Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy B'day, John Sayles: Lianna

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 44 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


Lianna (1983)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – R
EDITOR/WRITER/DIRECTOR: John Sayles
PRODUCERS: Jeffrey Nelson and Maggie Renzi
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Austin De Besche
COMPOSER: Mason Daring

DRAMA

Starring: Linda Griffiths, Jane Hallaren, Jon DeVries, Jo Henderson, Jessica Wight MacDonald, Jesse Solomon, John Sayles, Stephen Mendillo, Betsy Julia Robinson, Nancy Mette, and Maggie Renzi

Lianna was acclaimed independent filmmaker John Sayles second feature directorial effort. It’s the story of Lianna (Linda Griffiths), a wife and mother of two children who falls in love with another woman. Her marriage to Dick (Jon DeVries), an English professor, isn’t a happy one since Dick is mostly arrogant towards her and cheats on Lianna with his female students. Lianna eventually falls in love with her professor Ruth (Jane Hallaren). The relationship is not only a revelation for Lianna, but it’s also an awakening of long dormant feelings she’s had since she was in her early teens.

Lianna leaves her marriage for Ruth, and that throws her life into a kind of tailspin. The philandering Dick feels sexually betrayed, while Lianna’s children, Spencer (Jesse Solomon) and Theda (Jessica Wight MacDonald), are curious, hurt, and confused. Lianna’s friends and associates are not hostile to her because of the change, but they’re either distant or ambivalent. Things get a little hairy when Ruth starts to take up a prior lesbian relationship that still has life in it. That drives a wedge between her and Lianna, who often succumbs to bouts of loneliness.

The performances are wonderful and rich, though they seem a bit stiff early in the film. I give most of the credit to Sayles, who has a knack for getting us in close to the characters, giving us an intimate view of their lives. His method, although unobtrusive, is actually kind of controlling. He has an intense focus on being true to the writing and letting the actors play out what they pick up from the written page. This is his way of making us focus on the drama. His filmmaking is free of eye candy and pyrotechnics, so he leaves the audience only the bare bones of drama, which is quite a meal in itself.

Another great thing about his films is that they seem so real. It’s as if a John Sayles picture is actually a peak into the lives of real characters. There is no phoniness in his films, and the questions raised by each film have no easy or obvious answers. Still, Sayles has way of making us glue ourselves to the picture, and Liana is one of his best efforts. It’s also a non-sensational and rather matter-of-fact look at a straight married woman in the throes of a burgeoning attraction to the same sex.

Lianna is scandalous without the noise, and it’s passionate without being tawdry. Most of all, it is human and real while still being drama. I wish that Sayles would have given us a deeper look at the impact of Lianna’s affair with another woman on her children, but what Sayles does give us is quality work.

9 of 10A+

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy B'day, Gwyneth Paltrow: Shakespeare in Love

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 215 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Running time: 122 minutes (2 hours, 2 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexuality
DIRECTOR: John Madden
WRITERS: Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
PRODUCERS: Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein, and Edward Zwick
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Richard Greatrex
EDITOR: David Gamble
Academy Award winner

ROMANCE/COMEDY/DRAMA

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Affleck, Judi Dench, Martin Clunes, Simon Callow, Imelda Staunton, Nicholas Le Prevost, and Joe Roberts with Rupert Everett

When Gwyneth Paltrow won the Oscar for “Best Actress in a Leading role” at the 1999 Oscar ceremonies, few were surprised. When the picture in which she starred, Shakespeare in Love, won the “Best Picture” Oscar, jaws around the world dropped; after all, the film to beat was Steven Spielberg’s oh-so-important, Saving Private Ryan. Well, Shakespeare in Love did beat it. Years later, I still would pick Ryan over Shakespeare, but Shakespeare in Love is a much better movie going experience. The film also won Oscars for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Judi Dench), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration,” “Best Costume Design,” “Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score,” and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.”

What’s the story that captured the hearts and imaginations of moviegoers, film critics, and award givers? It’s 1593, and young playwright William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is a mess. He’s out of ideas, suffering writer’s block, entangled in too many romantic or lustful intrigues, living far way from his wife and children, and he’s out of money. As he struggles to finish his new play, a comedy with the awkward title, Romeo and Ethel the Sea Pirate’s Daughter, he accidentally discovers his muse in a new actor, Thomas Kent (Gwyneth Paltrow). When Kent runs away from his admiring stare, Will Shakespeare chases after him and discovers that Kent is a she, Viola de Lesseps (Ms. Paltrow), the daughter of a wealthy commoner. It’s love at first sight for the both of them, but Viola’s father (Nicholas Le Prevost) has promised his daughter’s hand in marriage to a penniless nobleman, Lord Wessex (Colin Firth).

However, the engagement doesn’t temper their love and they carry on a clandestine affair that leads to the stage. Will gives the part of Romeo to Viola, but her gender remains a secret to him, while the other actors and the backers of the newly renamed Romeo and Juliet believe their Romeo is played by Thomas Kent. (In Elizabethan England, women are not allowed on stage, boys and young men with high voices play the parts of women.) Soon Will and Viola’s affair and secret will be painfully revealed to the world and to her angry husband-to-be.

Shakespeare in Love is light and frothy, but quite entertaining; it is very likely a delight to those familiar with William Shakespeare and his plays. However, the film gives Will such a contemporary spin that even the least informed about Shakespeare may very well like this. Now, for those without a clue, they will have to rely on the filmmaking and storytelling. As a romance, the film often works like a romance novel, or at best, historical fiction: lots of heat, lots of hot lovemaking, and a bit too much overwrought dialogue that too many times comes close to being pure purple prose.

The acting by the leads Ms. Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes is good, but not great. Fiennes’s performance ranges from overdone and pretentious to flamboyant and yearning. Seriously, Ms. Paltrow’s performance is hardly award-winning material, but that’s never stopped Oscar. Still, there’s something about the two of them that makes this work. It’s that intangible element or chemistry that takes everything shoddy or overdone about this film and makes it such a tasty confection, that you’ll come back again and again, even if you keep thinking that there seems to be an awful lot of air packed into this movie ice cream.

There are some very good performances: Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Geoffrey Rush, and Simon Firth. The music is quite good, sweet and pleasant to the ear. The production values give the viewer the sense that they have been transported to somewhere else, another world if not another time. Then again, that intangible something may be director John Madden who brought the ingredients together and made a dessert that deserves encore performances.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
1999 Academy Awards: 7 wins: “Best Picture” (David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick, and Marc Norman), “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Gwyneth Paltrow), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Judi Dench), “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Martin Childs and Jill Quertier), “Best Costume Design” (Sandy Powell), “Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score” (Stephen Warbeck) and “Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen” (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard); 6 nominations: “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Geoffrey Rush), “Best Cinematography” (Richard Greatrex), “Best Director” (John Madden), “Best Film Editing” (David Gamble), “Best Makeup” (Lisa Westcott and Veronica McAleer), and “Best Sound” (Robin O'Donoghue, Dominic Lester, and Peter Glossop)

1999 BAFTA Awards: 3 wins: “Best Film” (David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick, and Marc Norman), “Best Editing” (David Gamble), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Judi Dench); 12 nominations: “Asquith Award for Film Music” (Stephen Warbeck), “Best Cinematography” (Richard Greatrex), “Best Costume Design” (Sandy Powell), “Best Make Up/Hair” (Lisa Westcott), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Joseph Fiennes), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Geoffrey Rush), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Tom Wilkinson), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Gwyneth Paltrow), “Best Production Design” (Martin Childs), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard), “Best Sound” (Peter Glossop, John Downer, Robin O'Donoghue, and Dominic Lester), and “David Lean Award for Direction” (John Madden)

1999 Golden Globes: 3 wins: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical” (Gwyneth Paltrow), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard); 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (John Madden), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Geoffrey Rush), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Judi Dench)

Happy Birthday, Jay

Yes, I know "Jay" is not for "Junior."  Happy 26th!

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Gridiron Gang" Tackles Troubled Teens

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 129 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux


Gridiron Gang (2006)
Running time: 125 minutes (2 hour, 5 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some startling scenes of violence, mature thematic material, and language
DIRECTOR: Phil Joanou
WRITER: Jeff Maguire (based upon the film Gridiron Gang by Jac Flanders)
PRODUCERS: Neal H. Moritz and Lee Stanley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeff Cutter
EDITOR: Joel Negron

DRAMA/SPORTS

Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Xzibit, Kevin Dunn, Leon Rippy, Jade Yorker, Trever O’Brien, Brandon Mychal Smith, MŌ, David Thomas, and Setu Taase

Not only is Gridiron Gang a star vehicle for actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, it’s also a sports-infused drama about a group of young men seeking redemption and a second chance to prove their worth to society. The film, released in September of 2006, is based upon “Gridiron Gang,” the 1993 Emmy Award-winning documentary (“Outstanding Individual Achievement in Informational Programming”) that chronicled the creation of the real-life Camp Kilpatrick Mustangs.

