Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: "The Smurfs" Movie is Smurfy

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 51 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Smurfs (2011)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild rude humor and action
DIRECTOR:  Raja Gosnell
WRITERS:  J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn; from a story by J. David Stem and David N. Weiss (based on the characters created by and works of Peyo)
PRODUCER:  Jordan Kerner
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Phil Meheux (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Sabrina Plisco
COMPOSER:  Heitor Pereira

FANTASY/ANIMATION/COMEDY/FAMILY

Starring:  Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, Tim Gunn; voices: Jonathan Winters, Alan Cumming, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, George Lopez, Anton Yelchin, Kenan Thompson, John Oliver, Paul Reubens, and Frank Welker

The Smurfs is a 2011 fantasy movie and family comedy film from director Raja Gosnell.  Presented in 3D, The Smurfs is a hybrid live-action and computer-animated movie, because many of the characters and scenes are created using computer-animation (also known as CG animation).  The Smurfs movie finds the tiny blue Smurfs chased by the evil wizard Gargamel from their magical world into the real world.

The Smurfs, originally known in French as “Les Schtroumpfs,” began as a Belgian comic created by Belgian comics artist Peyo (the pen name of Pierre Culliford).  Over time, The Smurfs became a media franchise that included animated televisions series and movies, dolls and toys, and theme parks, among many things.  The huge popularity of the Smurfs in the United States is due in large part to the long-running Saturday morning animated series, “Smurfs,” (produced by Hanna-Barbera) that originally aired from September 1981 to December 1989.

I initially did not expect much from it, but I found The Smurfs movie to be a surprisingly well-made and entertaining family film.

The film opens as the Smurfs are busy preparing for their Festival of the Blue Moon.  While his Smurfs are engaged with their work, Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) is concerned by a troubling vision he has that involves Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin).  Meanwhile, the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is determined to find the Smurfs’ village, so that he can capture them.  Gargamel wants to extract “Smurf essence” from each Smurf’s body that will in turn give him great magical power.

One of the Smurfs inadvertently leads Gargamel and his cat, Azrael (Frank Welker), to the village.  The Smurfs escape, but Papa Smurf, Smurfette (Katy Perry), Grouchy (George Lopez), Clumsy, Brainy (Fred Armisen), and Gutsy (Alan Cumming) end up in Forbidden Falls, where they are transported to present-day New York City.  Gargamel and Azrael are close behind, so the Smurfs find refuge with a young couple, Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) and pregnant wife, Grace (Jayma Mays).  Can Smurfs and humans find common ground before Gargamel manages to kidnap the Smurfs and extract some Smurf essence?

The Smurfs movie can be overly sentimental, even sappy, and its gauzy version of middle class values may be a bit too flimsy for adults.  One cannot deny, however, that The Smurfs movie is sweet like your grandmother.  That sweetness is personified by two endearing characters, Grace Winslow and Clumsy Smurf; they’re like kettle chips – you can’t get enough of them.

For most of their existence in comics, film, and television, the Smurfs have been drawn, so I did not think I would like computer-generated Smurfs.  The 3D aspect of computer-animation, however, turns the Smurfs into something tangible; they’re like lovable, huggable, little plush figures.  CGI does indeed bring them to life, and the voice performances put the finishing touches that make the Smurfs seem real.

I cannot forget to give Hank Azaria credit for a fantastic performance as Gargamel.  Although known for his voice work on the long-running series, The Simpsons,” Azaria is a superb character actor, and his Gargamel easily surpasses the 1980s cartoon version.  Azaria’s Gargamel is also one of the best villains ever to appear in a live-action children’s film.  Azrael, a combination of real cats and CGI, is also a winning character, in large part because of the “voice” work of the great Frank Welker.  Welker and Jonathan Winters, who voices Papa Smurf, are the only returning voice actors from the 1980s Smurfs animated series.

So, The Smurfs 2011 is sugary and satisfying.  Simply put, if you ever loved the Smurfs, then, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

6 of 10
B

Tuesday, July 30, 2013



Happy B'day, Wesley Snipes: Blade: Trinity

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 240 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Blade: Trinity (2004)
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong pervasive violence and language, and some sexual content
DIRECTOR:  David S. Goyer
WRITER:  David S. Goyer (based upon characters by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan)
PRODUCERS:  Wesley Snipes, Peter Frankfurt, Lynn Harris, and David S. Goyer
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Gabriel Beristain
EDITORS:  Conrad Smart and Howard E. Smith
COMPOSERS:  Ramin Djawadi and The RZA

ACTION/HORROR/FANTASY

Starring:  Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Parker Posey, Cascy Beddow, Dominic Purcell, Triple H (Paul Michael Levesque), Natasha Lyonne, Eric Bogosian, Vitaly Kravchenko, James Remar, and Patton Oswalt

The subject of this movie review is Blade: Trinity, a 2004 vampire horror and superhero action movie from writer-director David S. Goyer.  It is the third and final movie in the Blade film series produced by New Line Cinema.  Blade: Trinity finds Blade a wanted man by the FBI and forced to unite with a band of vampire hunters called the Nightstalkers in order to battle his most challenging opponent ever, Dracula.

Early in Blade: Trinity, a group of vampires by led nasty girl vamp princess, Danica Talos (Parker Posey), awakens the original vampire, Dracula (Dominic Purcell), who is buried deep within a pyramid in Iraq.  Apparently, the vampires are desperate to rid themselves of their mortal enemy, the vampire hunter, Blade (Wesley Snipes), aka the Daywalker, and hope Dracula, who goes by the name Drake, will defeat Blade.  Meanwhile, Danica and her crew have also set Blade up so that he mistakenly kills a human he thinks is a vampire.  The murder sets the corrupt police and media against him.  The FBI track Blade to his new lair and launch an attack.  During the strike, Blade’s mentor, father figure, and weapons creator, Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), is killed, and the FBI captures Blade.

Enter The Nightstalkers, a group of human vampire hunters, Blade never knew existed.  One of them is Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), Abraham Whistler’s out-of-wedlock daughter, and she is an ass-kicking, bow-hunting babe who doesn’t flinch from going toe to toe with bloodsuckers.  Add a third partner to Blade and Abigail, and you have a trinity.  The third player is the buff, wise-cracking Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), who was once turned into a vampire, and later cured by Abigail.  Together, the trio must hunt down Drake and his vampire cabal and stop them from implementing the vampire final solution against humanity.

Blade: Trinity is the least in terms of quality of the three Blade films, but it still manages to be a thrill (sometimes).  Writer/director David S. Goyer (who also wrote the screenplays for the previous Blade films) and cinematographer Gabriel Beristain (who also shot Blade II) were also determined to make this film look different from the previous two.  Blade: Trinity looks like an extended music video, but the photography has the crystal clear quality of digital video, so much so that the film looks like a television program shot in high definition.  Goyer also dropped a lot of the muddy and murky CGI that didn’t always work in Blade II.

It’s the performances that really hamper Blade: Trinity; in fact, it wouldn’t be too mean to say that the acting is atrocious.  Wesley Snipes always played Blade as stoic, with little to say except for a few lines delivered in a thuggish monotone.  However, Snipes is often too stiff, here.  He’s is too “in character,” and that keeps Blade from interacting with the other characters.  Granted Blade is a loner, but he goes overboard this time.  There are huge segments in this film in which he hardly utters more than a few grumbles.  Thankfully, towards the end of the film, he does come to life as a badass delivering the kind of lines that would fit right into a blaxtiploitation or Quentin Tarantino movie.

Ryan Reynolds really tries to liven up this film as Hannibal King, but rarely is anybody up to his challenge.  His lines are always funny, but often fall flat or are lost in the moroseness of the rest of the cast.  Jessica Biel is almost undead herself in this film, but she’s fine and pretty and moves well; that saves her performance (a little).  Parker Posey is miscast and is made up to look like an ugly, pasty-white trash, hag vampire.  Though she has a (very) few moments, she’s simply annoying.  If Dominic Purcell gets anything out of this film, it’s that he’s one of the worst and least intriguing Dracula’s in cinema history; that would include Dracula’s that have appeared in Scooby-Doo cartoons and other Hanna-Barbera animated programs.

