Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy B'Day, Gael Garcia Bernal: The Motorcylcle Diaries



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 27 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Diarios de motocicleta (2004)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA, Brazil and others; Language: Spanish and others
The Motorcycle Diaries (USA)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – R for language
DIRECTOR: Walter Salles
WRITER: Jose Rivera (from the book Notas de viaje by Ernesto Guevara and Con el Che por America Latina by Alberto Granado)
PRODUCERS: Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, and Karen Tenkhoff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Gautier
EDITOR: Daniel Rezende
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/ADVENTURE/BIOGRAPHY

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mercedes Morán, Jean Pierre Noher, and Lucas Oro

Before he was Che Guevara, the legendary Cuban revolutionary who also fought in the Congo and Bolivia, 23-year old Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Gael García Bernal) and his older friend Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) traveled across South America on Alberto’s beat up late 30’s model motorcycle, “The Mighty One.” The duo’s adventures are sometimes comic (wooing women and numerous episodes of falling off their bike or pushing it for miles), suspenseful (fighting Ernesto’s asthma), or serious (volunteering to work at a leper colony). As the film progresses, we see the journey, which lasted over a year from 1951-52, have a profound effect on Ernesto as he saw the people of South America as one people rather than as a collection of provincial states. The journey would lead him to become the revolutionary, “Che” Guevara, who would have a huge impact on many nations.

Diarios de motocicleta (The Motorcycle Diaries) is a subtle travelogue that shows us how our surroundings can shape who we are, as we see Ernesto Guevara’s long journey change him, or at least make him no longer be the person he was when he left home. Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De la Serna give delicate performances that resonate over this stirring, yet quiet film. The actors seem to have a real friendship that carries over to the characters and vice versa. Rodrigo’s Alberto is the jolly free-spirited, womanizing clown who keeps Che from going to deep into himself and disappearing from us. Bernal gives us an Ernesto/Che who shows his intellectual and spiritual awakening in his smooth gaze and facial expressions.

Director Walter Salles and cinematographer Eric Gautier create a layered film by allowing the wonderful and diverse settings and exotic locales to permeate the film story. The Motorcycle Diaries literally reeks of being a foreign movie. Of course, there is the language, but unlike many American films, there is no sense of forcing genre conventions on this tale of how the land transforms the soul of a man. Sometimes, Diaries is too low key, but its power comes from its visuals. Every frame and each scene is like a magical symbol simultaneously telling a story and taking us on a journey that might mean spiritual transformation. It’s a film for those who are interested in seeing a movie that reveals the heart and spirit of the land and its people.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
2005 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Jorge Drexler for the song "Al Otro Lado Del Río"); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Jose Rivera)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Gustavo Santaolalla) and “Best Film not in the English Language” (Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, Karen Tenkhoff, and Walter Salles); 5 nominations: “Best Cinematography: (Eric Gautier), “Best Film” (Michael Nozik, Edgard Tenenbaum, and Karen Tenkhoff), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Gael García Bernal), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Rodrigo De la Serna), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (José Rivera)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Foreign Language Film” (Brazil)

James Franco and Anne Hathaway to Co-Host 2011 Oscar Telecast

Yeah, I'm surprised, but I like these two.  I can't wait to see this:

Press release:

Franco, Hathaway to Host Oscar® Show

Beverly Hills, CA (November 29, 2010) – James Franco and Anne Hathaway will serve as co-hosts of the 83rd Academy Awards®, Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer announced today. Both have previously appeared on the telecast but not in hosting capacities.

"James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons— fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27," said Cohen and Mischer. "We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that."

Franco, who currently can be seen in "127 Hours," will be making his second appearance on an Oscar telecast. His other film credits include "Eat, Pray, Love," "Date Night," "Milk" and "Pineapple Express." Franco is also known for his portrayals of Harry Osborn in the "Spider-Man" trilogy.

Hathaway will be making her fifth appearance on an Academy Awards telecast. She was recently seen in "Alice in Wonderland" and currently can be seen in "Love and Other Drugs." Hathaway's other film credits include "Bride Wars," "Becoming Jane," "The Devil Wears Prada" and "The Princess Diaries." She was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for her lead performance in "Rachel Getting Married."

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

Vanilla Sky: A Crazier Cruise-Diaz Team-Up



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 (of 2001) by Leroy Douresseaux


Vanilla Sky (2001)
Running time: 136 minutes (2 hours, 16 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexuality and strong language
DIRECTOR: Cameron Crowe
WRITER: Cameron Crowe (based upon the film Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) by Alejandro Amenábor and Mateo Gil Rodreguez)
PRODUCERS: Cameron Crowe, Tom Cruise, and Paula Wagner
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toll (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Joe Hutshing and Mark Livolsi
COMPOSER: Nancy Wilson
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/FANTASY/ROMANCE/SCI-FI/THRILLER

Starring: Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor, Timothy Spall, Johnny Galecki, Michael Shannon, and Tilda Swinton

David Aames (Tom Cruise) is the wealthy scion of a publishing empire who lives only for himself and his pleasures. He treats his novelist friend Brian Shelby (Jason Lee, Chasing Amy) as a possession to be admitted or dismissed as needed, though Aames often professes deep love for Shelby. He has recreational sex with another friend, Julie Gianni (Cameron Diaz), a girl who practically admits to being around the block quite a few times. At a party that he hosts, David sees a stunning beauty that Brian has brought to the party with him. The looker, Sofia Serrano (Penelope Cruz, who was in the Spanish film upon which Vanilla Sky is based), throws David for a loop and he falls very hard for her.

Aww, but Julie is jealous; she follows David and is waiting for him after he spends the night (a sex free night) with Sofia. In an insane rage, Julie, with David a passenger, runs her car off the road, killing herself. David survives, but his body is damaged and his face is badly scarred. From that point, David’s life is a series of time shifts; past, present, and future loose their meanings.

Directed by Cameron Crowe, who also directed Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky is a mind numbing and genre bending film that mixes elements of romance, romantic thriller, mystery, suspense, and science fiction. It demands the viewers’ complete attention, while it careens across the screen like the out of control car that changes David Aames life.

Vanilla Sky is also a movie that can test an audience’s patience. It has ideas and messages, and most people do not want their movies to preach to them, at least not preach smart ideas. They want a loud, vivid, cinematic experience – special effects and movie magic. “Entertain me” is the mantra, and Crowe adds only the thinnest of candy coatings to his film.

The movie begins with a beautiful scene in which David discovers that he is alone in Times Square; he runs down the street for a few minutes totally afraid of being alone before we learn that this is a dream. There are also voiceovers while we follow David’s privileged life. There is the accident, and then we find David in a dark room wearing a mask, while a psychologist (Kurt Russell) prods him for answers regarding a murder of which David has been accused. From then, we’re bouncing back and forth through time, through illusions, dreams, fantasies, flashbacks. It can be disconcerting, but the film is so alluring that you want to soldier on.

Cruise has always been a good actor in the hands of good director, and Crowe is good. Over his career, Cruise has learned to open himself up to the possibilities of using his handsome face to express a variety of feelings and emotions, where once he simply lit up that million dollar smile and that was that. He is good here and quite believable. It’s no trick to play a spoiled, wealthy brat, but he convincingly transforms himself into the tortured package of damaged goods.

The supporting cast in nice, but while Penelope Cruz got all the attention, Diaz is the surprise. Some may believe her looks carry her career, but she can act. She plays the wild, vulnerable, hurt, and angry Julie Gianni to the hilt while also playing it down low and subtle. She creates a three-dimensional villain of sly evil and of terrible sadness.