Detention camp probation officer, Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), is tired of seeing so many of the former inmates at Camp Kilpatrick return to prison or meet violent ends on the street. Porter comes up with the idea to recruit a group of the current inmates and form a high-school level football team.

However, his superiors, Paul Higa (Leon Rippy) and Dexter (Kevin Dunn), don’t think he can mold the dangerous teenage inmates into a real football team. The team Porter puts together is made up of hardcore felons, and the players often harbor bitter hatred for some of their teammates or are gang rivals. But with spirited co-worker, Malcolm Moore (Xzibit), by his side, Coach Porter just may prove the doubters wrong and turn these troubled young men into a team.

Although bound by the formula of all uplifting sports movies, Gridiron Gang is strong on two fronts. First, the film’s story plays the motley assortment of young cons as vulnerable characters, and the conceit is that they have even the tiniest spark of hope of redemption. This gives the audience a reason to cheer for them while mostly relegating thoughts of these young criminals’ often horrendous crimes to the back of their minds.

Secondly, Dwayne Johnson is a true movie star. He has so much charisma and charm, and the camera lusts after him. He doesn’t just have to smile; he can display any emotion and its looks good on screen. He has “great face,” and every time this movie seems about to slip into the abyss of a tired old sports cliché, The Rock smiles and puts Gridiron Gang up on high.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Star Wars Blu-ray Set is a Bestseller

The Force is Strong on Blu-ray - STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA

The Most Anticipated Blu-ray Release in the Galaxy Breaks Global Sales Records with One Million Units Sold and $84 Million in Consumer Spend

The Complete Saga on Blu-ray quickly becomes the #1 pre-order and #1 catalog title since the launch of the high-definition format.

SAN FRANCISCO & LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced today that STAR WARS is the bestselling catalog Blu-ray Disc of all time with worldwide sales totaling one million units, including 515,000 units sold in North America in its first week alone. This represents $84 million in worldwide consumer spend including $38 million in North America - unprecedented for a nine-disc Blu-ray collection at a premium price.

The thirteen-month campaign to launch the SAGA Blu-ray and engage consumers around the globe began in August 2010. From Darth Vader at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a first look at San Diego Comic Con, a first-of-its-kind partnership with eBay, to creating the world’s largest lightsaber in the UK, the power of the Force continued to resonate around the world as fans came out in droves to have fun with that galaxy far, far away.

"Once again our fans’ enthusiasm to celebrate Stars Wars continues to amaze us,” said Kayleen Walters, Senior Director, Marketing, Lucasfilm. “Our goal was to deliver a premium product that they could enjoy with their family and friends and we are thrilled that they are enjoying it as much as we hoped they would.”

"Star Wars is a franchise with universal stories that resonates as much today as it did 30 years ago," said Mary Daily, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and Vincent Marcais, Senior Vice President of International Marketing for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. "With the Blu-ray, audiences can go deeper into the mythology than ever before and reconnect with everything they love about the Saga in the best possible quality."

The comprehensive collection includes the six movies with unparalleled high-definition picture and sound quality, and features numerous deleted, extended and alternate scenes, new documentaries and a cross-section of the countless Star Wars spoofs that have appeared in pop culture over the past three decades. Marking the first time ever that the full Saga is available in one complete collection, STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA ON BLU-RAY also features a coveted peek into the making of the Saga with vintage documentaries, audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, prop and costume turnarounds, retrospectives and more.

Episodes I-III and IV-VI are also available as distinct Blu-ray Trilogy collections.


ABOUT STAR WARS
The May 25, 1977 theatrical debut of Star Wars - on a scant 32 screens across America - was destined to change the face of cinema forever. An instant classic and an unparalleled box office success, the rousing "space opera" was equal parts fairy tale, western, 1930s serial and special effects extravaganza, with roots in mythologies from cultures around the world. From the mind of visionary writer/director George Lucas, the epic space fantasy introduced the mystical Force into the cultural vocabulary, as well as iconic characters such as evil Darth Vader, idealistic Luke Skywalker, feisty Princess Leia, lovable scoundrel Han Solo and wise Obi-Wan Kenobi. Since its 1977 debut, Star Wars has continued to grow, its lush narrative expanding from modest beginnings into an epic, six-film Saga chronicling the fall and redemption of The Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker.

ABOUT TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is a recognized global industry leader and a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company. Representing 75 years of innovative and award-winning filmmaking from Twentieth Century Fox, TCFHE is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming, acquisitions and original productions on DVD, Blu-ray Disc Digital Copy, Video On Demand and Digital Download. The company also releases all products globally for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce throughout the world.

Lucasfilm, STAR WARS™ and related properties are trademarks and/or copyrights, in the United States and other countries, of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or its affiliates. TM & © Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved. All other trademarks and trade names are properties of their respective owners.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Happy B'day, Will Smith: I, Robot

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 126 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


I, Robot (2004)
Running time: 115 minutes (1 hour, 55 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense stylized action, and some brief partial nudity
DIRECTOR: Alex Proyas
WRITERS: Jeff Vintar and Akiva Goldsman; from a screen story by Jeff Vintar (suggested by a book by Isaac Asimov)
PRODUCERS: John Davis, Topher Dow, Wyck Godfrey, and Laurence Mark
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Duggan (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: William Hoy, Richard Learoyd, and Armen Minasian
COMPOSER: Marco Beltrami
Academy Award nominee

SCI-FI/ACTION/THRILLER with elements of drama and mystery

Starring: Will Smith, Bridget Moynahan, Alan Tudyk, James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Adrian L. Ricard, Chi McBride, Jerry Wasserman, and Fiona Hogan

In the year 2035, U.S. Robotics is about to roll out their most advanced robot, the NS5, when the company’s most brilliant robot scientist and inventor, Dr. Alfred Lanning (James Cromwell), commits suicide. Techno-phobic cop, Detective Del Spooner (Will Smith) investigates the case with the notion that a robot, specifically an apparently hyper-advanced version of the NS5 named “Sonny” (voice of Alan Tudyk), actually killed Dr. Lanning. Spooner’s investigation earns him the ire of his supervisor (Chi McBride) and U.S. Robotics’ headman, Lawrence Robertson (Bruce Greenwood). Spooner, nevertheless, soldiers on and uncovers an even larger threat to humanity posed by the new robots and a mysterious other.

Directed by Alex Proyas, I, Robot has none of the dark visuals Proyas displayed in his best-known work, The Crow and Dark City. Visually the film looks like Minority Report, and the film story is similar to both that film and the recent Paycheck. Proyas does an admirable job making I, Robot, a very entertaining and thrilling summer action movie. The film seamless flows from one scene to another, which is quite a trick for Proyas to have turned considering the script juggles and discards three major plot points: a murder mystery, corporate intrigue, and technological Armageddon. It’s a disappointment that the film didn’t focus on any one of the three, for it would have better severed the movie; still, the film is very good popcorn entertainment.

I must admit to being a big fan of Will Smith’s work. The handsome, talented, and (clearly) ambitious performer is both a quality actor and a big time movie star. His bravado, charm, endearing personality, wit and sarcasm, and screen presence carry this film and keep it well above mediocrity. Smith is also very good in sci-fi films; they’re a natural fit for him, and he dominates them the way Harrison Ford used to do in action movies or the way Tom Cruise still does in anything. If you’re a fan of Smith’s work, I, Robot is a must-see delight; if you’re an SF fan, you’ll probably see this anyway.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2005 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Visual Effects” (John Nelson, Andy Jones, Erik Nash, and Joe Letteri)

2005 Black Reel Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Film, Drama”

2005 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Will Smith)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy B'day, Brad Bird: Ratatouille

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 107 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux


Ratatouille (2007)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – G
DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
WRITERS: Brad Bird; from a story by Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, and Jan Pinkava with additional story material by Emily Cook and Kathy Greenberg
PRODUCER: Brad Lewis
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Robert Anderson (D.o.P.) and Sharon Calahan (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Darren Holmes
Academy Award winner

ANIMATION/COMEDY/FAMILY

Starring: (voices) Patton Oswalt, Ian Holm, Lou Romano, Brian Dennehy, Peter Sohn, Peter O’Toole, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Will Arnett, Julius Callahan, James Remar, John Ratzenberger, Teddy Newton, Tony Fucile, Jake Steinfeld, and Brad Bird

In its latest feature-length, computer-animated gem, Pixar presents Ratatouille, the story of a plucky, ambitious rat and a shy garbage boy who forge a friendship out of mutual need. Directed by Oscar-winner Brad Bird (The Incredibles), the film follows the struggle to keep the bonds of family and friendship alive under the most trying circumstances.