The stiff (non) acting is what makes Blade: Trinity seem so listless and clunky for about half the film’s running time – that and the fact that the vampires spend most of the time brooding and hiding in their tacky skyscraper/palace.  Blade: Trinity is as much a hunt as it is a waiting game, but the waiting is the hardest part.  The film is pretty to look at, and the film score (co-written by The RZA of The Wu-Tang Clan who also co-wrote music for Tarantino’s Kill Bill films) and soundtrack are killer.  But for all the credit I give Goyer, the film’s plot is… dumb and stretched thin, and falls apart to almost nonexistence.  At times, the film is lethargic and meanders, playing a waiting game until the final act.  Though I love Blade, even I have to admit that unless you’re a fan of the series, you can catch this one when it’s on home video.

5 of 10
B-

Update:  Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Disney's D23 Expo 2013 Takes Fans Behind the Scenes

The Walt Disney Studios Takes Fans behind the Scenes at Disney’s D23 Expo, August 9–11

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Exclusively at Disney’s D23 Expo August 9–11 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Disney fans are invited to explore the incredible roster of film, stage, and music projects on the horizon at The Walt Disney Studios, with a variety of panel discussions, sneak peeks, and exhibits.

This year the Studio will present two arena shows, kicking off the Expo at 10 a.m. Friday, August 9, with “Art and Imagination: Animation at The Walt Disney Studios,” a showcase of upcoming animated films from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, and DisneyToon Studios. John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Disney’s Animation Studios, will host a lively exhibition chock-full of never-before-seen footage, celebrity and filmmaker appearances, and live performances from films like Disney’s Frozen, Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and the Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse!. Then at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 10, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, Disney Live Action Production President Sean Bailey, and Marvel Studios President and Producer Kevin Feige will host “Let the Adventures Begin: Live Action at The Walt Disney Studios,” an expedition through the Studio’s exciting live-action offerings from Disney as well as several powerhouse pictures on tap from Marvel Studios, with exclusive clips and surprise guests from a range of films including Saving Mr. Banks, Tomorrowland, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and much more.

Fans can expect appearances from Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel (Frozen), Dane Cook (Disney’s Planes), Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak (Saving Mr. Banks), Ty Burrell (Muppets Most Wanted) and top Marvel and Disney•Pixar talent. And in typical D23 Expo fashion, fans can also anticipate surprise appearances from more of their favorite stars.

In “Broadway & Beyond…Celebrating the Stars of Disney on Broadway,” Friday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m., audiences will take a musical journey with Disney Theatrical Productions President Thomas Schumacher and a bevy of stage stars, including Heidi Blickenstaff (The Little Mermaid), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast), Merle Dandridge (Tarzan® and AIDA), Josh Strickland (Tarzan) and Alton Fitzgerald White (The Lion King), who sing beloved songs from the award-winning musicals they starred in as well as classic tunes from the Disney on Broadway catalog.

Throughout the weekend, fans will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes with the animation artists at Disney and Pixar with several featured panels, including:

* Inside the Ice: The Art of Disney’s Frozen – Walt Disney Animation Studios’ big-screen comedy adventure Frozen, with its icy setting and colorful cast of characters, presented breathtaking opportunities, plus a few challenges for filmmakers. Join the team behind the movie for an exclusive look at the art and animation of Frozen. (Saturday, August 10, 10:30 a.m.)

* The Art of The Good Dinosaur – Pixar Animation Studios’ latest feature explores what might have happened if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct. Take a closer look at this imaginative world of possibility and the artistry and production design behind it. (Saturday, August 10, 3 p.m.)

* Toy Story OF TERROR! and the Motivation Behind Pixar’s Short Form Content – From toys on vacation to tow-riffic four wheelers, Pixar keeps some of their most beloved characters alive and well through short-form content. Angus MacLane, director of Toy Story OF TERROR!, a new adventure featuring Woody, Buzz and the Toy Story gang set for release on TV this fall; producer Galyn Susman; and other Pixar short-form filmmakers share their experiences and discuss the exciting challenges of expanding the worlds of these characters loved by audiences across the globe. (Saturday, August 10, 5 p.m.)

* Pixar: Doing Our Homework – Research is an integral part of the filmmaking process, and with a story in hand, Pixar artists set out to become experts, immersing themselves in places, people and experiences that inspire and inform their filmmaking, whether it be spirited Scots, delectable French cuisine, or deep sea adventures. (Friday, August 9, 6 p.m.)

* Women of Pixar – Jessie. Dory. Sally. Merida. Although they never cross paths and exist in different worlds, these iconic Pixar females have one thing in common: girl power. Meet a dynamic group of women from Pixar, whose experience and success at the studio have helped craft some of the most memorable animated films in recent history. They will share stories from their journeys and the lessons they have learned along the way. (Sunday, August 11, 1 p.m.)

Expo attendees will also have access to an Exclusive Screening of Disney’s Planes in 3D, featuring an introduction by some very special guests. (Friday, August 9, 3 p.m.)

As Disney welcomes Lucasfilm into the family, fans will have a chance to delve deep in the Star Wars universe with “Crash Course in the Force: Star Wars Saga 101,” an immersive journey into the rich history of the worldwide phenomenon, led by Lucasfilm’s resident authority Pablo Hidalgo. (Saturday, August 10, 5 p.m.)

Music fans will be treated to performances by Good Luck Charlie star and platinum-selling Hollywood Records artist Bridgit Mendler, and Hollywood Records artists R5, fronted by Teen Beach Movie and Austin & Ally star Ross Lynch. D23 will also present Richard Sherman and Alan Menken, two of the world’s most celebrated songwriters and composers who have won a combined 10 Academy Awards for their work with Disney. In addition, Grammy® Award-winning producer and resident Disney Music Historian, Randy Thornton, will take fans on a musical journey with inside stories of songs written for classic Disney films.

Out on the Expo floor, fans can explore the world of The Walt Disney Studios at their leisure with comprehensive exhibits, including:

* Walt Disney Animation Studios Pavilion – Attendees can summon their inner artist and escape into diverse worlds of where there’s much to explore, from the stunning snow-covered setting of Frozen to the high-tech, action-packed world of Big Hero 6, featuring the latest animation technology, sneak peeks, and giveaways.

* Disneytoon Studios Pavilion – Aviation aficionados and fairy fans will be on cloud nine as they explore projects including Disney’s Planes and immerse themselves in the world of Pixie Hollow and the magical heroines from Disney’s Fairies with exciting demonstrations and presentations.

* Walt Disney Studios In-Home Entertainment Zones – Dive into cutting-edge home entertainment technology and learn what the future holds for Disney movie fans, with sneak peeks of upcoming films in breathtaking high-definition Blu-ray 3D™, including new hit films and new-to-Blu classics, the latest on Disney Second Screen and more. Also, the adorable Disney "Buddies" are back with an all-new movie—Super Buddies—coming August 27! Fans can get a picture with one of the real puppy super heroes. They are appearing live at D23 Expo for the first time—Saturday and Sunday!

Tickets for the D23 Expo are $57 for a one-day adult admission and $47 for children 3–12. Tickets for members of D23: The Official Disney Fan Club are $50 for a one-day adult admission and $42 for children. Multi-day money-saving tickets are also available for both D23 Members and the general public, and D23 Members can save as much as $84 off the price of admission, based on the purchase of four three-day tickets at the D23 Member rate. For more information on tickets and the ticket pricing structure for members and general admission, visit D23Expo.com.

About D23 Expo 2013
The D23 Expo—The Ultimate Disney Fan Event—brings the entire world of Disney under one roof, providing attendees with unprecedented access to Disney films, television, and theme parks. For the latest D23 Expo 2013 news, visit D23Expo.com. To be part of the D23 Expo conversation, make sure to follow @DisneyD23 and tag your tweets with #D23Expo.

About D23
The name “D23” pays homage to the exciting journey that began in 1923 when Walt Disney opened his fledgling studio in Hollywood. D23 is the first official club for fans in Disney’s nearly 90-year history. D23 gives its members a greater connection to the entire world of Disney by placing them in the middle of the magic through its quarterly publication Disney twenty-three; a rich website at D23.com with members-only content; and member-exclusive discounts and special events for D23 Members throughout the year, highlighted by the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, August 9–11, 2013.