Vanilla Sky is rife with musical references, most of which are quite annoying, but the Jeff Blakely reference is dead on appropriate for its scene. There are lots of visual references from pop culture to fine art, and they mean something, but you have to catch them, as they fly by so quickly.

Vanilla Sky is a good film, especially because it asks for the viewer to get involved where most movies only want to yell at you. At its heart are good messages about responsibility for the choices one makes, selfishness, love, and sacrifice. It stumbles and rushes to it fantastical, sci-fi ending that almost destroys film, but the movie is a worthy effort by ambitious talents. By no means perfect, it is still a grand entertainment and a wonderful puzzle with which to struggle, and it doesn’t mind trying to be smart even when it over reaches its ambitions.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2002 Academy Awards: 1 nominations: “Best Music, Original Song” (Paul McCartney for the song "Vanilla Sky")

2002 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Paul McCartney for the song "Vanilla Sky") and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Cameron Diaz)


Monday, November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen-Lt. Frank Drebin Dies at 84

IMDb has a good piece on actor Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010), who died on Sunday.  Nielsen was known for his dramatic roles and television work until he appeared in the 1980 spoof of airline disaster films, Airplane!  That began Nielsen's second public life as a comic actor, appearing primarily in spoofs such as The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and its sequels.

Twenty-two years ago, I laughed until I cried watching the first Naked Gun movie, but I'm also a fan of another well-known flick in which Nielsen starred, the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet.  Rest in peace, Mr. Nielsen.

Happy B'Day, Don Cheadle: Hotel Rwanda



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 76 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – PG-13 on appeal for violence, disturbing images, and brief strong language
DIRECTOR: Terry George
WRITER: Keir Person and Terry George
PRODUCER: A. Kitman Ho and Terry George
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Fraisse
EDITOR: Naomi Geraghty
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/WAR

Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, Desmond Dube, Joaquin Phoenix, Fena Mokoena, Cara Seymour, and Tony Kgoroge with Jean Reno (no screen credit)

Hotel Rwanda is kind of an African version of Schindler’s List. Some background – in 1994, the African nation of Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, was in a state of civil war with internecine tribal fighting between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi. When Belgium ruled the colony, they used the supposedly lighter-skinned Tutsi to rule the land, but when the Belgians exited the country, the left it to the Hutu. The allegedly dark-skinned Hutu were incredibly embittered of their treatment by the Tutsi during colonial rule, so when Tutsi rebels began fighting the Hutu government, Hutu hatred of the Tutsi grew exponentially. Members of an ethnic Hutu militia called the Interhamwe armed themselves with machetes and attacked Tutsis and Hutus sympathetic with them.

When the President of Rwanda’s (a Hutu) plane was shot down by Tutsi rebels after he signed a peace accord with them, the country fell into utter chaos, and the Interhamwe went on a Tutsi-killing spree that left almost a million people dead when the slaughter ended in July 1994. In an era of round-the-clock news and burgeoning high-speed communication, the genocide went almost unnoticed. Western Europe and the United States did not want to intercede in the conflict between the Hutu government and Tutsi rebels even to stop the ethnic cleansing of Tutsi’s by the Interhamwe (how much control the Hutu government and military had over the Interhamwe is open to debate).

Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton was reluctant to lend any kind of military assistance. Before President Clinton entered office in 1992, the previous presidential administration of George H. Bush had sent Marines into Somalia. After President Clinton surprisingly beat Bush, President Clinton was left holding the bag in Somalia. That turned into a disaster – see Black Hawk Down, for a fictional account of that embarrassment for the President. So President Clinton knew the American public and the increasingly hostile Republicans in Congress would not want more young American soldiers dying to save black Africans. The Clinton administration was even reluctant to call the killing of Tutsi’s genocide.

Hotel Rwanda is based upon the true story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle in an Oscar-nominated performance), who was the manager of a Belgian-owned hotel called the Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda. Inspired the love of his family and the encouragement of his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo in an Oscar-nominated supporting role), Paul uses the Milles Collines to shelter Tutsis and Hutus who are sympathetic to them. After the massacre of Tutsi begins, the French and Belgian armed forces eventually arrive to safely transport whites from the hotel, but they refuse to assist the Rwandans. Feeling betrayed by the whites for whom he worked so hard, Paul uses all his smarts and wiles to keep the Interhamwe and Rwanda military from taking his remaining hotel “guests” (Tutsi and Hutu) and killing them all. By the time all is said and done, Paul saves 1268 people. Hotel Rwanda is his story of survival and how he helped others survive at the cost of his and his family’s lives.

Directed by Terry George, Hotel Rwanda is simply a powerful film. As a drama, it is also a powerful film thriller, as riveting as any scary movie or special effects laden action flick. George and actor Don Cheadle never let the audience forget that there isn’t a minute that goes by when the occupants of the Milles Collines are not in danger. The script, co-written by George, is good, but George’s direction and the rhythm he uses to create a seamless advance of the narrative carry with it the film’s dominant theme – Paul Rusesabagina’s determination to save lives because he believes people should not merely be murdered by the whim of ignorant bigots, no matter how big a majority the bigots may have. With quiet grit and determination, Cheadle reveals the tale of strength in his face and in his entire body. He doesn’t look like he’s acting; he looks like a man on a holy mission. Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana gives a good performance (which occasionally seems a tad too thick), and Nick Nolte’s performance isn’t great, but whenever his Colonel Oliver is onscreen, the character fits and his presence is really needed – both in the fiction and in the filmmaking.

Hotel Rwanda, however, does play with a double-edged sword. It’s hard to believe that anyone could make a PG-13 movie about genocide, but George does. With that rating, he makes the film accessible to the young people who should see this, but might not be able to view R rated films. However, the genocide in Rwanda 1994 needed the kind of visual brutality that Steven Spielberg used so well in Schindler’s List. George compensates by making Hotel Rwanda as much about Rusesabagina’s story as it is about the genocide, which keeps the drama from being a documentary. Still, anyone who likes powerful, superbly made dramas that also portray acts in human history that must be recorded in fact and told as art and fiction, movies like Schindler’s List and The Killing Fields, will not only enjoy Hotel Rwanda, but must also see it.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2005 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Don Cheadle), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Sophie Okonedo) and “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Keir Pearson and Terry George)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Keir Pearson and Terry George)

2005 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Best Actress, Drama” (Sophie Okonedo); 1 nomination: “Best Actor, Drama” (Don Cheadle)

2005 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Wyclef Jean-music/lyrics, Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis-music, and Andrea Guerra-music for the song "Million Voices"), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Don Cheadle)

2005 Image Awards: 3 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Don Cheadle), “Outstanding Motion Picture,” and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Sophie Okonedo)

April 29, 2005


Happy B'Day, Don Cheadle: Devil in a Blue Dress



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 80 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, sexuality, and language
DIRECTOR: Carl Franklin
WRITER: Carl Franklin (based upon the book by Walter Mosley)
PRODUCERS: Jesse Beaton and Gary Goetzman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tak Fujimoto
EDITOR: Carole Kravetz
Image Award nominee

MYSTERY/DRAMA

Starring: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals, Don Cheadle, Maury Chaykin, Terry Kinney, Mel Winkler, Albert Hall, Lisa Nicole Carson, Jenard Burks, John Roselius, Beau Starr, and Joseph Latimore

It’s Los Angeles, 1948. World War II vet Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins (Denzel Washington) is out of work and needing money because he owns his home (one of the few black men to do so in the post WW II black neighborhoods of L.A.), and the mortgage is due… now. Through a friend, he connects with a shady white man named DeWitt Albright (Tom Sizemore), who pays Easy 100 dollars to find a missing white woman named Daphne Monet (Jennifer Beals). It seems like an easy way to make quick cash, but Easy gets more than he bargained for when people connected to Daphne start turning up dead. With the cops breathing down his neck, Easy turns to his old Houston, Texas running mate Raymond Alexander aka “Mouse” (Don Cheadle), a trigger happy hood who will definitely have Easy’s back. However, Mouse is sometimes as hazardous to Easy as the Daphne and the men looking for her are always dangerous to him.