Born with a gifted sense of smell that helps him appreciate the ingredients that go into a great dish, Remy (Patton Oswalt) longs to be a great French chef, but he is a rat, and cooking is a highly rodent-phobic profession. Living in the French countryside, Remy’s dreams put him at odds with his father, Django (Brian Dennehy), and his brother, Emile (Peter Sohn). Fate, however, soon places Remy in the sewers beneath Paris, and he finds himself near Gusteau’s, the restaurant made famous by his culinary hero, the late chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett), whose motto was “anyone can cook.”

Remy strikes an unlikely bargain with Linguini (Lou Romano), a down-and-out garbage boy at Gusteau’s, and together they become unlikely popular chefs. Remy discovers that by pulling tuffs of Linguini’s hair he can control the young chef as if he were a puppet – Linguini’s clumsy body channels Remy’s creative brain. Their dreams, however, may come to an end thanks to the efforts of Skinner (Ian Holm), the man who now runs Gusteau’s. He has his eyes on Linguini, and he’s planning on denying the boy what is rightfully his.

Ratatouille is everything that makes Pixar animated films so great. The animation is beautifully textured and inventively designed, presenting Paris as a gaslight romance. The characters, sets, art direction, lighting, etc are all outstanding – the hallmark of Pixar. The film is full of physical comedy and acrobatic hijinx with the cast of characters dashing, leaping, chasing, and catapulting. All of it works because of the tightly choreographed comic timing.

Don’t let the witty banter and slapstick comedy fool you. Ratatouille, like the other Pixar films (such as Finding Nemo), touches on emotionally resonant themes that are relatable to the audience, young and old and regardless of socio-economic standing. The film repeatedly hits on the notion of honesty. Don’t steal, and don’t make excuses for stealing. Give credit where credit is due, and look not on others with prejudice so inflexible that you fail to see their gifts. It’s all so simply put and not preachy. Ratatouille is an uproarious comedy, but also a poignant tale about being oneself and loving family and friends, and committing to colleagues. Wrapped up in such a grandly beautiful package, it is thus far on the short list of best films the year 2007 has to offer.

10 of 10

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NOTES:
2008 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Brad Bird); 4 nominations: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Michael Giacchino), “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Randy Thom and Michael Silvers), “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, and Doc Kane), “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Brad Bird-screenplay/story, Jan Pinkava-story, and Jim Capobianco-story)

2008 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Film” (Brad Bird)

2008 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Animated Film” (Brad Bird)

Robert De Niro Leads a Cool Band of Men in "Ronin"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 7 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux


Ronin (1998)
Running time: 122 minutes (2 hours, 2 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence and some language
DIRECTOR: John Frankenheimer
WRITER: J. D. Zeik and Richard Weisz (David Mamet), from a story by J.D. Zeik
PRODUCER: Frank Mancuso Jr.
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Fraisse (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Tony Gibbs
COMPOSER: Elia Cmiral

ACTION/DRAMA/THRILLER

Starring: Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, Skipp Sudduth, Michael Lonsdale, Jan Triska, and Jonathan Pryce

Deirdre (Natascha McElhone), a mysterious Irish woman, gathers a team of freelance intelligence operatives to steal an even more mysterious metal suitcase. After her group successfully obtains the package, one of its operatives, Gregor (Stellan Skarsgard, Good Will Hunting), double crosses the others and steals the suitcase for himself. The mission goes awry, and Gregor’s treachery promptly throws the entire situation into confusion. Possible IRA (Irish Republican Army) renegades and ex-KGB (the former Soviet Union’s political police) also seek the case, and it becomes almost every man for himself.

In feudal Japan, ronin were samurai without masters, and a samurai’s purpose in life was to serve and to protect his master’s life with his own if necessary. Because of the strict Confucian caste system of the time, ronin could not get other work as merchants or as farmers, so they became hired guns. The characters in this film are, in a sense, ronin, people involved in the intelligence and espionage community who no longer serve a higher organization and are own their own. Or at least, they appear that way.

Robert De Niro is the Sam, ex-CIA, who from the moment he appears is the most savvy, the most intelligent, the straightest arrow, and the most vicious of the ronin when he has to be. De Niro is an electric presence on the screen and dominates this picture. He is the hero by which we ensure our safety, as we vicariously join this ride. Jean Reno is the sympathetic Vincent, a voice of reason and calm next to De Niro’s smoldering Sam. Vincent is a comforting presence in the rough and tumble espionage world of this movie, and he is the perfect partner for Sam.

Directed by veteran filmmaker John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) makes Ronin a taught, adult thriller sans lots of special effects and eye candy. It’s a thinking man’s action movie – a drama and suspense thriller with action scenes. From the initial meeting of the operatives, an aborted arms deal, the staging and acquisition of the suitcase to a chase through the streets of Paris and the resolution, this is a thrill ride with both adrenaline and intelligence. The pacing of this film is a testament to the filmmaking skill of an under appreciated director.

J. D. Zeik’s story (with work by David Mamet under a pseudonym) is a gem. Smart adult action movies, thrillers, and suspense films are rare. Both writers understand the importance of plot, story, setting, and character as the lynchpins, while so many other movies hang the structure of their films on SFX and the pretty faces of new, hot, young faces.

With a veteran cast that also includes Jonathan Pryce and Sean Bean, Ronin is the joy ride that mature moviegoers need between the critical favorite dramas and the blockbuster trash. At the end the film, enough of this good cast is left alive for a sequel, one of the few times an action drama is worthy of having one.

7 of 10
A-

New Zombie Movie, "The Dead," Due in October

The Ford Brothers’ African-Set Zombie Horror Film “THE DEAD” Invades U.S. Theaters This October!

SAN JOSE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Global Cinema Distribution (http://www.globalcinemadistribution.com/) announces the national theatrical release of the Ford Brothers’ West African–set zombie feature THE DEAD. After its successful U.K. run, THE DEAD lurches across the pond and into more than 20 cities across the U.S. beginning October 7th in Los Angeles and October 14th in New York and everywhere else in-between.

Shot on 35mm in life-threatening regions of Burkina Faso and Ghana, THE DEAD takes audiences on a horrifying road-trip through a now zombie-dominated terrain. An American mercenary, the sole survivor of a violent plane crash, maneuvers through the hostile, arid landscape while battling against the newly risen living dead. Almost losing all hope, he encounters an African soldier desperately searching for his son amongst the chaos. The mercenary and the soldier rise up together to forge their way through the unstoppable assault of the ever-hungry undead and forward into an uncertain future.

Along with its overseas theatrical run, THE DEAD, co-directed and written by U.K. natives Howard J. Ford and Jon Ford, has been a festival favorite since its debut last year, garnering rave reviews from horror fans and mainstream media alike.

“Out of nowhere a fan base for THE DEAD rose up, much like the zombies themselves, demanding to see it,” explains co-director and writer Howard J. Ford. “We had hundreds of zombies down at the Cannes Film Festival carrying banners for our movie and turning up as the undead for festival screenings. Now Global Cinema is bringing our movie to the big screen throughout the U.S. I’m thrilled to be traveling with the film and meeting American audiences that have been so supportive of THE DEAD over the past year.”

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJVdqZww9aE

“A balls-to-the-walls awesome ZOMBIE Film…the gore is frankly jaw-dropping. And these are full-on Romero rules zombies. And they’re scary as f*ck.” - Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News

THE DEAD opens on Friday, October 7th, 2011, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, Austin and Seattle (to name a few) and continues its theatrical rollout throughout the month of October. For a complete list of theaters visit http://www.globalcinemadistribution.com/2010-film-releases/the-dead/the-dead-theatrical-release/

Friday, September 23, 2011

John Singleton Shepherds "Four Brothers"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 144 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux


Four Brothers (2005)
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, pervasive language, and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: John Singleton
WRITERS: David Elliot & Paul Lovett
PRODUCER: Lorenzo De Bonaventura
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Menzier, Jr. A.C.S.
EDITOR: Bruce Cannon, A.C.E. and Billy Fox, A.C.E.