Fans can join D23 at Gold, Silver, and Free Membership levels at D23.com and at www.DisneyStore.com/D23. To keep up with all the latest D23 news and events, follow us @DisneyD23 on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube.



Happy B'day: Laurence Fishburne: Mystic River

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 92 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mystic River (2003)
Running time:  138 minutes (2 hours, 18 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and violence
DIRECTOR:  Clint Eastwood
WRITER:  Brian Helgeland (from the novel by Dennis Lehane)
PRODUCERS:  Clint Eastwood, Judie G. Hoyt, and Robert Lorenz
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Tom Stern (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Joel Cox
COMPOSER:  Clint Eastwood
Academy Award winner

DRAMA/CRIME

Starring:  Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Kevin Chapman, Thomas Guiry, Emmy Rossum, Spencer Treat Clark, Andrew Mackin, Adam Nelson, and Robert Wahlberg

The subject of this movie review is Mystic River, a 2003 crime drama from director Clint Eastwood.  The film is based on Mystic River, the 2001 novel from author Dennis Lehane.  Mystic River focuses on three men who are reunited by circumstance after the daughter of one of the men is murdered.

Clint Eastwood’s film Mystic River was one of the most acclaimed films of 2003, and it earned several Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director.  However, thanks to the onslaught that was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at the 2004 Academy Awards, Mystic River only picked up the two “Best Actor” awards:  Leading Role (Sean Penn) and Supporting Role (Tim Robbins).

Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins), and Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon) are three childhood friends reunited after Markum’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found brutally murdered.  Their reunion is at cross-purposes, however.  Markum is small time hood, Devine is the investigator with the State Police investigating Katie’s murder, and Boyle survived being kidnapped and sexually assaulted when the three men were boys.  When Boyle becomes the lead suspect, the reunion spirals towards tragedy.

Mystic River is a very good film, but ultimately it’s a bit too cold for too long.  At times, I could have sworn that I was watching Clint Eastwood directing a drama as a formal dinner party.  Mystic River is professional and slick, as well as being raw and gritty.  The film has weight and gravity, but it all seems so laid back and cool.  Not until the last 20 minutes does the film really begin to unleash a tour de force of film drama, but those closing scenes are alien to the rest of the film.

Mystic River really plays with the idea that people are interconnected; the action or inaction of one has inevitable, although unseen, consequences upon another – neat but pat.  Besides, the award winning performances of Penn and Robbins, Kevin Bacon and especially Laurence Fishburne have the roles that anchor the film and they almost steal the show.  In the end Mystic River is all good, but waits for the closing act to show how really good it can be.  If you like dour dramas with good acting, this one is for you, but it’s not an exceptional work of movie art.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
2004 Academy Awards, USA:  2 wins: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Sean Penn) and “Best Actor in a Supporting Role” (Tim Robbins); 4 nominations: “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Marcia Gay Harden), “Best Director” (Clint Eastwood), “Best Picture” (Robert Lorenz, Judie Hoyt, and Clint Eastwood), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Brian Helgeland)
2004 BAFTA Awards:  4 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Sean Penn), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Tim Robbins), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Laura Linney), and “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Brian Helgeland)
2004 Golden Globes, USA:  2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Sean Penn) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Tim Robbins); 3 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Clint Eastwood), “Best Motion Picture – Drama” (Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Brian Helgeland)

Updated: Monday, July 08, 2013


Monday, July 29, 2013

Remembering, Luis Buñuel: Belle de jour

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Belle de Jour (1967)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  France/Italy; Language:  French
Running time:  101 minutes (1 hour, 41 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Luis Bunuel
WRITERS:  Jean-Claude Carriere and Luis Bunuel (from the novel by Joseph Kessel)
PRODUCERS:  Henri Baum, Raymond Hakim, and Robert Hakim
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Sacha Vierny
EDITOR:  Louisette Hautecoeur
BAFTA Awards nominee

DRAMA

Starring:  Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli, Geneviève Page, Pierre Clémenti, and Francoise Fabian

The subject of this movie review is Belle de jour, a 1967 film from director Luis Buñuel.  A co-production of France and Italy, this film is based on the 1928 novel, Belle de jour, written by French journalist and novelist, Joseph Kessel.  The film focuses on a sexually frigid young housewife who decides (or is compelled) to spend her midweek afternoons working as a prostitute.

Severine Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) really loves her husband Pierre (Jean Sorel).  However, he doesn’t arouse her, so she can’t be intimate with him.  She entertains numerous, vivid erotic fantasies to satisfy herself.  One day she happens upon the intriguing notion of prostitution.  Before long, she is working as prostitute, named “Belle de Jour,” at a brothel in the afternoons entertaining all manner of weird and unusual clientele.  She remains chaste in her marriage, but one of her clients, who falls madly in lust with her, becomes a danger to her tranquil domesticity.

Some may find Belle de jour’s eroticism dry.  Director Luis Bunuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) shows Severine’s fantasies to us as surrealistic plays, and Bunuel is considered the father of cinematic surrealism.  It’s an interesting method in that it forces us to pay close attention to the film, mostly in the hopes that we might catch a flashing image of Ms. Deneuve’s beautiful flesh, anything to satisfy our desires to possess Severine.  Certainly, Belle de jour doesn’t blind us with the blunt images of raw sexuality early 21st audiences have not only come to expect in their movies, but often demand.  Bunuel and his screenwriting partner Jean-Claude Carriere fashioned the story so that we can truly understand Severine’s sexual frustrations.  She’s obsessed with being satisfied, and she driven to find ways to satisfy herself, and in a cathartic fashion we become anxious that she find satisfaction.

In the hands of a lesser talent, this movie would bore us to tears, but Ms. Deneuve encompasses her character’s unrequited lusts.  While her character can’t be physically intimate with her husband, Ms. Deneuve’s performance is spiritually intimate with her audience.  She takes us in and makes us part of her; we feel everything she feels, desires what she seeks, and feel all the danger, confusion, and strangeness her job as a prostitute create in her.  Ms. Deneuve makes Severine more than just a character; Severine is our adventure into the border world between real, physical sex and surrealistic and fantastic longing.

Bunuel creates a film that has a rich and vivid dream world, one that is both undeniably real and suddenly ethereal.  He makes Severine’s escapades through the myriad worlds of lust and longing an adventure as interesting as Alice’s through Wonderland.  It’s a strange film; sometimes, I couldn’t help but wonder what was happening.  I was confused when some of Severine’s fantasies went from episodes of titillation to scenes of harsh punishment.  Belle de jour both frustrated and intrigued me.  I won’t call the film perfect, but it’s certainly an enjoyable example of how powerful and confusing film images can be.  Like a dream, a movie sometimes has a way of not giving you what you saw and thought you were getting.  Both a movie and a dream can stay with you even when you’re unsatisfied them.  You wonder about them and dry to decipher them.  Any movie that can be so like a dream deserves to be seen.

8 of 10
A

NOTES:
1969 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Actress” (Catherine Deneuve)

Updated:  Monday, July 29, 2013

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" Teaser #2 - The Magnetos


































Here's Magneto, both as a young mutant rebel and as a stately mutant terrorist. Thanks to Box Office Mojo for both X-Men teaser posters.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Review: Fight Scenes Cut Nicely in "The Wolverine"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 50 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Wolverine (2013)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some sexuality and language
DIRECTOR:  James Mangold
WRITERS:  Mark Bomback and Scott Frank (based on the characters and stories appearing in Marvel Comics)
PRODUCERS:  Hugh Jackman, Hutch Parker, and Lauren Shuler Donner
CINEMATOGRAHER: Ross Emery (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Michael McCusker
COMPOSER:  Marco Beltrami

SUPERHERO/ACTION/MARTIAL ARTS

Starring:  Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Hiroyuki Sanada, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Brian Tee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee, Ken Yamamura, and Famke Janssen

The Wolverine is a 2013 superhero movie from director James Mangold.  Starring Hugh Jackman in the title role, it is also the sixth film in the X-Men franchise.  This film is not a sequel to the previous Wolverine solo movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009).  In the new movie, an old acquaintance summons Wolverine to Japan, where the hero becomes embroiled in a conflict involving family, gangsters, and ninja.