When Devil in a Blue Dress debuted in 1995, the film seemed like a sure thing, both at the box office and with critics. Writer/director Carl Franklin had earned attention with his brutal and gritty neo-noir crime thriller, One False Move (1992). The film was based upon Walter Mosley’s “Easy” Rawlins detective novel series that was getting a lot of notice because its lead was African-American, a rarity in detective fiction. The series was also growing in popularity and book sales, especially with the release of a fourth book in the series in late 1994. Playing Easy was Denzel Washington, an actor hitting a career stride with three Oscar nominations (and one win) and box office success. Although the film met with many good reviews, Devil in a Blue Dress never quite caught on, and today is overshadowed, as far as modern Film-Noir-like movies go, by L.A. Confidential, which showed up two years later after the release of Devin in a Blue Dress.

Franklin’s adaptation of the novel by Walter Mosley fails to capture the ambiance and impressions of post-war L.A. – certainly not the way Mosley succeeds in creating this wonderful gumbo of Black folks and Black subcultures. Franklin and the production staff do a fine job recreating the L.A. of that time period, but it sometimes feels empty and flat – like a set for a stage drama. Franklin transforms the novel’s plot into something resembling Chinatown or Out of the Past. It doesn’t take a genius movie fan to figure out that Daphne Monet knows something that can hurt a rich and powerful person. And that person wants her found before his enemies get a hold of her and the dangerous info she possesses. Because of such a familiar plot, Devil in a Blue Dress the movie must rely on its characters and the actors playing them to be a compelling film.

The film is nearly a half hour into the narrative when the performances and the characters begin to thaw. Denzel really starts to fit comfortably in Easy’s skin, and Tom Sizemore sinks deep in DeWitt Albright’s wickedness. The movie really blossoms when Don Cheadle steps in as Easy’s old homeboy, Mouse. In the books, Mouse is a cold-blooded killer who will murder a man for a minor insult as easily as he’d murder a man for trying to kill him. Even Mouse’s playfulness only makes him come across as a mild-tempered rattlesnake, and Cheadle superbly captures that essence of the character and puts it on the screen. This brilliant and captivating small supporting role caught many by surprise, but Oscars ignored it. Jennifer Beals takes almost the entirety of the film before her character comes alive. Ms. Beals’ best scenes are the ones in which Daphne deals with her true identity – familiar territory for Ms. Beals perhaps?

While by no means a great film, Devil in a Blue Dress sometimes seems like a prestige TV film. Still, because of what its characters are and because of its setting, Devil in a Blue Dress remains a memorable late, late 20th century noir film.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
1996 NAACP Image Awards: 4 nominations: “Lead Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jennifer Beals), “Outstanding Motion Picture,”” Outstanding Soundtrack Album” (Columbia), and “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Don Cheadle)

Monday, April 17, 2006


The Empire Strikes Back Director, Irvin Kershner, Dies at 87

Irvin Kershner directed Sean Connery in his last James Bond film, the unofficial Bond movie, Never Say Never Again.  He also directed such films as The Eyes of Laura Mars and Robocop 2.  But film fans will best remember him for the first Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).  Many people, including me, think its the best Star Wars movie.  Empire Online has an obituary.

I loved Kershner for The Empire Strikes Back.  Rest in peace, Kersh.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a Very Good Time at the Movies



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 97 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time (2010)
Running time: 116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
DIRECTOR: Mike Newell
WRITERS: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard; from a screen story by Jordan Mechner (based upon the video game series "Prince of Persia" created by Jordan Mechner)
PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seale
EDITORS: Mick Audsley, Michael Kahn, and Martin Walsh
COMPOSER: Harry Gregson-Williams

FANTASY/ADVENTURE/ACTION

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle, Ronald Pickup, Reece Ritchie, Gísli Orn Garðarsson, and William Foster

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a film based upon the video game series, Prince of Persia, especially the 2003 video game, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Set in a mystical and mythical version of the Persian Empire, the film focuses on a fugitive prince and a young princess trying to stop a villain from unleashing a force that can change time and even destroy the world. And this is actually a very entertaining film that is part Raiders of the Lost Ark and part Robin Hood with a bit of The Mummy (1999) thrown into the happy mix.

The hero of this story is Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), the youngest of the three Princes of Persia. Dastan was actually adopted into the royal family when he was a boy by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), the ruler of Persia. Dastan, along with his foster brothers, heir-to-the-throne Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), and their uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), invade the sacred city of Alamut, because it is supposedly selling weapons to Persia’s enemies. The celebration of their successful conquest of Alamut quickly turns sour when Dastan is accused of murder.

Trying to clear his name, Dastan goes on the run with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), the ruler of Alamut, and learns that the real murderer’s true goal is the Dagger of Time, which Tamina is supposed to protect. Dastan finds allies, of a sort, in a tax-averse, shady businessman named Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina) and his knife-throwing friend, an African named Seso (Steve Toussaint), and their men. The real murderer also has allies, a band of highly-skilled warriors and hired killers known as the Hassansins, and he orders them to slay Dastan.

Although I initially planned to see Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, I decided to avoid it because all the movie trailers for it made the movie look like an empty CGI-extravaganza with little or no story and wooden characters. Well, the plot is indeed simple; the story amounts to a bunch of chase scenes, fights, and rescues; and the characters are pretty shallow. But it works. Just like The Mummy, which had a simple plot and story, Prince of Persia is a fun ride through the desert. Prince of Persia’s characters aren’t as endearing as the feature players are in The Mummy. Still, I’d follow Dastan, the chatterbox Tamina, Sheik Amar and Seso again, if they went on another breathtaking mission to stop a bad guy and save life as we know it (especially if their adventures featured another lush score by Harry Gregson-Williams).

This movie is also easy on the eyes with its beautiful desert cities, extravagant backdrops, and lavish sets. The cast seems to be made of every known skin color and body type, and the costumes are dazzling and eclectic. No performance really stands out, but somehow, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Times works and works really well. It’s just fun to watch. It’s the kind of movie some of us will watch again and again on television.

7 of 10
B+

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Happy B'Day, Alfonso Cuaron: Children of Men a Great Science Fiction Film



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Children of Men (2006)
Running time: 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, language, some drug use, and brief nudity
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón
WRITERS: Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (based upon the book The Children of Men by P.D. James)
PRODUCERS: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Hilary Shor, Tony Smith and Iain Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Emmanuel Lubezki, A.S.C., A.M.C.
EDITORS: Alex Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón
Academy Award nominee

SCI-FI/DRAMA/THRILLER/WAR

Starring: Clive Owen, Clare-Hope Ashitey, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Danny Huston, Peter Mullan, and Pam Ferris

It’s London, 2027, and Theo (Clive Owen) is just trying to get by, working as a bureaucrat who lives in a state of numbness. The world has changed so much since he was an idealistic young activist. Hope for the future is dying because it has been almost 19 years since the last baby was born. Most nations have fallen apart as people embrace separatism and descend into nihilism and lawlessness. To survive the ever-increasing internal strife, terror attacks, and tremendous influx of desperate refugees, Great Britain embraces militaristic imperialism. The government has been moving the refugees – called “fugees” – into detainment camps for deportation.