DRAMA/ACTION/CRIME/MYSTERY

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sofia Vergara, Fionnula Flanagan, Taraji P. Henson, Barry Shabaka Henley, and Jernard Burks

The Mercer Brothers – hotheaded ex-con Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), ladies’ man Angel (Tyrese Gibson), family man and businessman Jeremiah (André Benjamin), and rock musician Jack (Garrett Hedlund) – return to the mean streets of Detroit after their adoptive mother Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) is murdered during the holdup of a corner grocery store. They take the matter of her murder into their own hands in spite of assurances from police Lt. Green (Terrence Howard) and Detective Fowler (Josh Charles) that they are working on the case.

Soon the Mercer boys realize that their mother’s death wasn’t just the tragic result of a simple store holdup. Bobby and Angel use their rough old ways of handling business to track their mother’s killers, but these aren’t the same Detroit neighborhoods they left and their old ways have new consequences. Whatever the result of their own private investigation, the Mercer brothers discover that their brotherly bonds, first forged by adoption, are as thick as those of brothers by birth.

I expected John Singleton’s new film, Four Brothers, to be a very well made action drama, but it turned out to be one of the best films I have seen thus far this year. It has the cool intensity of a 70’s action movie or blaxtiploitation film. While Four Brothers is certainly a straight genre piece, it is also a character-driven film with a lot of action and drama. First credit should go to the script by screenwriters David Elliot & Paul Lovett, long time collaborators. They not only pounded on story structure, but they made very engaging characters out of the protagonists for the most part.

The villains, however, come out on the short end. Some are very interesting, like Chwetel Ejiofor’s Victor Sweet, but in the end he emerges as nothing more than a really evil dude; there’s no The Godfather-like examination of evil here. All the “bad guys” seem to be interesting characters worth developing, but the script never gets that far. That’s one of the things here that keeps Four Brothers just short of being a truly great film.

On the other hand, Singleton’s intense, block-by-block building of this film’s narrative and the frenetic pace he gives it glosses over any script and performance shortcomings (I found Fionnula Flanagan’s Evelyn Mercer to be as creepy as she was sympathetic.), and John Singleton’s masterful directorial performance makes Four Brothers as good as the kind of memorable crime films like Out of Sight. Four Brothers doesn’t miss a beat, and this is one of the year’s best directing jobs.

The four leads really drive this film. All are good: Andre Benjamin, known to many as Andre 3000 of the Grammy-winning musical act OutKast, is a natural acting talent, and here, he doesn’t come across like a fish out of water as is the problem with so many something-else’s-turned-actor. Garrett Hedlund, barely out of high school when he captured the juicy role of Patroclus opposite Brad Pitt’s Achilles in Troy (a film by Wolfgang Peterson), comes across as an affable and energetic co-star. He’s sort of the odd-man-out, but he makes do with the lesser part the story hands him.

The driving force of the brotherly quartet is Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson. Wahlberg is a very good actor who is rushing towards greatness. He’s a movie star, and his presence can make you want to see the movies in which he stars, regardless of genre. He’s got Hollywood star cool, yet there is a bit of an edge to him – part tough guy, but loner/rebel. Hey, it works on the big screen. Who’d a thunk it? Tyrese Gibson is a damn good actor, and has movie star appeal. He’s the other piece in a matching set with Wahlberg, being every bit the handsome tough guy, but with a bit of softie in him. In this film, he doesn’t come across at all as a supporting player. He plays Angel Mercer so naturally that you’d think he’d been doing the acting thing for at least twice as long as he actually has.

The cast, writers, directors, and crew come together to make this urban action/exploitation film into the consummate gritty Hollywood action drama. Four Brothers might come across at first glance as junk, but it’s really a hamburger recipe turned into a fine steak. Enjoy it on the big screen or make a must-keep date for it on home video and DVD.

8 of 10
A

NOTES:
2006 Black Reel Awards: 4 nominations: “Black Reel Best Director” (John Singleton), “Best Ensemble” (André Benjamin, Tyrese Gibson, Mark Wahlberg, Sofía Vergara, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Taraji P. Henson), “Best Film,” and “Best Original Soundtrack”

2006 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film/Television Movie” (John Singleton)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Felicity Huffman Moves "Transamerica"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 128 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux


Transamerica (2005)
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content, nudity, language, and drug use
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Duncan Tucker
PRODUCERS: René Bastian, Sebastian Dungan, and Linda Moran
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Kazmierski (with Tom Camarda)
EDITOR: Pam Wise
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA

Starring: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Elizabeth Peña, Fionnula Flanagan, Graham Greene, Burt Young, and Carrie Preston

Sabrina Osbourne or as she likes to be called, “Bree” (Felicity Huffman) is a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual woman who passes herself off as “G.G.,” meaning “genuine girl.” She lives in a poor section of Los Angeles, where she works two jobs (as a dishwasher at a small Mexican restaurant and as telemarketer from home) to make enough money so that she can afford the final sexual reassignment surgery that will make her wholly a woman. An unexpected complication in her plans arrives via a phone call from New York City.

Apparently, in her old life as a man named Stanley Schupack, she fathered a son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), a street hustler whom the police picked up for dealing drugs. Toby, who never met his father, is hoping that his dad will bail him out of jail. Forced by her therapist, Margaret (Elizabeth Peña), to confront her old past and tie up loose ends, Bree flies to New York and rescues the 17-year old Toby, but doesn’t tell the teen that she is his father and pretends to be a Christian missionary concerned about his well being. Toby begs Bree to follow her back to L.A. in hopes of becoming an actor in the adult entertainment industry and perhaps finding his father. Bree reluctantly agrees and buys a car so that the two can journey back to the West Coast. However, Bree is plotting to dump Toby off along the way, but circumstances have a way of helping them discover one another.

At its heart, Transamerica is an indie road movie, and like most road movies, it is a character-driven film in which (usually) two people from different worlds discover a common bond. The twist or hook in this case is that one of the travelers is one is a transgender and the other is the son. One would think that with a concept like this, writer/director, Duncan Tucker, would take the opportunity to make some potent and cogent observations about human nature, yet Tucker’s film spends most of its first half meandering, listlessly trying to find its way – a sure sign of a mediocre road movie. It isn’t until Bree visits the home of another transgender, who is entertaining like guests that the film takes off, allowing an eclectic mixture of characters to shine and give this film a pungent, but inviting flavor.

Transamerica has a lot of wonderful supporting performances, especially Kevin Zegers as the son, Toby. Zegers is spot on a wayward teenager who can’t right his ship, and he juggling numerous options for his future – most of which are simply flights of fancy. Zegers makes Toby a drug addict who is at least able to retain some sense of balance; his addictions don’t entirely ruin his ability to relate well to other people. Fionnula Flanagan (who played the murdered mother in Four Brothers) gives a nice turn as Bree’s frantically disappointed mother, Elizabeth, and Burt Young gives an unusual twist to Bree’s father, Murray, a patient and jovial, if not entirely understanding parent.

Of course, the showcase, the gem of this film, is Felicity Huffman as Bree. She worked on this film before her career received a huge boost from playing “Lynette Scavo,” one member of the star quartet on ABC’s hit comedy/drama TV series, “Desperate Housewives.” Huffman, a woman playing a man who wants to be a woman, gives a transcendent performance as Bree and seems to have absorbed the part in mind, body, and soul. Everything about Huffman as Bree rings with truth and honesty. She makes you believe that Bree knows she is a woman, but when Bree struggles with her past as a man, it’s fun to watch Huffman make the fight to right herself so real. Transamerica may not be anywhere near being a great movie, but Felicity Huffman’s performance is indeed great.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2006 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Felicity Huffman) and “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (“Travelin’ Thru” by Dolly Parton)

2006 Golden Globes: 1 win: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Felicity Huffman); 1 nomination: “Best Original Song - Motion Picture” (Dolly Parton for the song “Travelin’ Thru”)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Pokemon, "Zoroark: Master of Illusions," on DVD

ADVENTURE AWAITS POKÉMON FANS AS VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES THE RELEASE OF POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS ON DVD

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, will excite POKÉMON™ fans everywhere with the DVD release of the full-length feature film from the venerable kids franchise, POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS. The DVD, rated ‘A’ for All Ages, was released on September 20th under the company’s VIZ KIDS imprint and carries an MSRP of $19.97 U.S. / $19.98 CAN.

As Ash and his friends journey to Crown City to join the crowds watching the Pokémon Baccer World Cup, mysterious forces are in motion that could bring untold misfortune to them all! What secrets does Zorua, a Pokémon they befriend along the way, hide? Why is the powerful Zoroark rampaging through the city, and what does the appearance of the Legendary Pokémon Raikou, Entei, and Suicune mean? All these questions and more will be answered in POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS!