Following the events depicted in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) lives as recluse in an isolated forest outside a small town in the Yukon.  He is haunted by the death of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), whom he was forced to kill (in X-Men: The Last Stand).

A young Japanese woman named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) has been tracking Logan.  She tells him that an old friend who was once the young soldier he saved decades earlier during World War II wants to see Logan before he dies.  Once in Japan, Logan meets Ichiro Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), now a dying old man who is the head of a Japanese technology empire.  He makes Logan a shocking offer, one that forces Logan to confront his demons.  Logan considers himself through with being a soldier and a hero, until he is forced to protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from several kidnapping conspiracies.  Although weakened and ailing, Logan is determined to show his adversaries that he is still the animal known as The Wolverine.

Hugh Jackman has come to embody Logan/Wolverine the way Christopher Reeve embodied Clark Kent/Superman, beginning over 30 years ago in Superman: The Movie (1978).  Jackman carries The Wolverine on his broad, muscular shoulders, but given the hoopla leading up to The Wolverine’s release, one would think the film would be an all-time great superhero movie, but it is not.

Don’t get me wrong.  The Wolverine has some superb and exhilarating action sequences and fight scenes – the kind for which fans of Wolverine in comic books have been waiting.  The fight on top of a moving bullet train recalls the great battle at the end of the first Mission: Impossible movie in 1996.  This is solid entertainment, but much of the character drama seems contrived.  The screenplay by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, who rewrote the original version written by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who does not receive a screen credit), turns the good female supporting characters into mere accessories to Wolverine.  The mutant known as Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova) is under-utilized, so she is ultimately wasted.  Many of the male supporting characters are just caricatures of Japanese men or stock bad guys.

But Jackman saves the day.  With the help of the action stuff, Jackman makes The Wolverine the best superhero movie of Summer 2013.  Just getting a chance to see him in action makes me forget about the things in this movie that bother me.  Jackman takes what could have been merely entertaining and gives it that extra-something that only true movie stars can give.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, July 27, 2013



Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy B'day, Sandra Bullock: The Lake House

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 208 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Lake House (2006)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some language and a disturbing image
DIRECTOR:  Alejandro Agresti
WRITER:  David Auburn (based upon the film Il Mare by Eun-Jeong Kim and Ji-na Yeo and produced by Sidus)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Davidson and Roy Lee
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Alar Kivilo, A.S.C. C.S.C.
EDITORS:  Lynzee Klingman, A.C.E. and Alejandro Brodersohn
COMPOSER:  Rachel Portman (with contributions from Paul M. van Brugge)

FANTASY/ROMANCE

Starring:  Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dylan Walsh, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, and Willeke van Ammelrooy

The subject of this movie review is The Lake House, a 2006 fantasy romance movie starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.  In the film, a lonely doctor, who lives in 2006, begins a time-spanning romance with a frustrated architect, who lives in 2004, by exchanging letters through the mailbox at an unusual lakeside home.

Improbable and peculiar it may be, but The Lake House is the kind of romantic movie that deserves to have the adjective, “magical” describe it.  Having an enchanted mailbox bring the film’s lovers together is strange.  Never mind that the movie’s time travel hook is illogical, and ignore that the two leads communicate in a way that even the film admits is impossible.  This is about love.  Based upon the Korean film, Siworae (Il Mare is its international title.), The Lake House is an old-fashioned tale of star-crossed lovers who, like Romeo and Juliet, romance against all odds – even against the laws of science.

After moving away from her peaceful lakeside home – a glass house built on stilts over a lake north of Chicago, a lonely physician, Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) mails a letter back to the lake house asking whoever will be the next tenant to forward any of her stray mail to her.  It is a winter morning in 2006.  That next tenant seems to be a frustrated architect, Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), who is confused that someone claims to have lived in the lake house before him since he is the first person to ever live in it.  After several more letters back and forth, Kate, on a lark, asks Alex, “What day is it there?”  Alex responds, April 14, 2004.

They discover that they occupy the lake house, but two years apart – Alex in the past and Kate in the present.  The mailbox at the lake house allows them to communicate across two years difference in time.  Now, they must unravel the mysteries of this wrinkle in time that allows their extraordinary romance to live before its too late, but if they meet and try to join their separate worlds, they may lose each other forever.

The acting isn’t great, and sometimes it’s, at best, lamely professional.  Reeves, best known for his stiff speaking style, spends much of the film looking pained, as if constantly on cue from director Alejandro Agresti (an Argentinean known for his film, Valentin).  Bullock’s contribution is to spend the film looking forlorn, lonely, or winsome.  Still, the two are movie stars, and they know how to work the camera, which loves them and makes them look good on the big screen.

Over a decade ago, Reeves and Bullock were a hot screen pair in the hit action film, Speed, an edge-of-your-seat thriller that appealed to the adrenaline junkie in moviegoers.  Back then, many of us ignored any of Speed’s flaws in logic because we had a good time watching it.  This time, with The Lake House, Reeves and Bullock try to get us to ignore logic again.  If the viewer responds favorably to that fundamental romantic impulse – our love affair with the love story, we’ll ignore how things about this film nag us and enjoy the romance.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Updated:  Friday, July 26, 2013



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Naruto Movie, "The Lost Tower," to Premiere at Japan Film Festival

MOVIE: LOST TOWER U.S. THEATRICAL PREMIERE AT JAPAN FILM FESTIVAL OF SAN FRANCISCO

First-Ever Dedicated Japanese Live-Action And Anime Film Festival For The S.F. Bay Area Also Presents An Encore Screening Of BERSERK THE GOLDEN AGE ARC II – THE BATTLE FOR DOLDREY And TIGER & BUNNY: THE BEGINNING

VIZ Media has announced its participation in the upcoming Japan Film Festival of San Francisco (JFFSF), the first annual dedicated Japanese film festival for Northern California and the S.F. Bay Area. The Festival, which is presented by the NEW PEOPLE Japanese pop culture entertainment venue at its NEW PEOPLE Cinema in conjunction with the 2013 J-POP Summit, will host the exclusive U.S. theatrical premiere of NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: THE LOST TOWER on Saturday, July 28th as well as a special encore screening of TIGER & BUNNY: THE BEGINNING, on Friday, August 2nd, and also BERSERK THE GOLDEN AGE ARC II – THE BATTLE FOR DOLDREY on Sunday, July 28th at 3:50pm.  Films will be presented with original Japanese dialogue and English subtitles.

The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco’s week-long series of film screenings includes more than 16 acclaimed live-action and anime titles and will take place at the NEW PEOPLE Cinema beginning Saturday July 27th and running through Sunday August 4th. Tickets are $13.00 per film unless otherwise indicated. NEW PEOPLE Cinema is located at 1746 Post St. (cross street is Webster St.) in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown.

NARUTO advance tickets are available at: http://jffsf.org/2013/naruto-shippuden-the-lost-tower/

BERSERK THE GOLDEN AGE ARC II – THE BATTLE FOR DOLDREY advance tickets are available at: http://jffsf.org/2013/berserk2/

TIGER & BUNNY advance tickets are available at:  http://jffsf.org/2013/naruto-shippuden-the-lost-tower/

Complete film schedules and advance ticket information for other screenings are available on www.jffsf.org.

VIZ Media will also offer free manga samplers that highlight a bevy of its top graphic novel series to each ticketholder. Each ticketholder will receive a bag and of full-color promo posters.

NARUTO SHIPPUDEN THE MOVIE: THE LOST TOWER - U.S. Premiere!
Saturday, July 28th, 1:30pm (During 2013 J-POP Summit Festival!)

Monday, July 29th, 4:30PM

The Rogue Ninja Mukade is about to be caught by Naruto's team when he summons forth the power of the LeyLine - an ancient underground channel of chakra. Naruto gets caught up in the chakra and is sent back in time to the city of Loran, known for its thousand towers. There he encounters the future Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze, on a top-secret mission, and the Queen of Loran, Sarah, whose rule is threatened by Mukade. Will Naruto be able to return to his own time, and can a chance encounter in the past save the future? Additional information on NARUTO and NARUTO SHIPPUDEN is available at www.Naruto.com.

BERSERK THE GOLDEN AGE ARC II – Special Encore Presentation!
Sunday, July 28th, 3:50pm (During 2013 J-POP Summit Festival!)