Meanwhile, Theo is content to visit his old friend, Jasper (Michael Caine, looking surprisingly fresh in a shock of long white hair) at his secluded home in the remote countryside away from London, but suddenly, Theo’s ex-wife, Julian (Julianne Moore), is back in his life. The leader of the Fishes, a covert group fighting for immigration rights, she needs Theo to obtain transit papers for a young woman named Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), whom Julian wants to move out of the country. Theo suddenly finds himself deep into Julian’s covert operations when disaster befalls them all, and Theo learns that Kee is eight-months pregnant. Suddenly, Theo and Kee are in a desperate race, avoiding friend and foe, in an attempt to get Kee to safety and maybe save the future of mankind.

Children of Men may very well be the best speculative science fiction film to come around in ages. With its relentlessly bleak view of the future, it is one of the scariest dystopian films to come along in while. Since this future is certainly plausible, Children of Men is one of the few sci-fi films of the last few decades with that favor the grit of realism rather than the flashy gleam of such science fiction stalwarts as aliens and time travel.

Director Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá tambíen and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and his creative staff, in particular cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and production designers, Geoffrey Kirkland and Jim Clay, focus on keeping Children of Men from being so way out there in the future (Blade Runner) or almost supernatural (The Matrix) that the audience is not only riveted, but can’t ignore a story that one could mark on a calendar as likely to occur soon. Cuarón goes full steam ahead mixing art, politics, and entertainment. Almost from the early moments of the film, it is hard to separate the film. I found myself entertained at the highest level, while being impressed with Children of Men as high art, but at the same time, I couldn’t ignore the politics. Cuarón makes England look like the ruined version of present-day Iraq that I see every day on the news. It’s so much to take in, and Cuarón has the film hit the ground running with the kind of wild ride that popcorn action movies provide. Children of Men, however, is a gourmet film meal with the kick of a Memphis (or Texas) barbeque event action movie.

There are good performances all around. Although Julianne Moore and Michael Caine share top billing with Clive Owen, the star couple is Owen and newcomer Clare-Hope Ashitey. They have the kind of screen chemistry that directors would almost sell their souls for in order to have it for the leads in their films. Owen and Ashitey with unyielding subtlety, quiet determination, and simmering intensity give Children of Men its spiritual hook. Together, they make sure that this political sci-fi, New Testament allegory closes as it should, and Alfonso Cuarón has chosen a grim and dour scenario and executed it with breathtaking technique. Children of Men is an undeniably entertaining art film and artfully entertaining movie that would make the short list of best pictures in any year.

10 of 10

Friday, January 12, 2007

NOTES:
2007 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Achievement in Cinematography” (Emmanuel Lubezki), “Best Achievement in Editing” (Alfonso Cuarón and Alex Rodríguez) and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Cinematography” (Emmanuel Lubezki) and “Best Production Design” (Geoffrey Kirkland, Jim Clay, and Jennifer Williams); 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Frazer Churchill, Timothy Webber, Mike Eames, and Paul Corbould

2007 Black Reel Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Supporting Actor” (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Clare-Hope Ashitey)


The Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nicolas Cage Arrives on DVD Tuesday, Nov. 30th

Release information:

THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE from WALT DISNEY PICTURES and JERRY BRUCKHEIMER FILMS

About the Film:
A fun, modern-day adventure follows Dave (JAY BARUCHEL), just an average college student, or so it appears, until the sorcerer Balthazar Blake (NICOLAS CAGE) recruits him as his reluctant protégé and gives him a crash course in the art and science of magic. As he prepares for a battle against the forces of darkness in modern-day Manhattan, Dave finds it is going to take all of the courage he can muster to survive his training, save the city and get the girl as he becomes THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE.

Bonus Features:
Go behind the scenes and on location to learn all about the making of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Blu-Ray:
Magic In The City
The Science Of Sorcery
Making Magic Real
The Fashionable Drake Stone
The Grimhold: An Evil Work Of Art
The Encantus
Wolves & Puppies
The World’s Coolest Car
5 Deleted Scenes
Outtakes
And more!

DVD / iTunes:
o The Making Of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (DVD only)
Deleted Scene: Balthazar Recruits Dave

Genre: Comedy Adventure
Rating: PG
U.S. Release Date: November 30, 2010

Suggested Retail Price:
3-Disc Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) -- $44.99 U.S./$51.99 Canada
2-Disc Combo Pack (Blu-ray + DVD) -- $39.99 U.S./$44.99 Canada
1-Disc DVD -- $29.99 U.S/ $35.99 Canada


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy B'Day, Kathryn Bigelow: "Strange Days" Vastly Underrated



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 78 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Strange Days (1995)
Running time: 145 minutes (2 hours, 25 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense disturbing violence, sexuality, and pervasive strong language
DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
WRITERS: James Cameron and Jay Cocks; from a story by Cameron
PRODUCERS: James Cameron and Steven-Charles Jaffe
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew F. Leonetti
EDITOR: Howard E. Smith (and James Cameron who did not receive a screen credit)

DRAMA/CRIME/SCI-FI/THRILLER

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, Glenn Plummer, Brigitte Bako, Richard Edson, William Fichtner, and Josef Sommer

Set in a quasi-futuristic or near future Los Angeles on the eve of the new millennium, Strange Days was, at the time, director Kathryn Bigelow’s most ambitious film. This is especially true from the technical and production standpoints, as special cameras were designed to shoot the film and filming certain sequences required complex production planning. Bigelow also collaborated on Strange Days with her then-former husband James Cameron (they were married from 1989-91) who wrote the film’s story, co-wrote the screenplay, co-produced the film, and edited the film’s final cut (although he didn’t receive a screen credit as an editor because he wasn’t at the time a member of the film editors guild).

This neo-noir thriller opens on Dec. 30, 1999 and introduces ex-cop, Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes). Lenny is a pusher of illegal virtual reality clips. This potent technology records everything a person experiences on a small disc. Later, a special player sends a signal straight into the cerebral cortex of the brain and allows the wearer to relive those sensations. Of course, recordings of sex, murder, and violence are the most popular clips. When Lenny gets a clip that captured the murder of Jeriko One (Glenn Plummer), a high-profile rap musician and anti-government activist, he finds himself ensnared in a manhunt in which he can never be sure of the hunters’ identities. With the help of Lornette “Mace” Mason (Angela Bassett) an old friend and limo driver who is quite the fighter, Lenny tries to stay ahead of the danger and protect his old girlfriend, Faith Justin (Juliette Lewis), a musician who is somehow part of this. All the while, Lenny is trying to figure out what to do with a clip that could ignite the power keg that is Los Angeles on the eve of the year 2000 and set a fire that won’t stop burning.