“We are thrilled to bring the POKÉMON—ZOROARK: MASTER OF ILLUSIONS DVD to Pokémon fans across the country,” says Brian Ige, Vice President, Animation. “The Pokémon community is incredibly passionate and they will be excited to add this movie to their home DVD library.”

For more information on VIZ Media’s POKÉMON manga and anime titles, please visit www.VIZ.com/Pokemon/.


About VIZ Media, LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan. Owned by three of Japan's largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular monthly manga anthology SHONEN JUMP magazine and blockbuster properties like Naruto, Bleach and InuYasha, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages. VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products. Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at http://www.viz.com/.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"The Lion King" Back on Top

Disney’s The Lion King Reigns Once Again

3D Release Takes Top Spot With $30 Million Domestic Gross; Beloved Tale Continues to Captivate Global Audiences on Screen and Stage

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Circle of Life continues as The Walt Disney Studios’ The Lion King 3D opened at #1 in theaters this weekend with an estimated gross of $30 million. The Lion King is now the third highest-grossing animated film of all time at the domestic box office. This release of The Lion King marks the fifth biggest September opening in industry history, the second biggest September opening in Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures history, and the first reissue to open #1 in 14 years. The film will remain in theaters for a limited engagement ahead of its Blu-ray™ and Blu-ray 3D™ premiere on October 4.

Meanwhile, the London production of the hugely popular stage show recently celebrated its 5000th performance on September 13. The award-winning musical is also preparing to launch its Spanish premiere in Madrid, the largest stage musical ever presented in Spain. Opening October 21 at Lope de Vega Theatre, it is the first time the musical has been performed in the Spanish language. Since opening in 1997, The Lion King has been performing to sold-out crowds on Broadway with a remarkable 5,757 shows thus far.

“The Lion King has proven again and again the transcendent power of great stories and characters,” said Rich Ross, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. “From the screen to the stage, this timeless classic continues to touch the hearts of audiences of all ages around the world.”

Notable Facts:

First released in 1994, The Lion King is the third highest-grossing animated film of all time with $358.6 at the domestic box office (includes all releases), the highest-grossing traditional hand-drawn animated film of all time, and the highest-grossing film from Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The Lion King is the top-performing home entertainment release ever. The Blu-ray™ debut marks the first time it has been available in any form since 2004.

The Lion King is Disney’s best-selling soundtrack. It received Diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (10x platinum). Only four other soundtracks in history have been certified Diamond.

Best of The Lion King, a collection of songs from and inspired by the films and the show, is currently the #3 soundtrack on iTunes.

The Lion King has won 2 Academy Awards®, 3 Golden Globes®, 6 Tony Awards® and 3 Grammys®, among other accolades, including over 70 major theatrical honors worldwide.

The stage show has been seen by more than 60 million people worldwide, grossing over $4.6 billion in 18 productions across 14 countries, spanning 5 continents and 8 languages.

Current productions include Broadway, North American Tour, Las Vegas, London, Hamburg, Tokyo and Singapore.

The Lion King opened on Broadway in 1997 and in January 2011 became its seventh longest-running show ever; it continues to be one of the highest-grossing on a weekly basis.

The North American tour recently completed a record-breaking, sold-out, 32-show premiere engagement at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal, grossing more than $7 million – the highest-grossing theatrical production in the venue’s history.


ABOUT “THE LION KING”
An unforgettable story, breathtaking animation, beloved characters and award-winning music sets the stage for The Lion King, a Disney classic that follows the adventures of Simba, the feisty lion cub who “just can't wait to be king.” But his envious Uncle Scar has plans for his own ascent to the throne, and he forces Simba’s exile from the kingdom. Alone and adrift, Simba soon joins the escapades of a hilarious meerkat named Timon and his warmhearted warthog pal, Pumbaa. Adopting their carefree lifestyle of “Hakuna Matata,” Simba ignores his real responsibilities until he realizes his destiny and returns to the Pride Lands to claim his place in the “Circle of Life.”

The all-star vocal talents—including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Ernie Sabella, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Guillaume, Cheech Marin and Moira Kelly—rip-roaring comedy and uplifting messages of courage, loyalty and hope make this a timeless tale for all ages. Produced by Don Hahn and directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff from a script by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, The Lion King is rated G by the MPAA.

ABOUT THE WALT DISNEY STUDIOS
For more than 85 years, The Walt Disney Studios has been the foundation on which The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) was built. Today, the Studio brings quality movies, music and stage plays to consumers throughout the world. Feature films are released under four banners: Walt Disney Pictures, which includes Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios; Disneynature; Marvel; and Touchstone Pictures, which includes the distribution of live-action films from DreamWorks Studios. Original music and motion picture soundtracks are produced under Walt Disney Records and Hollywood Records, while Disney Theatrical Group produces and licenses live events, including Broadway theatrical productions, Disney on Ice and Disney LIVE!. For more information, visit http://www.waltdisneystudios.com/.

"Dude, Where's My Car?" Makes Dumb Funnier Than it Should Be

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 66 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux


Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000)
Running time: 83 minutes (1 hour, 23 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language and some sex and drug-related humor
DIRECTOR: Danny Leiner
WRITER: Philip Stark
PRODUCERS: Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove, Gil Netter, and Wayne Rice
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Stevens (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Kimberly Ray

COMEDY/SCI-FI/FANTASY

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Garner, Marla Sokoloff, Kristy Swanson, David Herman, John Toles-Bey, and Hal Sparks

I planned never to see Dude, Where’s My Car?, figuring my initial curiosity to be a sign of intellectual weakness. After seeing Seann William Scott in Bulletproof Monk and really digging his performance, my intellect further weakened, I decided to seek out some of his other films and came across Dude, Where's My Car? again. Scott co-stars in this outlandish comedy with Ashton Kutcher, who came to prominence in the television series “That 70’s Show.” Whatta you know: this turned out to be one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.

Jessie Richmond (Kutcher) and Chester Greenburg (Scott) wake up one morning to find Jessie’s car missing, and they have no memory of what happened the night before except for the wild and crazy things people tell them that they did. At first, Jessie and Chester are excited and proud of the calamity and craziness they allegedly committed, but in time they come to be frustrated that they got so wasted that they can’t remember anything. And they need their memory to find the car, which is the key to a lot of weird trouble for them. They owe a transvestite strip dancer a suitcase full of cash, and people claiming to be aliens are looking for an important, universe-endangering object. Losing the car was just the beginning; you have to see the film to believe how hilarious the adventure to find the car gets.

I’m sure this film was cynically conceived and produced to cash in on the youth movie craze. Film studios figure that if they make movies starring familiar young faces from TV and pad the story with jokes about sex, bodily fluids and functions, teenage jargon, twentysomething slang, and general crassness, they’re bound to make a mint, if not in theatres then in home video and television. It’s a can’t-lose option: marrying the lowbrow, the dumb, the rude, and a bit of cultural decay.

This time the studio got lucky and the movie turned out way funny. I’d rather believe that this was a happy accident, but regardless this is funny, in the vein of Dumb and Dumber, accept that Jessie and Chester, for all their dimwittedness, tend to be a little smarter than their adversaries. You can root for these guys, by awed by their occasional show of smarts, laugh at them, and with them. Dude, Where’s My Car? comes close to being the perfect dumb-but-funny movie. Don’t take it seriously, and you’ll laugh your proverbial ass off. Don’t be stuck in the mud; see it and laugh like a madman.

7 of 10
B+

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Primetime Emmy Awards Winners Complete List

The Emmy Award is a television production award that is considered the television equivalent of the Academy Awards in film and the Grammy Awards in music. Winners for the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were revealed during the Sunday, Sept. 18 ceremony hosted by actress Jane Lynch (“Glee”) and broadcast live on Fox.

The full list of winners in all categories:

DRAMA

BEST DRAMA SERIES
"Mad Men"

BEST DRAMA ACTOR
Kyle Chandler, "Friday Night Lights"

BEST DRAMA ACTRESS
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"

BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"

BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Margo Martindale, "Justified"

BEST DRAMA SERIES DIRECTING
Martin Scorsese, "Boardwalk Empire" - "Pilot"

BEST DRAMA SERIES WRITING
Jason Katims, "Friday Night Lights" - "Always"

COMEDY

BEST COMEDY SERIES
"Modern Family"

BEST COMEDY ACTOR
Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"

BEST COMEDY ACTRESS
Melissa McCarthy, "Mike & Molly"

BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"

BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"

BEST COMEDY SERIES DIRECTING
Michael Alan Spiller, "Modern Family" - "Halloween"

BEST COMEDY SERIES WRITING
Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman, "Modern Family" - "Caught in the Act"

TV MOVIE/MINISERIES

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES
"Downton Abbey"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES ACTOR
Barry Pepper, "The Kennedys"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES ACTRESS
Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES SUPPORTING ACTOR
Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Maggie Smith, "Downton Abbey"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES DIRECTING
Brian Percival, "Downton Abbey"

BEST TV MOVIE/MINISERIES WRITING
Julian Fellowes, "Downton Abbey"

REALITY

BEST REALITY-COMPETITION PROGRAM
"The Amazing Race"

VARIETY

BEST VARIETY SERIES
"The Daily Show"

BEST VARIETY SERIES DIRECTING
Don Roy King, "Saturday Night Live" - "Host: Justin Timberlake"

BEST VARIETY SERIES WRITING
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

50 Cent Film, "All Things Fall Apart" Due Early 2012

Image Entertainment Acquires All Things Fall Apart Starring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Ray Liotta from Hannibal Pictures

Mario Van Peebles Directs and Co-Stars!