Wednesday, July 31st, 4:30pm

The exciting second film in the BERSERK GOLDEN AGE ARC TRILOGY, based on the bestselling manga series. For three years, Guts believed his mission was to pursue Griffith’s dream together with him. But in order to become Griffith’s equal and truly be called his friend, Guts realizes he will have to leave the Band of the Hawk. At the same time, a bloody battle to capture the impenetrable Fortress of Doldrey from the Empire of Chuder is about to begin. The Band of the Hawk will face an army 30,000 strong!

TIGER & BUNNY: THE BEGINNING – Special Encore Presentation!!!
Friday, August 2nd, 4:00pm

The hero-inspired big screen action of the smash hit anime property – Tiger & Bunny – returns to the Bay Area for one-night-only! The city of Sternbild is protected by corporate superheroes known as NEXT, who fight crime while promoting their sponsors on the popular show “HERO TV.” Veteran hero Wild Tiger relies on his years of experience and instincts to fight crime, but his tendency to destroy public property for the sake of protecting the lives of the innocent has earned him the nickname “Crusher for Justice.” Now, under orders from his new employer, Wild Tiger finds himself forced to team up with Barnaby Brooks Jr., a rookie with an attitude. Will the two unlikely new partners find a way to work together? Please visit the official TIGER & BUNNY Facebook page for more information http://www.facebook.com/TigerAndBunny.

The Japan Film Festival of San Francisco is presented in conjunction with the 2013 J-POP Summit, taking place Saturday July 27th and Sunday July 28th across the city’s historic Japantown district to celebrate the phenomenon of Japanese pop culture with a colorful array of live bands and artists, panel discussions, film premieres, edgy fashion shows and DJ dance events, celebrity appearances and more. The J-POP Summit Festival is hosted and organized by NEW PEOPLE in cooperation with the Japantown Merchants Association. In 2012, the two-day event attracted nearly 65,000 attendees.

More information is available at www.J-POP.com.

NEW PEOPLE Cinema is a 143-seat cinema located in the underground floor of NEW PEOPLE in San Francisco. Equipped with a cutting-edge HD digital projection and THX®-certified sound system, NEW PEOPLE Cinema is home for local film festivals and entertaining events.


Review: "Melinda and Melinda," Good Cast, Average Movie

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Melinda and Melinda (2004)
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for adult situations involving sexuality, and some substance material
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Woody Allen
PRODUCER:  Letty Aronson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Vilmos Zsigmond
EDITOR:  Alisa Lepselter

COMEDY/DRAMA

Starring:  Radha Mitchell, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Amanda Peet, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Carell, Josh Brolin, Vinessa Shaw, Daniel Sunjata, Geoffrey Nauffts, Wallace Shawn, Larry Pine, Stephanie Roth Haberle, and Neil Pepe

The subject of this movie review is Melinda and Melinda, a 2004 comedy and drama from writer/director Woody Allen.  The film follows two alternating stories about a woman named Melinda’s attempts to straighten out her life.  Fox Searchlight Pictures gave the film a limited release in the United States in March of 2005.  Except for a cameo, Allen does not appear as a significant character in this film.

Over a meal at a restaurant, four friends, two of them playwrights, discuss the essence of life.  Is it comic or tragic?  One of them brings up a story he heard from friends about the unexpected arrival of young woman named Melinda (Radha Mitchell) at a dinner party.  The two playwrights, one who writes tragedies and the other who composes hit comedies, take the incident with Melinda and embellish it, each from his point of view.

Max the Tragedian (Larry Pine) tells a story of doomed love with Melinda as a disturbed young woman who returns to New York City after having several years of misfortune and heartbreak.  She was the bored housewife of a Midwestern doctor, and her affair with a photographer ended the marriage.  Her ex-husband also took the children from Melinda, and her subsequent suicidal depression landed her straight-jacketed in a mental ward.  She arrives at the home of her friend, Laurel (Chloë Sevigny), like Melinda a former Park Avenue princess, and Laurel’s husband, Lee (Jonny Lee Miller), a struggling actor and alcoholic.  Melinda’s arrival hastens the disintegration of Laurel and Lee’s marriage, but Melinda meets Ellis Moonsong (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a smooth talking, handsome, and debonair composer.  They strike up what looks like a promising romance until Ellis notices someone else…

Sy the Comedian (Wallace Shawn) looks at Melinda’s predicament as a romantic comedy.  She is the childless downstairs neighbor of the dinner hosts, an ambitious indie filmmaker named Susan (Amanda Peet) and her husband, Hobie (Will Ferrell) an under-employed actor.  Sy’s Melinda is also coming off a broken relationship, so Hobie befriends Melinda in an attempt to help her find a new love.  However, Hobie falls for Melinda, but he has to suffer in silence when she unexpectedly starts dating an amiable and handsome broker (Daniel Sunjata).  Thus, the film goes back and forth contrasting the fate of each Melinda.

Melinda and Melinda is a decent Woody Allen film, and it’s also a bit different from most of his pictures.  For one thing, he only makes a cameo appearance in the opening sequence that most viewers will probably miss.  However, Will Ferrell’s Hobie of the comedic half of Melinda and Melinda is the stand-in for the neurotic, smart-talking type Allen plays in his films.  The tragic half of the film is quite engaging, but not overly dark and tragic, perhaps because the cast plays it so smoothly and low key.  Mitchell gives a solid performance, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) plays Ellis Moonsong as a romantic figure, which lightens up a segment that plays heavily on the notion of doomed relationships.

On the other hand, Ferrell’s performance overwhelms Radha Mitchell’s in the comedic half of the film, and that’s not a bad thing.  The romantic comic angle is mostly flat, and the romance isn’t engaging.  The more Ferrell is on screen the more his comic timing and acting come forward and livens a dull segment into something mildly amusing and somewhat engaging.

Though I’m sad to admit it, I found Melinda and Melinda to be about an average film, sometimes even a chore to watch, and it would be an average film even if someone other than Woody Allen’s name were on it.

5 of 10
C+

Friday, January 13, 2006

Updated:  Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Digital Comic Book, Grumble #1, PDF a Free Download

by Leroy Douresseaux

I am in the early stages of producing a horror comic book/graphic novel, entitled Grumble, which I have been releasing as a digital comic.  It is the story of Ava Benson, a young woman who returns to her hometown, Beechwood, for her uncle, Avner Benson’s funeral.  In addition to reuniting with her dysfunctional family, Ava learns that an old enemy is terrorizing the town and murdering her family and friends.

Over the past few years, I have been posting pages from the comic book on this website.  Now, I am making a PDF of the first issue (or first chapter) available for download, viewing, and reading by going to the COMIC BOOK BIN.

The original art for pages 12 through 24 are up for sale with the proceeds going into the continued production of Grumble.  Pages range in price from $160.00 to $200.00 U.S., but discounts are available for purchases of multiple pages – so please ask.

You may contact me via this blog.  Posting questions and comments in the “comments section” is welcomed.

I am going to sell signed and numbered hard copies of Grumble #1.  I am exploring a new printer as comiXpress punked out… I mean closed up shop… suddenly… with no warning.  But kitchen – heat, y’all know what I’m talking ‘bout.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated, dear readers.  So right now: art is available; books coming soon.  Everything can be paid through my PayPal account, which will provide the buyer with protection from any shenanigans.  Hee hee.  More later.

If you like the Grumble #1 PDF, you may donate, if you wish, via PayPal - whatever amount you wish:


Jay and Silent Bob to Appear at 2013 Baltimore Comic-Con

Jay and Silent Bob are Coming to Baltimore For a Special Three-Hour Event

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - July 22, 2013 - That's right! Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes will both be appearing at this year's show to promote their new animated feature, Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie.

Best known for their roles as Jay and Silent Bob in the View Askewniverse films, which includes Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks 2, Smith and Mewes are fan-favorites among comic and movie enthusiasts alike. Their careers span appearances in film, television, and video games, as well as hosting a series of podcasts on their online network, SModcast.

In addition to his acting career, Smith is a well-known comic writer, having worked on such titles as Batman: Cacophony, Batman: The Widening Gyre, The Bionic Man, Daredevil, Green Arrow, Green Hornet, and Spider-Man/Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do. In 1998, he received a Harvey Award for Best New Talent.