Strange Days is a top-notch sci-fi drama, and it starts off with a good script and concept, for most of which visionary filmmaker James Cameron (The Terminator, Titanic) is responsible. This was also the film in which Kathryn Bigelow’s potential paid off quite nicely. Her choice of filmmaking genres likely surprised people early in a career, but this movie shows that she is more than capable of mounting a big production and controlling it. She maintains the integrity of Cameron’s vision, while visualizing it with consummate skill. She presents Strange Days as a plausible quasi-future and presents a frame of reference the audience can recognize. While Cameron’s stories have generally dealt with a strong action heroine or woman who can move to action, Bigelow emphasized gender stereotypes and portrayed the male, Lenny Nero, especially weak and enormously dependent upon the female, Lornette “Mace” Mason, who doesn’t back down or take prisoners in a fight.

There are good performances all around, in particularly Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett. In Lenny Nero, Fiennes defines the noble criminal, a slick huckster constantly fending off his conscience. Bassett is a heavyweight, breathing life into Mace Mason, as she reveals so much about her in a subtle fashion. She helps us discover one side of Mace so quietly that it’s surprising to realize that by the middle of the film, we know Mace as well as we know Lenny. Then, Bassett will explode in a flurry of punches and whip out a pistol, and we’re looking at Mace as an entirely different person.

Looking back on Strange Days, Cameron’s script seems slightly prophetic and may yet reveal a few more prophecies. In the end, however, Bigelow guides her cast, in particularly her stellar leads, and creative crew into creating a vision of the future that wallows in the excesses of our present, showing us how social ills will likely get worse. Then, Bigelow tells us that the future promises hope and brings out the best of those who want to show their best.

7 of 10
A-

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Jeremy Renner to Take Over "Mission: Impossible" Franchise

It has been rumored since last year that Tom Cruise was going to hand off the "Mission: Impossible" franchise to Jeremy Renner, who is co-starring with Cruise in next year's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol."  Now, the headline of this MTV.com article seems to suggest that it is a done deal, although within the article, Renner says (more or less) that it is not a done deal.

I wonder how Anthony Mackie is doing...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is the One



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 96 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Running time: 146 minutes (2 hours, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sequences of intense action violence, frightening images and brief sensuality
DIRECTOR: David Yates
WRITER: Steve Kloves (based upon the novel by J.K. Rowling)
PRODUCERS: David Barron and David Heyman and J.K. Rowling
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra
EDITOR: Mark Day
COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat

FANTASY/ACTION/DRAMA/MYSTERY

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Bonnie Wright, Julie Walters, Mark Williams, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Felton, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, David Thewlis, Timothy Spall, Peter Mullan, Rhys Ifans, Evanna Lynch, and Michael Gambon

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the seventh (and final) novel in the Harry Potter book series. Warner Bros. Pictures is releasing the film adaptation of the book as two films. The first, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, is now in theatres.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his closest friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) embark on a quest to find and destroy the Horcruxes, the secrets to Lord Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) immortality. Meanwhile, Voldemort launches his latest plot to kill Harry, so the Order of the Phoenix hatches a daring mission to protect Harry. Not to be denied, Voldemort’s allies, the Death Eaters, launch a surprise attack, which scatter Harry and his allies. Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest in London, where the search for a Horcux takes them into the heart of the Ministry of Magic and begins a journey that will find the friends alone with only themselves upon which to rely.

Apparently dividing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two movies will allow the filmmakers to make what is essentially one larger movie that is closer to its Potter book than the previous Harry Potter movies were to their respective books. One thing this split will do is allow the narrative to breathe. Some of the Potter movies always felt like they were missing something.

Sometimes, when filmmakers turn books into movies, they make the action in the book more frantic, in a way to make the narrative pop and seem livelier to movie audiences. They also leave out entire subplots and characters in adapting books to the screen. Movies, especially those created for wide public consumption, are often shallow compared to novels. Novels don’t have to offer fizzy amusement every page and sometimes show the less fun side of a character. Novels can have entire sequences that might seem boring compared to the non-stop nature of film, especially cinema of sensations, event movies, and summer tent pole flicks.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is not afraid to show the drier side of the Potter stories, and for the first time, a Harry Potter film really delves into the bittersweet of Harry Potter’s life and the complex dynamics involved in being a Potter friend, ally, or associate. Part 1 is certainly filled with exciting action scenes, breathtaking aerial duels, explosive fight scenes, sparkling displays of magic, and hot death, but it is also contemplative and emotional. This movie has both a meditative inner life and a combative outer life, which makes for a richer movie and a more fulfilling narrative.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 is everything thrilling/action/fantasy that the previous Harry Potter movies were, but also something more. It has the character and drama befitting a great work of fantasy, and yes, you might even call it a Harry Potter movie that is really for adults.

9 of 10
A+

Thursday, November 25, 2010


"Waiting for 'Superman'" Advances in Oscar Documentary Race

Press release:

15 Documentary Features Advance In 2010 Oscar® Race

Beverly Hills, CA (November 18, 2010) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 83rd Academy Awards®. One hundred-one pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” Alex Gibney, director (ES Productions LLC)

“Enemies of the People” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors (Old Street Films)

“Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures)

“Gasland” Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC)

“Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould” Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont, directors (White Pine Pictures)

“Inside Job” Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures)

“The Lottery” Madeleine Sackler, director (Great Curve Films)

“Precious Life” Shlomi Eldar, director (Origami Productions) “Megamind”

“Quest for Honor” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, director (Smothers Bruni Productions)

“Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films)

“This Way of Life” Thomas Burstyn, director (Cloud South Films)

“The Tillman Story” Amir Bar-Lev, director (Passion Pictures/Axis Films)

“Waiting for ‘Superman” Davis Guggenheim, director (Electric Kinney Films)

“Waste Land” Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects)

“William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, directors (Disturbing the Universe LLC)

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

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

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Rock Gave Action Stardom "The Rundown"



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 149 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Rundown (2003)
Running time: 104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for adventure violence and some crude dialogue
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
WRITERS: R.J. Stewart and James Vanderbilt, from a story by R.J. Stewart
PRODUCER: Marc Abraham, Bill Corless, Karen Glasser, and Kevin Misher
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tobias Schliessler (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Richard Pearson
COMPOSER: Harry Gregson-Williams

ACTION/ADVENTURE/COMEDY

Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner, Jon Gries, William Lucking, Ernie Reyes, Jr., and Arnold Schwarzenegger (no screen credit)

Early in The Rundown, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a cameo appearance in which he tells The Rock/Dwayne Johnson’s character to have fun. It’s an unofficial passing of the torch from one veteran comic book action hero to the new guy who just may be at the head of the class of the next generation of action heroes. It an appropriate meeting of the rippling bods because The Rundown is the kind of over the top action movie that is just as much fun to watch as classic Ah-nold cinema.

In The Rundown, Beck (The Rock) specializes in finding people who owe money to the wrong kind of people or who run away from an obligation. His latest assignment (and he hopes his last) is to find Travis (Seann William Scott), an irresponsible rich kid who owes a terrible debt to his father. Travis is hiding in small isolated town in the Amazon where he is searching for that one big treasure that will make his fortune and reputation as a treasure hunter. Beck’s arrival attracts the unwanted attention of Hatcher (Christopher Walken), a local despot, who begins a small war against Beck and Travis to obtain Travis’ treasure.