TORONTO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Image Entertainment, Inc. (OTCQB:DISK) has acquired all U.S. rights to the heart-wrenching, yet truly inspirational film, All Things Fall Apart, starring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Ray Liotta, Mario Van Peebles and Lynn Whitfield, with Van Peebles directing. The deal was finalized shortly before the beginning of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and announced by Image Entertainment’s Chief Acquisitions Officer, Bill Bromiley. All Things Fall Apart is slated for an early 2012 theatrical release with home entertainment, VOD, digital and broadcast to follow under the company’s One Village label.

“We are thrilled to be working with Hannibal Pictures again on such a wonderful film, directed by the talented Mario Van Peebles,” commented Bromiley. “Audiences are going to be quite surprised with 50 Cent’s performance.”

Added Rionda Del Castro, “All Things Fall Apart is a strong emotional film, a labor of love for all involved. Given our superb relationship with Image Entertainment, we know they will nurture the film and help it find the audience it deserves.”

“50 lost so much weight I started calling him 25 Cent,” jokes Van Peebles. “But what impressed me was his willingness to evolve past his rap persona and totally commit to his first dramatic lead without relying on guns. No backup, this is 50 like you have never seen him.”

All Things Fall Apart tells the story of a Heisman-bound college football star whose career hits a wall when he is diagnosed with a tumor only inches from his heart. Says Rionda Del Castro, “I found the script compelling and heartfelt, and have always admired Mario Van Peebles as a director. What finally sold me was a meeting with ‘50’ during pre-production.” Rionda Del Castro arrived for the meeting and did not recognize Jackson, who had shed a reported 80 pounds in preparation for the role. “I was stunned by his dedication to the movie. At that moment, before a frame of film had been shot, I knew we had something special.”

All Things Fall Apart is produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Randall Emmett of Cheetah Vision Films. Patricia Eberle, Rionda Del Castro, Anthony Gudas, and Michael Corso are the executive producers. All Things Fall Apart marks Hannibal Pictures’ third collaboration with Cheetah Vision Films. Their previous film together, the action-packed Gun co-starring Val Kilmer, was released on DVD in early 2011 by Image Entertainment, and their next film Setup, co-starring Bruce Willis and Ryan Phillippe, will be released later this month.

All Things Fall Apart has played to packed theaters at several film festivals, including the Miami International Film Festival, the Atlanta Film Festival, the Aruba International Film Festival and the Peachtree Village International Film Festival in Atlanta, with more than 20 foreign territories sold to-date.

Image Entertainment’s Bill Bromiley and Brett Dismuke, along with Hannibal Pictures’ Richard Rionda Del Castro, were central in finalizing the domestic deal. Martin J. Barab of Hamrick & Evans, LLP acted as legal counsel in the deal for Hannibal Pictures, the film’s worldwide sales agent.


ABOUT HANNIBAL PICTURES
Founded in 1999 by Richard Rionda Del Castro, Chairman and CEO, Hannibal Pictures finances, produces and distributes three to six motion pictures per year with budgets between $3 and $15 million. For more information about Hannibal Pictures, please go to http://www.hannibalpictures.com/.

ABOUT ONE VILLAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Launched in 2007, One Village Entertainment, a division of Image Entertainment, is devoted to the development, production and acquisition of feature films, comedy specials, stage plays, documentaries and music content targeting the African-American consumer and urban market. The programming is distributed across multiple platforms including theatrical, broadcast, Blu-ray™/DVD and digital streaming and downloading. Among the more than 50 titles that carry the One Village imprimatur are live stand-up performances featuring Kevin Hart and Charlie Murphy, documentaries 2 Turntables and a Microphone: The Life and Death of Jam Master Jay and Soulmate, and the feature films American Violet starring Oscar-nominee Alfre Woodard and the acclaimed theatrical romantic comedy Russ Parr’s 35 & Ticking. Bestsellers in the One Village line also include the stage play productions What My Husband Doesn’t Know and Love in the Nick of Tyme by David E. Talbert, who is described by Variety as "the acknowledged kingpin of urban musicals."

ABOUT IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Image Entertainment, Inc. is a leading independent licensee and distributor of entertainment programming in North America, with approximately 3,200 exclusive DVD titles and approximately 340 exclusive CD titles in domestic release and more than 450 programs internationally via sublicense agreements. For many of its titles, the Company has exclusive audio and broadcast rights, as well as digital download rights to over 2,100 video programs and approximately 400 audio titles containing more than 6,000 individual tracks. The Company is headquartered in Chatsworth, California. For more information about Image Entertainment, Inc., please go to http://www.image-entertainment.com/.

Happy Birthday, Cale

You're 19!  Seems like just yesterday...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in Next Jason Reitman Film

PARAMOUNT AND INDIAN PAINTBRUSH TEAM WITH REITMAN, WINSLET, AND BROLIN FOR “LABOR DAY”

Paramount Pictures and Indian Paintbrush jointly announced today they will co-produce, and Paramount will distribute, Academy Award®-nominated writer / director Jason Reitman’s Labor Day starring Academy Award®-winner Kate Winslet and Academy Award® nominee Josh Brolin. Indian Paintbrush will co-finance the project, with the company’s Steven Rales and Mark Roybal executive producing.

The movie will be produced by Academy Award®-nominated producers Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith of Mr. Mudd Productions, along with Reitman and Helen Estabrook of Right of Way Films.

Adapted by Reitman and based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, LABOR DAY tells the story of an escaped convict (Brolin) who seeks shelter with a single mom (Winslet) and her young son over a long Labor Day weekend.

The film marks the fourth collaboration for Jason Reitman and Paramount. His latest film “Young Adult,” starring Charlize Theron, will hit theaters on December 9, 2011. The studio previously released his Academy-Award® nominated “Up in the Air” in 2010. Earning over $160 million world-wide, the movie earned six Academy-Award® nominations, and five Golden Globe nominations, with Reitman taking home the Golden Globe for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Indian Paintbrush, Mr. Mudd and Right of Way Films also produced the upcoming Paramount Vantage film “Jeff, Who Lives At Home,” starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms. Directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, the movie is set for release in March 2012 and will have its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are repped at CAA. WME reps Jason Reitman and Mr. Mudd.


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 Paramount Television & Digital Distribution.

ABOUT INDIAN PAINTBRUSH
Indian Paintbrush, a film development/production/finance company, is currently in production on THE UNTITLED DRAKE DOREMUS PROJECT starring Guy Pearce, Amy Ryan and Felicity Jones. Indian Paintbrush and Paramount Pictures acquired Doremus' LIKE CRAZY at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize as well as a Special Grand Jury Prize for Felicity Jones and Paramount Vantage will release the film on October 28, 2011. Indian Paintbrush is in post-production on: Lorene Scafaria’s SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley to be released by Focus; Wes Anderson’s next feature, MOONRISE KINGDOM, starring Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, also distributed by Focus; and THE UNTITLED DAVID CHASE PROJECT with James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett, Bella Heathcote, Christopher McDonald, Molly Price and Lisa Lampanelli to be distributed by Paramount. Previously, Indian Paintbrush co-financed and executive produced Anderson’s FANTASTIC MR. FOX and THE DARJEELING LIMITED.

Happy Birthday, Bubba Coston

I know you're having a good time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Dylan Dog" Finds Fun in the "Dead of Night"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 78 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux


Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011)
Running time: 107 minutes (1 hour, 47 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of creature violence and action, language including some sexual references, and some drug material
DIRECTOR: Kevin Munroe
WRITERS: Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer (based upon the Italian comic book Dylan Dog by Tiziano Sclavi and published by Sergio Bonelli Editore)
PRODUCERS: Gilbert Adler and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geoffrey Hall
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch

HORROR/COMEDY/FANTASY

Starring: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Peter Stormare, Anita Briem, Kurt Angle, Marco St. John, Kent Jude Bernard, Brian Steele, and Taye Diggs

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is a 2011 horror comedy. The movie is based upon the long-running Italian horror comic book, Dylan Dog, created by Tiziano Sclavi and published by Sergio Bonelli Editore (published by Dark Horse Comics in North America). The movie focuses on a paranormal detective hired to investigate a murder case that is part of a bizarre conspiracy.