View Askew and The Baltimore Comic-Con have arranged an amazing afternoon with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes on the Saturday of the show. This special three-hour event will include:

A screening of the all-new animated film: Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie

A live podcast Q&A with Kevin and Jason

This three-hour special, private event will be available as a separate event ticket (separate from convention admission) and seating is limited.  As part of the Baltimore Comic-Con, admission to the show is also required.

Also available will be a SUPER GROOVY event ticket which will include early, priority seating at the event as well as an autographed exclusive print signed by BOTH Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes! (The prints will be signed ahead of the event - Jason and Kevin will not be available for additional autographs).

This will be Kevin and Jason's only appearance at the show, and the only opportunity for an autograph!

The 3-hour event will be held on Saturday, September 7th at 1:00 pm in the large upstairs programming room. The doors will open for seating at 12:30 pm with early, advanced seating to this private event starting at 12 noon.

"We can hardly believe that it actually came together!  We are thrilled that both Kevin and Jason will be here to screen their new film at the show," said Marc Nathan, show promoter of the Baltimore Comic-Con. "Their characters, Jay and Silent Bob, are pop-culture icons and we just know that fans are going to be clamoring to be a part of this special event!"

General Admission Tickets for the event will run $40, and the limited, Super-Groovy exclusive tickets (which include early, advanced movie seating and the signed movie poster print) are $75 and are sure to go fast. Tickets can be purchased by visiting baltimorecomiccon.com/tickets.

Smith and Mewes joins our previously announced guests, including: Guest of Honor Stan Lee (Marvel comics), Brian Bolland (Dial H); Mark Buckingham (Fables); Jimmy Cheung (Avengers vs. X-Men); Frank Cho (Savage Wolverine); Amanda Conner (Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre); J.M. DeMatteis (Phantom Stranger); David Finch (Justice League of America); Dave Gibbons (The Secret Service); Keith Giffen (Masters of the Universe); Adam Hughes (Before Watchmen: Dr. Manhattan); Barry Kitson (Empire); Roger Langridge (Popeye); Paul Levitz (World's Finest); Kevin Maguire (World's Finest); Mike Mignola (Hellboy In Hell); Jimmy Palmiotti (Batwing); George Perez (World's Finest); David Petersen (Mouse Guard); Joe Prado (Earth 2); Ivan Reis (Aquaman); Chris Samnee (Daredevil); Louise Simonson (X-Factor); Walt Simonson (The Mighty Thor); Allison Sohn (sketch card artist); Mark Waid (Indestructible Hulk), and Bill Willingham (Fables).

In the coming weeks, look for more announcements from the Baltimore Comic-Con. We are looking forward to highlighting our guests, the Harvey Awards, industry exclusives, and programming. The latest developments can always be found on our website, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

Contact Information
Please use the following e-mail addresses to contact the Baltimore Comic-Con:

press@baltimorecomiccon.com - for any general press inquiries or to be added to our PR distribution
promoter@baltimorecomiccon.com - for requesting exhibitor, publisher, and Artist Alley applications
registrar@baltimorecomiccon.com - for inquiries about submitted registrations
harveys@baltimorecomiccon.com - for the Harvey Awards ceremony and banquet
general@baltimorecomiccon.com - for general Baltimore Comic-Con inquiries


About The Baltimore Comic-Con
The Baltimore Comic-Con is celebrating its 14th year of bringing the comic book industry to the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. For more information, please visit www.baltimorecomiccon.com.

About The Harvey Awards
The Harvey Awards are one of the comic book industry's oldest and most respected awards. With a history of over 20 years, the last 7 in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con, the Harveys recognize outstanding achievements in over 20 categories. They are the only industry awards nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. For more information, please visit www.harveyawards.org.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happy B'day, Marlon Wayans: White Chicks

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 107 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

White Chicks (2004)
Running time:  109 minutes (1 hours, 49 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, and some content
DIRECTOR:  Keenen Ivory Wayans
WRITERS:  Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Andrew McElfresh, Michael Anthony Snowden, and Xavier Cook; from a story by Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, and Marlon Wayans
PRODUCERS:  Rick Alvarez, Lee R. Mayes, Keenen Wayans, Marlon Wayans, and Shawn Wayans
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Steven Bernstein (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Jeffrey Stephen Gourson and Stuart Pappé
COMPOSER:  Teddy Castellucci
Razzie Award nominee

COMEDY

Starring:  Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Jaime King, Frankie Faison, Lochlyn Munro, John Heard, Busy Philipps, Terry Crews, Brittany Daniel, Eddie Velez, Jessica Cauffiel, Maitland Ward, Anne Dudek, Rochelle Aytes, Jennifer Carpenter

The subject of this movie review is White Chicks, a 2004 buddy cop and crime comedy from director Keenen Ivory Wayans.  The film stars brothers Shawn and Marlon Wayans as two African-American cops who don white-face and drag in order to disguise themselves as two wealthy, young White women.

Kevin (Shawn Wayans) and Marcus Copeland (Marlon Wayans) are two FBI agents with a penchant for doing things on their own that usually gets them into trouble.  After botching a drug bust, they need something to get them back in the good graces of their boss, Section Chief Elliott Gordon (Frankie Faison).  Assigned to pick up two hotel heiresses, the Wilson Sisters, from the airport, Kevin and Marcus also manage to screw that up.

However, an unknown party has threatened to kidnap the sisters during their weekend in the Hamptons.  Kevin and Marcus resolve to foil the plot by adopting the sisters’ identities.  Add state-of-the art makeup and Kevin and Marcus are suddenly white girls.  Before long, they’re undercover living it up as the Wilsons, but how long can they fool the girls’ friends and their fellow FBI agents?  And most importantly, can they fool the kidnappers?

White Chicks isn’t a great movie, but like director Keenen Ivory Wayans’ other directorial efforts, the film is so funny that it might make you howl.  The plot is not even thick enough to be paper thin, and its bare existence is strictly as a prop for the premise – two black men use state-of-the-art makeup to be white chicks.  The script, by the three Wayans and three other screenwriters, is a succession of silliness meant to be funny, and most of the time, it works.

Though the Internet might be filled with the cacophony of idiots crying that White Chicks is reverse racism – black people making fun of whites (as if African-American filmmakers could make up for nearly a century of horrific screen images of black folk), the film is respectful towards its subject matter; it’s more laughing with than at.  All the characters are foils and butts of jokes; no one is really treated as being better than anyone else.  Even the film’s villain is hardly menacing.  White Chicks is about laughs and having a good time at the movies.  It might fail at being film art, but it’s funny.

6 of 10
B

NOTES:
2005 Razzie Awards:  5 nominations:  “Worst Actress” (Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans - The Wayans Sisters), “Worst Director” (Keenen Ivory Wayans), “Worst Picture” (Columbia and Revolution), “Worst Screen Couple” (Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans - The Wayans Brothers: In or Out of Drag), and “Worst Screenplay” (Keenen Ivory Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Andrew McElfresh, Michael Anthony Snowden, and Xavier Cook)

Update: Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: "Tyler Perry's Temptation" Talks Lust and Happiness

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013)
Running time:  111 minutes (1 hour, 51 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content
DIRECTOR: Tyler Perry
WRITER: Tyler Perry (based on his play, The Marriage Counselor)
PRODUCERS:  Ozzie Areu, Paul Hall, and Tyler Perry
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Alexander Gruszynski
EDITOR:  Maysie Hoy
COMPOSER:  Aaron Zigman

DRAMA

Starring:  Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, Robbie Jones, Renee Taylor, Ella Joyce, Brandy Norwood, and Andrea Moore

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a 2013 drama from writer/director Tyler Perry.  The film is based on his 2008 play, The Marriage Counselor (at the time, his tenth play). Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor focuses on an ambitious married woman who is tempted by a handsome billionaire to leave her husband for all the material things a rich man can give her.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is the thirteenth film by Tyler Perry.  It is both the most financially successful film in which Perry did not act and is also his highest-grossing drama at the box office.  Although it is not Perry’s best drama (which I still think For Colored Girls is), Tyler Perry’s Temptation is a powerful film.