Director Peter Berg (who is also an actor) does an excellent job playing up the personality quirks that make his cast so popular, but he also gives The Rock and Scott a new twist on their respective shticks. The Rock has some gloriously brutal fight scenes that combine the style of professional wrestling with a hyper realistic video game version of wrestling. Berg, however, lets The Rock show a more human, thoughtful, and intelligent side; he’s less like the cartoonish gladiator of WWE and more like the determined warrior of his earlier movie hit, The Scorpion King. Seann Scott also shines as something more than the one-note joke for which he is best known in the American Pie movies; he’s a funny and wacky idiot when the moment calls for laughs, but he’s also a gritty, stand up guy tailor made to play the buddy movie sidekick.

The Rundown is a very good action movie and a lot of fun to watch because of its fair amount of humor. The fights scenes (two in particular, one in the beginning and one in the middle, are nearly as mind bending as anything in The Matrix) are fabulous, breathtaking, and really make the movie. The gun fights and explosions are fairly typical of big budget film productions and only detract from the movie. Christopher Walken and Rosario Dawson’s characters are little more than barnacles, and Walken is himself rapidly becoming a stock character. Still, in the end, all hail The Rock; it really does seem as if a movie star is born.

6 of 10
B

"Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" Sneak Preview and Ticket Sale Dates Set

Press release:

NATIONAL SNEAK PREVIEW MOVIE EVENT OF “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” SET FOR WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2011

OFFERS FANS CHANCE TO SEE MOVIE FIRST, AND EXCLUSIVE MERCHANDISE PACK WITH PURPLE REALD® 3D GLASSES, JUST IN TIME FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING!

ADVANCE EVENT TICKETS GO ON SALE STARTING “CYBER MONDAY”, NOVEMBER 29th at 10am

HOLLYWOOD, CA (November 22, 2010) – Moviegoers across the U.S and Canada may be among the first to experience the new 3D film, “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER,” at exclusive “sneak preview” screening events set for Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm at specially selected RealD® 3D equipped movie theaters across the country.

"Everyone thinks this is going to be another 3D concert movie, but it's anything but that. It’s a story of how my family, friends and the fans helped me get here and everyday are helping me live an impossible dream. That’s why I want them to see it first," said Justin Bieber.

Sure to be a hot holiday gift seller, tickets for the February “sneak preview” event, will go on sale exclusively online Monday, November 29th at 10am local time. In addition to ensuring fans will see the movie first, the purchase also includes official movie merchandise and purple 3D glasses.

Each complete Sneak Preview Gift Pack is priced at $30.00 (plus shipping) and includes:

· One ticket to the movie sneak preview Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm

· A pair of limited edition purple “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” RealD® 3D glasses

· A souvenir VIP event lanyard

· Official “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” branded glow stick and bracelet

For event locations around the country, to purchase tickets, or to learn more about this exclusive event, please go to: http://www.jb3dpreview.com/. Limit is 6 tickets per credit card transaction. Supplies are limited.

“JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” in 3D will open nationwide on Friday, February 11th. The event is presented in association with RealD® and Bravado International Group, the leading merchandiser of top music artists.

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, Insurge Pictures, 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 Bravado International Group
Bravado, the only global, 360° full service merchandise company, develops and markets high-quality licensed merchandise to a worldwide audience. The company works closely with new & established entertainment clients, creating innovative products carefully tailored to each artist or brand. Product is sold on live tours, via selected retail outlets and through web-based stores. Bravado also licenses rights to an extensive network of third party licensees around the world. The company maintains offices in London, Los Angeles, New York, Nashville, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Tokyo and Sydney. In addition to Justin Bieber, Bravado artists include The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, No Doubt, Nickelback, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Elton John, Guns 'N Roses, Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Green Day and The Killers, among many others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Chilling "The Cove" is also Thrilling



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 95 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Cove (2009)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for disturbing content
DIRECTOR: Louie Psihoyos
WRITER: Mark Monroe
PRODUCERS: Paula DuPré Pesman and Fisher Stevens
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brook Aitken
EDITOR: Geoffrey Richman
COMPOSER: J. Ralph
Academy Award winner

DOCUMENTARY - Environmental

Starring: Richard O’Barry, Louis Psihoyos, Mandy-Rae Cruikshank, Charles Hambleton, Hardy Jones, Hayden Panettier, and Roger Payne

The Cove is a documentary film that depicts the annual killing of dolphins at Taiji, Wakayama, Japan. The film won the Oscar for “Best Documentary, Features” at the 2010 (82nd Annual) Academy Awards. The Cove follows former dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry’s quest to document the capture and slaughter of dolphins at Taiji, as part of a larger plan to end the capture of dolphins worldwide. O’Barry captured and trained the five dolphins used in the 1960s television show, Flipper.

After meeting O’Barry, former National Geographic photographer, Louie Psihoyos, founder of the Oceanic Preservation Society, decided to get involved with O’Barry’s cause. Psihoyos and a crew traveled to Taiji in 2007. There, using underwater microphones and high-definition cameras, they secretly filmed the slaughter of dolphins in an isolated cove.

The best part of The Cove, indeed, the key to its power, comes near the end of the film with the playback of the video featuring the killing of the dolphins. I don’t know if I was more shocked at the blood in the water or the dolphins’ thrashing. The blood was so thick that the pink-colored water looked like some kind of shake or malted drink. The film’s musical score by J. Ralph creates suspense and tension with stunning precision, while also being the perfect musical accompaniment to savage, senseless murder.

Before that sequence, much of the film focuses on three other themes or elements. First, the film details the task of getting by authorities in Taiji and setting up recording equipment, which is fun to watch. It has an almost special ops quality to it and reveals the tight filmmaking chops of Psihoyos and film editor, Geoffrey Richman.

The film also focuses on the prevalence of mercury in dolphin meat, in amounts far higher than is acceptable for human consumption. That’s interesting, but the film seems to lose its focus when it goes off on its mercury tangent. Another important element in the film is the focus on the role governments, environmental organizations (which is surprising), and groups from various industries play directly or indirectly in the slaughter at Taiji.

It is good and important that The Cove exists. I’m sure that there are a lot of people who do not know that this is happening. I didn’t until I first heard of this film. Is The Cove one of those so-called “important films?” The answer is a resounding yes. This film is important because what is happening in that cove at Taiji is a reflection of what we are doing to our planet, specifically the world’s oceans and the fish population.

Right now, we can be entertained by The Cove because it is a good movie. We’ll cry later because it will be a warning we ignored.

8 of 10
A

NOTES:
2010 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Documentary, Features” (Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


"The Fog of War" the Best Film of 2003



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 86 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003)
Running time: 95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for images and thematic issues of war and destruction
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Errol Morris
PRODUCERS: Julie Ahlberg, Errol Morris, and Michael Williams
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Chappell (D.o.P.) Peter Donahue (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Doug Abel, Chyld King, and Karen Schmeer
COMPOSER: Philip Glass
Academy Award winner

DOCUMENTARY/WAR

Starring: Robert S. McNamara

Oscar® finally noticed famed documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, and the first time turned out to be the charm. Morris’ The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for “Best Documentary, Features.”

Morris built his 95-minute film out of over 20 hours of interviews he conducted with Robert McNamara (1916-), the Secretary of Defense for both the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson presidential administrations. Morris also supplemented the film with archival footage and other interviews, as well as with charts, graphs, animation, and other film footage. Although the film covers most of McNamara’s life, Morris’ focus is on McNamara’s involvement with the Vietnam War.