After her father, Alfred Ryan, is murdered, Elizabeth Ryan (Anita Briem) calls on private investigator, Dylan Dog (Brandon Routh), to find out who killed him. When Dylan discovers that Alfred’s death involves the supernatural, however, he refuses the case. You see, New Orleans is the favorite home for the undead like vampires, werewolves, and zombies. Once upon a time, Dylan was the Big Easy’s go-to-guy when it came to the undead; now, he wants no part of it.

After he finds his assistant, Marcus Deckler (Sam Huntington), dead, Dylan decides to take on Elizabeth’s case. He suddenly finds himself digging through a conspiracy that revolves around an ambitious young vampire lord named Vargas (Taye Diggs). And this plot has possible end-of-the-world implications.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is like a more fun version of Constantine, the 2005 film that is also based upon a comic book about a detective/investigator of the supernatural. Dylan Dog has many problems. There are a lot of characters; some of them are just stereotypes, and some are not even necessary to the story. Others are good, but are underutilized and poorly developed. The acting is mostly average to sometimes a little better – best exemplified by Brandon Routh, who is intense one moment and bored the next.

Still, Dylan Dog is really fun, primarily because it is a horror movie that looks like a proper monster movie, but manages to find plenty of humor in its various situations. No matter how gross and creepy it gets: guts, gore, graveyards, maggots, body parts, blood, etc.: director Kevin Munroe and his actors extract wit, absurdity, and comedy from the screenplay.

As Marcus Deckler, the delightful Sam Huntington steals practically every scene in which he appears. He goes a long way in selling everything about this movie. If the horror film genre had its own Academy Awards, Huntington would deserve a best supporting actor nomination, at the very least. Think that sounds crazy? Then, watch Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and become a believer.

6 of 10
B

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Constantine" is No Hellblazer

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 26 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux


Constantine (2005)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for violence and demonic images
DIRECTOR: Francis Lawrence
WRITERS: Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello; from a story by Kevin Brodbin (based upon the characters from the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels)
PRODUCERS: Lauren Shuler Donner, Benjamin Melniker, Michael Uslan, Erwin Stoff, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Akiva Goldsman
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot, A.F.C./A.S.C.
EDITOR: Wayne Wahrman, A.C.E.

HORROR/FANTASY/ACTION with elements of thriller

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin (McGregor) Rossdale, Jessie Ramirez, Jose Zuniga, Laz Alonso, Quinn Buniel, and Peter Stormare

In the mid 1980’s famed comic book writer Alan Moore created, at the behest of his artist collaborators, a character for their comic book series, Swamp Thing (that changed the face of mainstream or superhero comics), that would look like Sting, front man of the rock group, The Police. Two decades later, Keanu Reeves, not Sting, has brought the character, John Constantine, to cinematic life in the film, Constantine.

Back story: John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift he didn’t want – the ability to recognize the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin. Constantine took his own life to end the torment of his visions, but he was resuscitated against his will. Constantine returned with the ability to walk the earthly border between Heaven and Hell. He attempts to earn his salvation as an exorcist/supernatural detective sending the half-breed demons back to hell. Still, Constantine is no saint; he lives a hard life of drinking and smoking too much while he tries to buy his way into heaven.

Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz) is a skeptical police detective, really not buying all this occult mumbo jumbo, but she needs Constantine. Her sister, Isabel (Ms. Weisz), may have committed suicide. Angela finds that hard to believe because her sister was a devout Catholic, and devout Catholics know that suicides go straight to the inferno of hell. Angela convinces Constantine to help her, but their investigation quickly clears away Angela’s skepticism as their examination of the crime takes them to the world of angels and demons just behind the walls, on the other side of the metaphorical windows, and beneath the landscape of Los Angeles. The duo is caught in a series of catastrophic occult and satanic events that may not only cost them their lives, but the souls of all human kind.

If Keanu Reeves were a better actor, Constantine would have been a better film. First, we, the people who are familiar with the comic book, have to get over the fact that there were better actors to play the part. We may have been willing to accept that the character was changed from a Brit to an American, but Keanu? He has his moments, but most of them are in the last act. It’s not as if he were out acted; the rest of the characters seem extraneous, even the ones that are supposed to be important to the plot.

The story, which borrows heavily from the work of two early writers on the Constantine comic book (called Hellblazer), Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis, is conceptually interesting. The execution leaves something to be desired. Sometimes, it’s just pretentious, and sometimes, the occult angle is as good and as intriguing as the occult was in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The visualization of Hell (as a still-burning post-apocalyptic cityscape) is nice, but ultimately the script is just a hodge podge of concepts and ideas that are poorly thought out and used. It’s as if some things were added because they’d seem cool, but they were poorly used or just didn’t make sense in the context of the script. The writers seemingly knew how they wanted the film to begin and end, but only threw crap against the wall in between that.

Actually, director Francis Lawrence (known for his music videos for acts such as Britney Spears and Will Smith) gives the film a good pace and a tense atmosphere of dread. He manages to make something out of a poor script and Keanu’s monotone and flat speaking/acting style. It’s enough to make this worth renting for fans of horror and fantasy.

5 of 10
C+

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"The Lion King" Returns to Theatres with Special 3D Glasses

“The Lion King” Roars into Theatres in 3D with Limited-Edition, Simba-Themed Kids’ RealD 3D Glasses

Kids Receive Collectible 3D Glasses When They See the Film on Friday, September 16th, Exclusively at RealD 3D-Equipped Theatres in North America

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--RealD Inc. (NYSE: RLD) and Walt Disney Pictures are celebrating the release of the animated classic “The Lion King” for the first time in 3D with limited-edition, Simba-themed RealD 3D kids’ glasses. Featuring movie-themed colors and a picture of the cheerful and feisty lion cub Simba, the collectible RealD 3D glasses will be distributed at theatres free of charge with the purchase of a child’s ticket to see “The Lion King” in 3D. Simba-themed RealD 3D glasses are available exclusively at RealD 3D-equipped theatres in North America beginning September 16th while supplies last.

“‘The Lion King’ is an animated classic that a new generation will be able to experience like never before when it’s shown in theatres for the first time in fully immersive RealD 3D,” said Joseph Peixoto, President, Worldwide Cinema at RealD. “I can’t think of a better way for kids to get in on the fun than with their own pair of Simba-themed RealD 3D glasses that they can take home as a reminder of Disney’s epic story about the cub that would be king.”

Sealed in individual packaging to ensure they are sanitary and of high quality, limited-edition, Simba-themed RealD 3D glasses are designed to fit children 8 years of age and younger. Standard kids’ RealD 3D glasses are also available at theatres throughout North America. Visit www.RealD.com/theatrelocator to find a RealD 3D-equipped theatre playing “The Lion King” in 3D.


About “The Lion King”
An unforgettable story, breathtaking animation, beloved characters and award-winning music sets the stage for “The Lion King,” a Disney classic that follows the adventures of Simba, the feisty lion cub who “just can't wait to be king.” But his envious Uncle Scar has plans for his own ascent to the throne, and he forces Simba's exile from the kingdom. Alone and adrift, Simba soon joins the escapades of a hilarious meerkat named Timon and his warmhearted warthog pal, Pumbaa. Adopting their carefree lifestyle of “Hakuna Matata,” Simba ignores his real responsibilities until he realizes his destiny and returns to the Pride Lands to claim his place in the Circle of Life.

The all-star vocal talents—including Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Ernie Sabella, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Robert Guillaume, Cheech Marin and Moira Kelly—rip-roaring comedy and uplifting messages of courage, loyalty and hope make this a timeless tale for all ages. Produced by Don Hahn and directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff from a script by Irene Mecchi, Jonathan Roberts and Linda Woolverton, “The Lion King” is rated G by the MPAA.

About RealD Inc.
RealD is a leading global licensor of 3D technologies. RealD's extensive intellectual property portfolio is used in applications that enable a premium 3D viewing experience in the theater, the home and elsewhere. RealD licenses its RealD Cinema Systems to motion picture exhibitors that show 3D motion pictures and alternative 3D content. RealD also provides its RealD Display, active and passive eyewear, and RealD Format technologies to consumer electronics manufacturers and content producers and distributors to enable the delivery and viewing of 3D content. RealD's cutting-edge 3D technologies have been used for applications such as piloting the Mars Rover.