The film opens as a marriage counselor works with a young married couple having serious problems.  After the husband stalks off, the marriage counselor tells the young wife, Lisa (Andrea Moore), a story about a young woman named Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).  In her mid-20s, Judith is married to Brice (Lance Gross), whom she has known for almost two decades.  They live in Washington D.C., where Brice works as a pharmacist.  Judith works for Wise Counsel, a matchmaking agency owned by the flamboyant Janice Wise (Vanessa Williams).  Judith is unsatisfied at this job, as she wants to open her own marriage counseling company, but has to wait.

Judith meets Harley Madison (Robbie Jones), a young tech billionaire who started a social networking site called, Class-Meet.  Harley wants to invest in Wise Counsel, and Janice picks Judith to work with Harley in order to help him understand the agency.  Harley turns out to be more interested in Judith, and begins to tempt her with the things his wealth and influence can give her – if she submits to his sexual advances.  This temptation, however, could change Judith’s life forever, in ways she does not expect.

The usual melodrama and soap opera theatrics that we have come to expect of Tyler Perry’s films are in evidence in Tyler Perry’s Temptation.  The religious moralizing is also in play, but this time the emphasis is on religious symbolism and metaphors.  I won’t go into detail, as that would spoil some surprises.  One religious element that is forced comes in the form of Judith’s mother, Reverend Sarah Ogalvee (Ella Joyce).  The reverend seems more comical (hilarious, even) than sanctified or spiritual (which does occur in some scenes).

Tyler Perry’s Temptation works because Perry digs deeply into the pursuit of satisfaction as a theme – from personal, such as individual and marital satisfaction, to professional, such as career goals and material wealth.  Perry is not so stupid and heavy-handed as to say that dissatisfaction leads to temptation in search of satisfaction.  Perry suggests, as least it seems that way to me – that temptation is the easy and simply thing.  Being tempted is fun and feels good.  Acting on that temptation is where the problems come in because getting what you want or thought you wanted does not mean you will be satisfied or happy.

Also, seduction can be magical, but the actual consummation, sexual intercourse, or affair might not be quite what you thought it would be.  In the film, notions of satisfaction and seduction lead to the idea that people change, sometimes often.  So in this movie, change becomes something like a specter, dark and ominous, threatening marriages, friendships, professional relationships, family, etc.

One controversial element in Tyler Perry’s Temptation that got a lot of people talking when the film was in production was Perry’s move to cast reality television star and tabloid celebrity, Kim Kardashian, in the film.  Here, Kardashian isn’t bad, although she isn’t much of an actress.  Her character, Ava, Judith’s co-worker and apparent friend, is not really important to the overall story.  In fact, just about any other professional actress or actor could have played that part.  Yes, Kardashian is stunt casting, but she doesn’t hurt the movie at all.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor proves that Perry is capable of creating dramatic films – even though the ending here seems a bit much.  While I think that this is, at best, an above-average movie, it proves that Perry is getting closer to dealing with weighty material and serious subject matter in an earnest fashion, without melodrama… or at least with less.

6 of 10
B

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Superman and Batman Unite for Summer 2015 Movie

The following news was announced this weekend (Saturday, July 20, 2013) at San Diego Comic-Con International 2013:

Next DC Super Hero Movie in Pre-Production

Director Zack Snyder Unites Superman and Batman in One Explosive New Film

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On the heels of the worldwide success of “Man of Steel,” director Zack Snyder is bringing together the two greatest Super Heroes of all time—Batman and Superman—for the first time on the big screen. The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President, Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President, Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

The current hit, “Man of Steel,” has taken in more than $630 million at the worldwide box office to date, and climbing. Along with its star, Henry Cavill, the upcoming film brings back Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane. The new Batman has yet to be cast.

Snyder is co-writing the story with David S. Goyer, who will then pen the screenplay. Production is expected to begin in 2014, with an anticipated release date in Summer 2015.

Silverman stated, “Zack Snyder is an incredibly talented filmmaker, but beyond that, he’s a fan first and he utterly gets this genre. We could not think of anyone better suited to the task of bringing these iconic Super Heroes to the screen in his own way.” Kroll added, “We are thrilled to be back in business with Zack and his team on this next movie. The success of ‘Man of Steel’ is a wonderful testament to the love and support that both fans and new audiences, worldwide, have for these characters. We are very excited to see what Zack has in store for all of us.”

Diane Nelson, President, DC Entertainment, noted, “Superman and Batman together on the big screen is a dream come true for DC fans everywhere. All of us at DC Entertainment could not be more excited for Zack’s continuing vision for the DC Universe.”

Zack Snyder, who made a surprise appearance at Comic-Con today, breaking the news to audiences there, later said, “I’m so excited to begin working again with Henry Cavill in the world we created, and I can’t wait to expand the DC Universe in this next chapter. Let’s face it, it’s beyond mythological to have Superman and our new Batman facing off, since they are the greatest Super Heroes in the world.”

The new film brings back Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder as producers. This time, Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas are serving as executive producers, along with Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan.

Thomas offered, “Whilst our ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy is complete, we have every confidence that Zack’s fresh interpretation will take the character in a new and exciting direction. His vision for Superman opened the door to a whole new universe and we can’t wait to see what Zack does with these characters.”

The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Batman characters created by Bob Kane, published by DC Entertainment.


Remembering Jerry Goldsmith: Small Soldiers

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 (of 2005) by Leroy Douresseaux

Small Soldiers (1998)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some menacing violence/action and brief drug references
DIRECTOR:  Joe Dante
WRITERS:  Gavin Scott, Adam Rifkin, and Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
PRODUCERS:  Michael Finnell and Colin Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Jamie Anderson
EDITORS:  Marshall Harvey and Michael Thau
COMPOSER:  Jerry Goldsmith

FANTASY/SCI-FI/ACTION/ADVENTURE/COMEDY

Starring:  Gregory Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Jay Mohr, David Cross, Denis Leary, Kevin Dunn, Ann Magnuson, Phil Hartman, Jacob Smith, Wendy Schaal, and Dick Miler and the voices of Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Bruce Dern, George Kennedy, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Clint Walker, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Christina Ricci, and Harry Shearer

The subject of this movie review is Small Soldiers, a 1998 science fiction, fantasy, and action film from director Joe Dante.  The film depicts a small war between two groups of action figures brought to life by new technology.  Small Soldiers remains one of my all-time favorite films.

Joe Dante directed Gremlins, the tale of toy-like creatures besieging a small town.  He returned to a similar toys-come-to-life theme in the 1998 DreamWorks film, Small Soldiers.  When computer chips manufactured for military use end up in a line of action figures, the toys come to life with minds of their own.  One group, the Commando Elite, is composed of military action figures, kind of like an extreme version of G.I. Joe.  The second group is a collection of monsters and creatures called the Gorgonites.  The Commando Elite, led by Major Chip Hazard (voice of Tommy Lee Jones), are programmed to destroy the Gorgonites, led by the wise Archer (voice of Frank Langella), who are programmed to lose to the Commando Elite.

Alan Abernathy (Gregory Smith) is manning the counter of his father, Stuart’s (Kevin Dunn) old-fashioned toy store, The Inner Child, when he spots a shipment of Commando Elite and Gorgonite toys on a delivery truck.  He convinces the delivery driver to give him a case of each toy set, but he doesn’t know that once he opens the box, he’s also activated the toys, which are actually intelligent because of the military chips in them.  Then, the Commando Elite begin hunting Archer.  When Alan unknowingly takes Archer (who’s hiding in Alan’s bag) home with him, Chip Hazard and the rest of the Elite mark him for annihilation along with the Gorgonites.  Soon Alan’s neighbors, including a classmate to whom he’s attracted, Christy Fimple (Kirsten Dunst), are marked for death as collaborationists with the Gorgonites.  Now, Alan, Christy, both their families, and two developers from the toy manufacturer (Jay Mohr and David Cross) must not only defend themselves from the Commando Elite, they must also stop the toys for good.