Although the film doesn’t seem to make any moral judgments on its own, Morris leaves that up to McNamara, who, in the end, doesn’t seem like he’s in the mood to make apologies for what happened in Vietnam. Watch the film and listen to the man and really understand that war, like fog, can be ethereal, so people can have a difficult time seeing the wholeness of a thing, unable to see all the possibilities and angles. McNamara is also difficult to see. For all that he tells, he really doesn’t answer many questions; he doesn’t answer the questions he’s expected to answer. Why did the war happen? Why didn’t the U.S. end it sooner?

Still, McNamara lived a large life and worked for and with a lot of very influential and powerful people. Obviously, he’s a bright fellow, and he shares a lot of knowledge and information with us. He may not answer some of the big questions that we have, but he brings us inside the machinery of war and lets us see a lot. The Fog of War is a revealing portrait, and those who listen will learn a lot about the man and a lot about 20th century American military history. It’s amazing how much McNamara and Morris can pack into such a short film. The Fog of War is a vivid film more potent than fiction and as rich as life itself.

10 of 10

NOTES:
2004 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Documentary, Features” (Errol Morris and Michael Williams)


Monday, November 22, 2010

Daniel Day-Lewis is Lincoln in Spielberg Movie

Press release:

Academy Award Winner Daniel Day-Lewis to Star as Lincoln for DreamWorks Studios

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis will star as the 16th President of the United States in DreamWorks Studios’ Lincoln to be directed by Steven Spielberg. The announcement was made today by Spielberg and Stacey Snider, Co-Chairman and CEO of DreamWorks Studios.

“Daniel Day-Lewis would have always been counted as one of the greatest of actors, were he from the silent era, the golden age of film or even some time in cinema's distant future. I am grateful and inspired that our paths will finally cross with Lincoln,” said Steven Spielberg. "Throughout his career, he has been exceptionally selective in his choice of material," added Stacey Snider, "which makes us feel even more fortunate that he has chosen to join with us for Lincoln."

Based on the best-selling book, Team of Rivals, by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the screenplay has been written by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony Award winner, and Academy Award nominated writer Tony Kushner. It will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg.

It is anticipated that the film will focus on the political collision of Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet on the road to abolition and the end of the Civil War.

Doris Kearns Goodwin won her Pulitzer Prize for No Ordinary Time, the story of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the home front in World War II. Kushner's prize was for his play Angels in America, which later became an Emmy Award-winning television special. He had previously worked with Spielberg on Munich for which he was nominated for an Oscar in the Adapted Screenplay category.

Filming is expected to begin in the fall of 2011 for release in the fourth quarter of 2012 through Disney’s Touchstone distribution label.


About DreamWorks Studios
DreamWorks Studios is a motion picture company formed in 2009 and led by Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider in partnership with The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. Upcoming releases include “I Am Number Four,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” “The Help,” “Fright Night,” “Real Steel,” and “War Horse.”

DreamWorks Studios can be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DreamWorksStudios and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dw_studios.


Happy B'Day, Scarlett Johansson: Girl with a Pearl Earring



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 78 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK and Luxembourg
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Peter Webber
WRITER: Olivia Hetreed (from a novel by Tracy Chevalier)
PRODUCERS: Andy Paterson and Anand Tucker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduardo Serra (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Kate Evans
COMPOSER: Alexandre Desplat
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/ROMANCE

Starring: Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Joanna Scanlan, and Alakina Mann

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a speculative account of the story behind the Johannes Vermeer painting of the same title. Set in 17th century Holland, the film revolves around Griet (Scarlett Johansson), a peasant girl who is forced to work in the household of the master painter Vermeer (Colin Firth) as a housemaid to his numerous children. Curious about art and painting, Griet draws the attention of the painter who soon teaches her to mix and grind his paint and fetch colors from market. Griet’s beauty also attracts the eye of Vermeer’s lustful patron, Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), and Van Ruijven coerces Vermeer into painting a commission for his private chamber: the subject – Griet. Tensions arise, however, when Vermeer’s wife suspects intimacy between her servant and her husband. Yeah, but just wait until home girl sees that fabulous canvas her man painted with Griet as both muse and subject.

Peter Webber’s film earned Oscar® nominations (Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design), and all of them are well deserved. Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen since the mid-90’s sumptuous fest, Restoration. Webber, ably assisted by his master film photographer Eduardo Serra, frames many of the film’s shots as if they were individual works of art by Vermeer. In fact, the film is like a flipbook of paintings in Vermeer’s style, so accurately does the film capture the look and feel of the artist famous for his beautiful paintings capturing the daily life of domestics and servants.

Not only is the film good to look at, the film is also simply a superbly made drama. Ms. Johansson continues to prove that she is talented young actress. She has relatively little dialogue in the film, but she carries the movie by giving a performance that must be visually interpreted if one is to see into her character. True movie lovers appreciate when a performer can silently establish mood, character, and story so well. Although she won a Golden Globe nomination, the Academy was not forthcoming with an Oscar® nomination. It’s up to us to honor such a performance as if it had been so acclaimed with awards.

9 of 10
A+

NOTES:
2004 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Ben van Os-art director and Cecile Heideman-set decorator), “Best Cinematography”), Eduardo Serra), and “Best Costume Design” (Dien van Straalen)

2004 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker, and Peter Webber) and “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Alexandre Desplat); 8 nominations: “Best Cinematography” (Eduardo Serra), “Best Costume Design” (Dien van Straalen), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Jenny Shircore), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Scarlett Johansson), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Judy Parfitt), “Best Production Design” (Ben van Os), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Olivia Hetreed), “Carl Foreman Award for the Most Promising Newcomer” (Peter Webber-director)

2004 Golden Globes: 2 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Alexandre Desplat) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Scarlett Johansson)


Happy Birthday, Jeffery

For your 30-something birthday, I wish you a Tim Burton Batman collection.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boom Goes the Harry Potter Box Office Dynamite

Press release:

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” Breaks Franchise Record with $24 Million Midnight Opening

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” broke the franchise record for a midnight opening, earning $24 million at the box office. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. Pictures President of Domestic Distribution.

Opening at approximately 3,700 locations in North America, the midnight shows sold out in advance, as fans lined up for hours to be among the first to see Part 1 of the series’ final title.

The midnight grosses eclipsed the previous record of $22.2 million, set by the sixth film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which opened at midnight on July 15, 2009.

In announcing the new record, Fellman stated, “What makes it even more remarkable is that this film opened in the fall on what is, for most people, a school or work night. The last film opened in the middle of summer, making a midnight show more accessible to a larger segment of the audience. We are all thrilled by these early grosses, which we believe are just the beginning of a record-breaking opening weekend. We are releasing ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1’ at 4,125 locations and on over 9,400 screens in an effort to ensure that the fans who have been eagerly awaiting the film will have every opportunity to see it.”

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Heyday Films Production, a David Yates Film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1,” a motion picture event in two full-length parts. The film is being distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Heading the cast, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson reprise the roles of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The film’s ensemble cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Richard Griffiths, John Hurt, Rhys Ifans, Jason Isaacs, Bill Nighy, Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, David Thewlis, Warwick Davis, Tom Felton, Toby Jones, David Legeno, Simon McBurney, Helen McCrory, Nick Moran, Peter Mullan, David O’Hara, Clémence Poésy, Natalia Tena, Julie Walters, Mark Williams and Bonnie Wright.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” was directed by David Yates, who also helmed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” David Heyman, the producer of all of the Harry Potter films, again produced the film, together with David Barron and J.K. Rowling. Steve Kloves adapted the screenplay, based on the novel by J.K. Rowling. Lionel Wigram is the executive producer, with John Trehy and Tim Lewis serving as co-producers.