RealD was founded in 2003 and has offices in Beverly Hills, California; Boulder, Colorado; London, United Kingdom; Shanghai, China; Hong Kong; and Tokyo, Japan. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.reald.com/.

Happy B'day: Tommy Lee Jones: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 162 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
Running time: 121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for language, violence, and sexuality
DIRECTOR: Tommy Lee Jones
WRITER: Guillermo Arriaga
PRODUCERS: Luc Besson, Michael Fitzgerald, Tommy Lee Jones, and Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chris Menges
EDITOR: Roberto Silvi

DRAMA with elements of comedy and western

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio Cesar Cedillo, January Jones, Dwight Yoakum, Melissa Leo, and Levon Helm

Ranch hand Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) found a treasured friend in an illegal (undocumented) Mexican worker, Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo), who becomes a cowboy at the ranch Peter manages. However, a hot headed and ruthless border patrol officer, Mike Norton (Barry Pepper, who exquisitely channels bad vibes to play Norton), kills Melquiades and buries him in an unmarked grave to hide his crime or error (depends on how you look at it). When Pete learns of Melquiades’ death, he kidnaps Mike and has him dig the body out of the pauper’s grave in which it was buried. Then, Pete drags Mike and Melquiades’ corpse on a harrowing journey by horseback across the border to Mexico in order to bury Melquiades in his hometown.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada has all the trappings of a western and the narrative is ripe with scenes of black humor. Like a western, it deals with revenge and justice, and the black comedy comes through the macabre situations involving Estrada’s increasingly gruesome corpse (not to mention a drolly humorous love/sex triangle). Still, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a story of friendship and obligation. As a famous talk show host recently said of her close relationship with a female friend, perhaps, we don’t have a term to describe the familiarity and understanding that defines the bond between Pete Perkins and Melquiades Estrada. Tommy Lee Jones unadorned and simple, yet masterful direction helps us to understand that a friendship means so much that a man would risk his standing and his professional life to do right by what’s left of his friend on this earth.

Jones, who seems to wear the western well – even quasi ones such as this, also deals with the themes of alienation and the search for meaning in life and love, and in this case the love between two men, as well as between women and men. In his film, souls seem as sparse as much of the landscape that surrounds them. Jones’ characters grasp at connectivity, and Jones uses the subtleties to enrich the film. He shows that even the most lonesome souls find partnerships – even for a little while. It makes The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada a work that eagerly reflects humanity in all its unattractiveness and its most desperately hopeful light.

7 of 10
B+

NOTES:
2005 Cannes Film Festival: 2 wins: “Best Actor” (Tommy Lee Jones) and “Best Screenplay” (Guillermo Arriaga); 1 nominations for the Palme d'Or (Tommy Lee Jones)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Return of the Jedi" an Ultimate Summer Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 139 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


Return of the Jedi (1983)
Running time: 134 minutes (2 hours, 14 minutes)
MPAA – PG
DIRECTOR: Richard Marquand
WRITERS: Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas; from a story by George Lucas
PRODUCER: Howard Kazanjian
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alan Hume (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Sean Barton, Duwayne Dunham, and Marcia Lucas
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award winner

SCI-FI/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Sebastian Shaw, Ian McDiarmid, (voice) Frank Oz, (voice) James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Alec Guinness, Kenny Baker, and Denis Lawson

Return of the Jedi is a 1983 epic science fiction film and is the second sequel to the film, Star Wars (1977). It is also the concluding film in the original Star Wars trilogy. Personally, Return of the Jedi is the one for which I am most nostalgic.

The original Star Wars saga concluded with Return of the Jedi (also known as Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi). As the film begins, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) lead a charge to rescue Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the gangster Jabba the Hutt, a giant, nasty, slug-like creature.

However, the fight against the Empire also continues. The Rebel Alliance has received sensitive data about the Empire’s new Death Star satellite, so our favorite rebels head for the Forest Moon of Endor on a mission to cripple the Death Star’s defense systems. But Luke must once again confront his father, Darth Vader, (David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones), the evil face of the empire, and Darth Vader’s master, The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid). Are the heroes walking into a carefully orchestrated trap, and will they win the day?

As with the other two original films, Return of the Jedi is a thrilling ride in the tradition of matinee serials, or serialized adventures in general. The film moves at a fast, brisk pace, and the script tightly and concisely moves through the plot. The film has two glaring weaknesses. First, some of the acting is terrible, and in a few scenes the actors deliver the dialogue with a total lack of inspiration. Secondly, the inclusion of the new characters, the Ewoks (basically a tribal group of human dwarf-size teddy bears), is a painfully obvious attempt to sell toys, because that’s what the Ewoks are – toys and merchandising.

Otherwise, Return of the Jedi is a very entertaining film; it is the least in terms of quality of the original trio, but it’s still great and fun entertainment. It gets better with age, especially when one considers that as the closing shot gives way to the credits, this signals the end of an era – the original cinematic run of the original Star Wars films.

8 of 10
A

NOTES:
1984 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Special Achievement Award” (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Phil Tippett for visual effects); 4 nominations: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Norman Reynolds, Fred Hole, James L. Schoppe, Michael Ford), “Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing” (Ben Burtt), “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams), and “Best Sound” (Ben Burtt, Gary Summers, Randy Thom, and Tony Dawe)

1984 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Special Visual Effects” (Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Ken Ralston, and Kit West); 3 nominations: “Best Make Up Artist” (Phil Tippett and Stuart Freeborn), “Best Production Design/Art Direction” (Norman Reynolds), and “Best Sound” (Ben Burtt, Tony Dawe, and Gary Summers)


"The Empire Strikes Back" Still the Best Film of 1980

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 81 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux


The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Running time: 124 minutes (2 hours, 4 minutes)
MPAA – PG
DIRECTOR: Irvin Kershner
WRITERS: Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (from a story by George Lucas)
PRODUCER: Gary Kurtz
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Suschitzky (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Paul Hirsch
COMPOSER: John Williams
Academy Award winner

SCI-FI/FANTASY/ACTION/ADVENTURE/DRAMA
/THRILLER with elements of romance

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz, Alec Guinness, Jeremy Bulloch, Clive Revell, Denis Lawson, Jason Wingreen (voice) and James Earl Jones (voice)

The Empire Strikes Back is a 1981 epic science fiction film and sequel to Star Wars (1977). The film continues the Star Wars saga and the adventures of Luke Skywalker, as the hero who destroyed the Death Star moves closer to his destiny.

After imperial forces destroy the rebel base on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves his associates to begin his Jedi training with the wizened and tiny Jedi master Yoda (Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Darth Vader (David Prowse with James Earl Jones voice) pursues Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), et al across space to capture them and use them as his bait for trap Skywalker, with whom he’s become obsessed.

Seeking safe refuge, Solo takes his friends to the Cloud City of Bespin, a mining operation run by a rival and “old friend,” Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). But Cloud City becomes the place where friends unite and face tragedy and where young Skywalker learns a secret too horrible to believe and almost too terrible to false.

Of the three original Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in terms of quality of filmmaking. The writing, acting, and directing are much better, and director Irvin Kershner (who is otherwise known for his work directing TV series and movies) emphasizes the drama, whereas Star Wars creator George Lucas focused on making the original film more of a fun and rollicking movie in the tradition of the old movie serials. While Kershner’s film did not have the element of surprise that Lucas’ had, his movie (although he obviously had much guidance from Lucas) is better than Lucas’ in some aspects. It’s a darker film, but is still enthralling with its razor’s edge of tension. The thrills are still there, but The Empire Strikes Back also has an atmosphere of dread hanging over it, as if bad things simply must happen to the protagonists.

It’s simply a good film, and virtually anyone who likes, or at least, doesn’t mind watching sci-fi, fantasy, or space opera films will like this. But everything aside, while the film’s subject matter may seem frivolous, the filmmakers present it in such a fashion that this is truly one of the best-made films and most fun to watch movies of the late 20th Century. I’d recommend it and sing its praises even through the roar of a thousand of dissenting voices.

10 of 10

NOTES:
1981 Academy Awards: 2 wins: “Best Sound” (Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, and Peter Sutton) and “Special Achievement Award” (Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson for visual effects); 2 nominations: “Best Art Direction-Set Decoration” (Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, and Michael Ford) and “Best Music, Original Score” (John Williams)

1981 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (John Williams); 2 nominations: “Best Production Design/Art Direction” (Norman Reynolds) and “Best Sound” (Peter Sutton, Ben Burtt, and Bill Varney)

1981 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (John Williams)