new friends who come to his aid, including the imprisoned Princess Eilonwy (Susan Sheridan); the elderly bard, Fflewddur Fflam (Nigel Hawthorne); and a loyal, but greedy creature named Gurgi (John Byner).

In terms of quality, The Black Cauldron would certainly rank at or near the bottom of the list of Disney’s animated theatrical films, but even something considered a Disney failure is better than animated films from other studios. The characters and the story are the problems with this film. The characters are not fully developed, and the script doesn’t reveal much about them except for the barest minimum needed to make the story move forward. The story does not have much drama, and the conflict seems feigned. There is not much suspense and tension before the end of the film and the final conflict.

Where the film really works is in the visuals. The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated feature to use computer-generated imagery (CGI), but the star is the beautifully drawn, colored, painted, and illustrated world Disney’s artists created for this film. The backgrounds, sets, and environments are some of the most beautiful fantasy art created for film. A lovely pastoral cottage farm, verdant forests, a barren wasteland, an ominous castle, cavernous dungeons, the magical underworld of the Fair Folk, and the gloomy dwelling of three witches: all are presented in vivid, rich color and drawn in a sturdy manner that brings Prydain to life.

These splendid visuals make a weak fantasy story a bit stronger. The Black Cauldron may not be perfect, but its trip to Prydain is a true journey into fantasy.

6 of 10B

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Bryan Singer and McG to Produce Content for Warner Premiere

Warner Premiere Announces Two New Multi-Platform Series to Be Produced by Bryan Singer and McG; Dolphin Entertainment to Co-Finance and Co-Distribute

Bryan Singer and Bad Hat Harry to Produce Sci-Fi Thriller “H+,” Directed by Stewart Hendler (“Sorority Row”)

McG and Wonderland Sound and Vision to Produce Teen Action Series “Aim High,” Directed by Thor Freudenthal (“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” / “Hotel for Dogs”)

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Building on the success of their digital productions that include the best-selling Watchmen Motion Comics and Terminator The Machinima Series, Warner Premiere today announced it is creating two live-action, multi-platform digital series with top Hollywood talent. Warner Premiere continues to be committed to developing cutting-edge content for a new generation of consumers who fluidly watch content on multiple screens. Both these series capitalize on the flexibility of digital platforms to both present unique stories in short bites, and to also offer viewers additional complementary content that further flushes out the stories’ mythologies and characters’ backgrounds.

The series are being co-financed through an agreement with entertainment industry veteran Dolphin Entertainment who has executive produced hit shows Zoey 101 and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and Dolphin Entertainment will work with cable, satellite, broadband and mobile clients for placement and promotional support.

The first titles produced under this agreement will be the futuristic survival tale H + from blockbuster Director / Producer Bryan Singer, and Aim High, the High School action thriller from multitalented Producer and Director McG.

H +
H+ takes viewers on an episodic two-and-a-half hour, apocalyptic journey into the future where technology has gone horrifically wrong. In 2019, 33% of the world’s population uses a radical new piece of technology – an implanted computer system called H +. This allows a person’s mind and nervous system to be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.

But that same year, a mysterious and vicious computer virus is released, and within seconds millions of people died -- leading to radical changes to the political and social landscape of the planet.

H+ is produced by Director / Producer Bryan Singer (X-Men / Battlestar Galactica) in association with Bad Hat Harry Productions (House). The series comes from the imaginative minds of writers John Cabrera (Gilmore Girls) and Cosimo de Tommaso who also serve as Executive Producers, directed by Stewart Hendler (“Sorority Row”) and produced by Lance Sloane (Yucatan). H + is currently in pre-production and shooting expected to commence by the end of the year.

"I've had a great relationship with Warners and I’m looking forward to working with them and Dolphin Entertainment on this project,” said Bryan Singer. “The epic nature of the story combined with its interactive components makes it an ideal web series. In addition, the high cinematic quality of H + will make it viable for other forms of distribution."

Aim High
“Killing people is easy. High School is hard,” according to lead character Nick Green. Aim High is the story of a young man leading a double life - juggling his studies by day and serving as a government agent by night. This series chronicles the life of Nick Green, a sophomore who’s just starting a new school year as one of the country’s 64 highly trained teenage operatives.

When he’s not handling international spies, Nick is dreaming of Amanda Meyers, the most popular girl in school who’s cool, intelligent and very alluring. Amanda mercilessly flirts with Nick, but before he can enjoy her advances he has to avoid Derek - her overly protective boyfriend who threatens him for even looking at her.

To make things more complicated, Nick just blew a hit on a Russian mercenary and now he’s out to take revenge on Nick. On top of that Nick also discovers he has an “in” with Amanda but his best friend is planning to post a salacious rumor about her on his blog. All in all, it’s going to be a rough semester.

Aim High comes from Director/ Producer McG (Chuck / Charlie’s Angels), Wonderland Sound and Vision, and production services are being provided by Bandito Brothers. Peter Murrieta, who served as Executive Producer for the mega-hit Wizards of Waverly Place is the Executive Producer. The series is written by Heath Corson (Living with Abandon / Scary Godmother) and Richie Keen (Living with Abandon) who also serve as Executive Producers, directed by Thor Freudenthal (Hotel for Dogs/ Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and produced by Lance Sloane (Yucatan). Pre-production is underway and shooting will take place in Los Angeles this October.

"I’m thrilled to take this next step into the digital frontier with Warner Bros. on Aim High; a project that combines the best of comedy, teen angst, and elevated action,” said McG. “While I've produced material in this space before, this particular series will consist of longer episodes with multiple derivative stories. The goal here will be for the content to be viewed on a TV screen through an on-demand network as opposed to the free web. This approach is very innovative and exciting."