Concurrently with its theatrical release, the film is being released in select IMAX® theatres. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” has been digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® through proprietary IMAX DMR® technology.

http://www.harrypotter.com/

"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" Strange, but Fun Star Wars



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 34 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Running time: 98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language, and momentary smoking
DIRECTOR: Dave Filoni
WRITERS: Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Scott Murphy; from a story by George Lucas (based on the characters and universe created by George Lucas)
PRODUCERS: Catherine Winder
EDITOR: Jason Tucker
Razzie Award nominee

ANIMATION/SCI-FI/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE

Starring: (voices) Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, James Arnold Taylor, Dee Bradley Baker, Tom Kane, Nika Futterman, Ian Abercrombie, Corey Burton, Matthew Wood, Catherine Taber, Kevin Michael Richardson, David Acord, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Christopher Lee

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the seventh Star Wars theatrical feature film and the first animated Star Wars movie. This film takes place between the live action Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). According to advertisements for Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it recounts an untold tale of the Clone Wars – the central conflict that begins in Episode II and ends in Episode III. In spite of its ties to two recent Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars isn’t getting the love the other Star Wars films have, when one considers early reviews and fan response. While this new film is by no means without its flaws, its light-hearted approach and lack of pompous seriousness make Star Wars: The Clone Wars the most fun Star Wars flick since the original trilogy.

As the film opens, the Clone Wars sweep through the galaxy, and the Jedi Knights are struggling to maintain order and restore peace, as more and more systems side with the Separatists. Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie) and his Sith partner, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), continue to ferment dissension in the Republic; they are the puppet masters behind the Separatist movement and its Droid army.

Count Dooku and his assassin, Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), have orchestrated the kidnapping of the infant son of crime lord Jabba the Hutt (Kevin Michael Richardson). Desperate to have access to the shipping lanes on the galaxy’s Outer Rim, which Jabba controls, the Jedi Council pledges to rescue Jabba’s kid, Rotta the Huttlet (David Acord). This mission with its far-reaching consequences is passed off to Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), who are on the frontlines of the Clone Wars.

These two Jedi already have their hands full battling a seemingly endless droid army, with only a small, valiant contingent of clone troops, led by Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), on their side. It’s more than enough that Obi-Wan and Anakin find themselves both fighting the droid army and launching a rescue mission, so when Anakin learns that Master Yoda (Tom Kane) has assigned him a padawan learner, a young female named Ahsoka Tona (Ashley Eckstein), he’s not happy. Meanwhile, Dooku and his agents will stop at nothing to foil the Jedi and their desperate, multi-faceted mission.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a computer-animated (or 3D animated) film, and its animation certainly looks wanting when compared to the work of such 3D animation studios as Pixar (Toy Story), DreamWorks Animation (Shrek), and Blue Sky (Ice Age). Early in the movie, The Clone Wars’ animation looks stiff, chunky, and even clunky, but as soon as my mind adjusted to the unusual look of this style of 3D animation, it actually began to look charmingly distinctive.

The look of the animation aside, what makes Star Wars: The Clone Wars such a winning film is, honestly, the action. The screenplay fashions a fast-paced narrative that constantly moves the viewer from one end of the galaxy to the next, with the capitol at Coruscant being the anchor (and there’s big action going on there, too). We’re treated to lively battle scenes and heady duels, and while the film lacks strong characterization and personality development of its characters, the film keeps them too busy fighting for their lives and their cause for us to really care.

This is also the first film that really allows Anakin Skywalker to stretch his wings and actually show (rather than tell) us how good a pilot and what a capable Jedi he is (which Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker way back in the original Star Wars). In a lot of ways and unlike any of the prequel trilogies, this is Anakin’s film. The character, after seeming mostly wooden in the prequel trilogy, is charismatic, bold, and brazen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars – a pointed contrast to the mannequin-like performances of the two human actors who played Anakin in the prequel films.

Back in 1999, Ewan McGregor, who portrayed Obi-Wan, described Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace as being like a fairy tale about a group of heroes flying from one end of the galaxy to another and having adventures. That’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars; it’s a little sci-fi fairy tale adventure – a Saturday morning cartoon version of Star Wars. This is indeed an imperfect flick, but it happily takes the dark out of Star Wars and replaces it with fun.

7 of 10
B+

Sunday, August 17, 2008

NOTES:
2009 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel”


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time Runs Out for Blade; Snipes Must Report to Prison

E! Online has reported that Wesley Snipes has been ordered to report to prison immediately to begin serving his 3 year sentence on charges of federal tax evasion.

"Predators" Rocks Except When It Sucks



TRASH IN MY EYE No. 94 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Predators (2010)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong creature violence and gore, and pervasive language
DIRECTOR: Nimród Antal
WRITERS: Alex Litvak and Michael Finch (from Jim Thomas and John Thomas)
PRODUCERS: Elizabeth Avellan, John Davis, and Robert Rodriguez
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gyula Pados
EDITOR: Dan Zimmerman

SCI-FI/ACTION with elements of horror

Starring: Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, Alice Braga, Walton Goggins, Oleg Taktarov, Laurence Fishburne, Danny Trejo, Louis Ozawa Changchien, and Mahershalahashbaz Ali

In the 1987 movie, Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch led a Special Forces team into the Guatemalan jungle. There, they encountered an alien hunter (called “the Predator”) that picked them off one by one. The 2010 movie, Predators, is a direct sequel to the original film, and follows a ruthless mercenary, as he leads a group of trained and untrained killers through a jungle on another planet.

In Predators, Royce (Adrien Brody), an ex-American military turned mercenary, awakens to find himself falling from the sky into a vast, unknown jungle. He soon meets seven other people that arrived there in the same manner. They include Isabelle (Alice Braga), a sniper and black operations soldier; Edwin (Topher Grace), a doctor; Hanzo (Louis Ozawa Changchien), a Yakuza, and Stans (Walton Goggins), a death row inmate; among others. They are killers without a conscience.

The group soon learns that they are not on Earth. After a pack of alien beasts attacks them, Royce deduces that the planet is a game preserve and that they are the game and the prey. When the hunters stalking them finally attack, the humans discover just how formidable they are. Their only hope – to get off the planet – is seemingly an impossible one, but they may get help from the unlikeliest sources.

I found Predators to be immensely entertaining, and this is also one time that I can certainly give credit to the director the film, in this case, Nimród Antal. He works action movie magic out of a script filled with inane characters and inconsistencies. Some of the characters are extraneous and pointless (a Yakuza!) or defy common sense (a death row inmate!). Some of the good ones disappear too early in the film, Danny Trejo’s Cuchillo, a drug cartel enforcer, and Mahershalahashbaz Ali’s Mombasa, a death squad soldier. The audience doesn’t get to know the characters that well, if at all, and they often come across as cardboard cutouts. However, Laurence Fishburne’s Noland is a delight; Fishburne plays him as so deranged that the character is both scary and alluring.

Meanwhile, the director took advantage of a new setting for the Predator franchise (an alien world) and special effects, CGI, and production design talent, improved from the original, to make a movie that looks cool, especially when the Predators attack. The moment the viewer stops and tries to make sense of the plot, story, and concept, Predators begins to fall apart. When the viewer focuses on the chasing and the killing, Predators is just plain fun – so much fun that I didn’t want it to end. So let’s go with this formula for a future film: more Predator action and fewer crappy characters.

6 of 10
B

Saturday, November 20, 2010