Dolphin Entertainment, founded in 1996 by President Bill O’Dowd, is a producer and international distributor of quality television programming, and is one of the few independent suppliers of premium tween, teen and young adult series. Recently the company executive produced the number-one rated and Emmy® Award-nominated Nickelodeon television series Zoey 101 and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Both series have gone on to see incredible international success and can be viewed in over 100 countries worldwide. Dolphin Entertainment also serves as Executive Producer on the one-hour teen action series “Tower Prep,” which premieres this October on the Cartoon Network. Through this agreement, Dolphin Entertainment will further diversify the company’s portfolio of content available for traditional and digital channels.

“These two series are perfect examples of the ‘next wave’ of digital programming,” states Bill O’Dowd, President of Dolphin Entertainment. “Teens and young adults are increasingly watching high-quality programming that premieres online before moving to the traditional windows of television and home entertainment. We are extremely excited to work with Bryan, Peter and McG, and to partner with Warner Bros. on these two series and, hopefully, many more to come.”

Additional details about each series including cast, distribution channels and release dates will be announced in the coming months. To keep up to date, follow Warner Bros. Digital Distribution on Twitter @WBDigitalDist.


About Warner Premiere
Warner Premiere is a Warner Bros. Entertainment production company focused on the development, production and marketing of feature-length-DVD and short-form digital content for this growing space. Warner Premiere is committed to being at the creative forefront in the evolution of quality product in the direct-to-consumer business, creating material that exemplifies the commitment to story, production and brand equity for which Warner Bros. is known.

About Warner Bros. Digital Distribution
Warner Bros. Digital Distribution (WBDD) oversees the electronic distribution of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group’s content through Video-On-Demand, Pay-Per-View, Electronic Sell-Through and Subscription Video-On-Demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels. WBDD also distributes content through third party digital retailers and licenses. A world-wide industry leader since its inception, WBDD also manages the Studio’s E-commerce sites that include WBShop.com and WarnerArchive.com. Twitter: @WBDigitalDist

About Dolphin Entertainment
Dolphin Entertainment, founded in 1996 by President Bill O’Dowd, enjoys a solid reputation as an Emmy−nominated producer, international distributor, and financier of quality television programming, spanning wide genres of entertainment, from movies and mini-series to sitcoms and drama series. Based in Miami, Florida, Dolphin Entertainment has divisions dedicated to television production, feature film production, international distribution and merchandising and licensing.

Happy Birthday, Anthony Mackie: Half Nelson

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 38 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux


Half Nelson (2006)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for drug content throughout, language, and some sexuality
DIRECTOR: Ryan Fleck
WRITERS: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
PRODUCERS: Anna Boden, Lynette Howell, Rosanne Korenberg, Alex Orlovsky, and Jamie Patricof
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrij Parekh
EDITOR: Anna Boden
2007 Academy Award nominee

DRAMA

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Monique Curnen, Deborah Rush, and Jay O. Sanders

In the independent film drama, Half Nelson, an inner-city schoolteacher and one of his students form an unlikely friendship that just might help him pull it together and stop her from following her brother into prison.

Dan Dunne (Ryan Gosling) is anxious to help his students learn outside the parameters of what is accepted in public schools, but each day that he’s in front of his class, it is clear that his mind is elsewhere. Dunne is a frustrated novelist and a drug addict who knows he’s in trouble but won’t stop using illegal drugs. Drey (Shareeka Epps) lives in a small apartment with her divorced mom, and her father chooses to live outside of her life. Her brother is doing a stint in prison, apparently for his dealings with Frank (Anthony Mackie), the neighborhood drug dealer. Now, Frank is trying to recruit Drey into his service. As Dunne spirals downward, he is surprised to find Drey acting as his conscience, when he plans on being hers.

Co-writer/director Ryan Fleck and co-writer Anna Boden are so intent on not offering easy answers and pat resolutions in their film, Half Nelson, that they almost ruin it. They’ve made an underwritten, slice-of-life movie. Instead of giving Half Nelson a beginning, middle, and ending, they instead act as if they’re making a docu-drama and are presenting just the facts – thank you very much and can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) make judgments.

Luckily, at the heart of their film sit two outstanding acting performances. First, Ryan Gosling, who seems to be on the cusp of greatness (or is at least still a simmering “next big thing”), delivers a sharp and heartrending performance as a druggie teacher that is as harrowing as it is quiet and graceful. Gosling doesn’t glamorize drug addiction, nor does he play teacher Dan Dunne as some kind of trashy lowlife always dressed in filthy rags. Dunne is woefully in denial and, therefore, helpless against his addiction. We can feel sorry for him, while simultaneously being tired of his self-destructive ways.

Meanwhile, Shareeka Epps as the inner city, almost-lost girl Drey offers a stout and stoic face to the world. It’s as if Epps realizes that the only way that Drey survives her life of sorrow and loneliness is to keep a stiff upper lip, so Drey offers a facial expression that might make Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry blink. Still, Epps allows us to see underneath to the vulnerable girl who isn’t so sure that she isn’t destined to end up an incarcerated drug dealer like her brother.

Anthony Mackie, as the neighborhood drug kingpin, also offers Half Nelson a fine performance. Mackie’s Frank is a sly salesman who wears his dishonesty and predatory ways on his sleeve as if they were banners of personal pride. Mackie makes Frank dangerous without grandstanding or scene stealing, which is what most actors do when they play drug lords and dealers.

What Gosling, Epps, and Mackie offer is substance to Fleck and Boden’s faux and cheapie realism. They make Half Nelson a standout film when it could have been just another pretentious, underwritten independent drama.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
2007 Academy Awards: 1 nomination for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Ryan Gosling)

2007 Black Reel Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Breakthrough Performance” (Shareeka Epps) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Shareeka Epps)

Sunday, February 18, 2007