The characters in Small Soldiers aren’t that well developed, but they’re more broad archetypes than caricatures.  Gregory Smith’s Alan is the outsider boy, one with a bit of a rebellious streak, and he’s more spirited and strong-willed than his slight build would suggest.  Kirsten Dunst’s Christy Fimple is the all-American girl-next-door who is much wiser and more open minded than her contemporaries.  They make a good screen couple, and Smith and Ms. Dunst act as if they’ve done this before.  Tommy Lee Jones’ voice over performance as Major Chip Hazard is surprisingly good and really sells the film.  His Hazard voice is a mixture of tongue-in-cheek humor, sarcasm, laid-back disdain, and menace.  The rest of the cast fits in well, but really don’t do much until the final act.

Small Soldiers was a moderate box office success.  The film is a bit old for the small children who would play with toys like the Commando Elite and Gorgonites, and would certainly not interest the older teens and twenty-something males who see war action/adventure films.  Still, it’s a good satire of the violent mentality that says we must hate, fight, kill, and destroy those who are supposed to be our enemies or those we were taught or programmed to believe deserve destruction.

The film really is fun (I’ve seen it twice.), and Joe Dante has the knack for never taking his films too seriously.  He can both make his point and make entertaining films with fantastical settings or creatures.  Dante fills Small Soldiers with references to other films that augment the tale he’s telling.  Like his other films, the aforementioned Gremlins and Piranha and The Howling, he takes the ridiculous and gives it humor and bite, and Small Soldiers surely is an edgy little comedy about a small war and the small-minded reasons for fighting it.

8 of 10
A

Updated: Sunday, July 21, 2013


Saturday, July 20, 2013

65th Annual Primetime Emmy Award Nominations List

by Lucy Troy

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.  Negromancer’s focus is usually on the Primetime Emmy Awards.  It is presented by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will honor the best in television programming (at least as the members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences see it) from June 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013.  The awards ceremony will be held on September 22, 2013 and televised by CBS (in the United States).

Netflix made history by earning the first Primetime Emmy Award nominations for original, online-only, web television as three of its series, “Arrested Development,” “Hemlock Grove,” and “House of Cards” earned nominations.

65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards (2013) nominees:

Drama Series
•Breaking Bad
•Downton Abbey
•Game of Thrones
•House of Cards
•Homeland
•Mad Men

Comedy Series
•30 Rock
•The Big Bang
•Girls
•Louie
•Modern Family
•Veep

Miniseries or Movie
•American Horror Story
•Behind the Candelabra
•The Bible
•Phil Spector
•Political Animals
•Top of the Lake

Lead Actor in a Drama Series
•Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
•Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
•Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
•Jon Hamm, Mad Men
•Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
•Damian Lewis, Homeland

Lead Actress in a Drama Series
•Connie Britton, Nashville
•Claire Danes, Homeland
•Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
•Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
•Kerry Washington, Scandal
•Robin Wright, House of Cards

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
•Benedict Cumberbatch, Parade’s End
•Michael Douglas, Behind The Candelabra
•Matt Damon, Behind The Candelabra
•Toby Jones, The Girl
•Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
•Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum
•Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
•Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
•Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake
•Sigourney Weaver, Political Animals

Outstanding Host For A Reality Or Reality-Competition Program
•Ryan Seacrest, American Idol
•Betty White, Betty White’s Off Their Rockers
•Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars
•Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, Project Runway
•Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance
•Anthony Bourdain, The Taste

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
•Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
•Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
•Louis C.K., Louie
•Don Cheadle, House of Lies
•Matt LeBlanc, Episodes
•Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
•Laura Dern, Enlightened
•Lena Dunham, Girls
•Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
•Tina Fey, 30 Rock
•Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
•Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Reality-Competition Series
•The Amazing Race
•Dancing With the Stars
•Project Runway
•So You Think You Can Dance
•Top Chef
•The Voice

Variety Series
•The Colbert Report
•The Daily Show
•Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
•Jimmy Kimmel Live
•Saturday Night Live
•Real Time With Bill Maher

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
•Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
•Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad
•Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
•Jim Carter, Downton Abbey
•Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones
•Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
•Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
•Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
•Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones
•Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
•Morena Baccarin, Homeland
•Christina Hendricks, Mad Men

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series
•Nathan Lane, The Good Wife
•Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
•Rupert Friend, Homeland
•Robert Morse, Mad Men
•Harry Hamlin, Mad Men
•Dan Bucatinsky, Scandal

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
•Adam Driver, Girls
•Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family
•Ed O’Neill, Modern Family
•Ty Burrell, Modern Family
•Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
•Tony Hale, Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
•Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory
•Jane Lynch, Glee
•Julie Bowen, Modern Family
•Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
•Sofia Vergara, Modern Family
•Jane Krakowski, 30 Rock
•Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series
•Bob Newhart, The Big Bang Theory
•Nathan Lane, Modern Family
•Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie
•Louis C.K., Saturday Night Live
•Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live
•Will Forte, 30 Rock

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
•Margo Martindale, The Americans
•Diana Rigg, Game Of Thrones
•Carrie Preston, The Good Wife
•Linda Cardellini, Mad Men
•Jane Fonda, The Newsroom
•Joan Cusack, Shameless

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series
•George Mastras, Breaking Bad • Dead Freight
•Thomas Schnauz, Breaking Bad • Say My Name
•Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
•D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, Game Of Thrones • The Rains Of Castamere
•Henry Bromell, Homeland • Q&A

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series
•Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire • Margate Sands
•Michelle MacLaren, Breaking Bad • Gliding Over All
•Jeremy Webb, Downton Abbey • Episode 4
•Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland • Q&A
•David Fincher, House Of Cards

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series
•Molly Shannon, Enlightened
•Dot-Marie Jones, Glee
•Melissa Leo, Louie
•Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live
•Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live
•Elaine Stritch, 30 Rock

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series
•Jeffrey Klarik and David Crane, Episodes • Episode 209
•Louis C.K and Pamela Adlon, Louie • Daddy’s Girlfriend (Part 1)
•Greg Daniels, The Office • Finale
•Robert Carlock and Jack Burditt, 30 Rock • Hogcock!
•Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series
•Lena Dunham, Girls • On All Fours
•Paris Barclay, Glee • Diva
•Louis C.K., Louie • New Year’s Eve
•Gail Mancuso, Modern Family • Arrested
•Beth McCarthy-Miller, 30 Rock • Hogcock! / Last Lunch

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
•James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum
•Zachary Quinto, American Horror Story: Asylum
•Scott Bakula, Behind The Candelabra
•John Benjamin, The Big C: Hereafter
•Peter Mullan, Top Of The Lake

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie
•Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum
•Imelda Staunton, The Girl
•Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
•Charlotte Rampling, Restless
•Alfre Woodard, Steel Magnolias

Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special
•Richard LaGravenese Behind The Candelabra
•Abi Morgan, The Hour
•Tom Stoppard, Parade’s End
•David Mamet, Phil Spector
•Gerard Lee and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake

Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special
•Steven Soderbergh, Behind The Candelabra
•Julian Jarrold, The Girl
•David Mamet, Phil Spector
•Allison Anders, Ring Of Fire
•Garth Davis and Jane Campion, Top Of The Lake • Part 5

Outstanding Variety Special
•The Kennedy Center Honors
•Louis C.K.: Oh My God
•Mel Brooks Strikes Back! With Mel Brooks And Alan Yentob
•Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (Part One)
•12-12-12: The Concert For Sandy Relief

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series
•The Colbert Report
•The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
•Jimmy Kimmel Live
•Portlandia
•Real Time With Bill Maher
•Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special
•Louis C.K.: Oh My God
•Night Of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together For Autism Programs
•Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday (Part One)
•66th Annual Tony Awards

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series
•James Hoskinson, The Colbert Report
•Chuck O’Neil, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
•Andy Fisher, Jimmy Kimmel Live
•Jerry Foley, Late Show With David Letterman
•Jonathan Krisel, Portlandia
•Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special
•Louis J. Horvitz, The Kennedy Center Honors
•Hamish Hamilton and Bucky Gunts, London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
•Louis C.K, Louis C.K.: Oh My God
•Don Mischer, The Oscars
•Michael Dempsey, 12-12-12: The Concert For Sandy Relief


Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: "Lucky Number Slevin" a Crime Film Treat

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 235 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence, sexuality, and language
DIRECTOR:  Paul McGuigan
WRITER:  Jason Smilovic
PRODUCERS:  Chris Roberts, Christopher Eberts, Kia Jam, Anthony Rhulen, Robert Kravis, and Tyler Mitchell
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Peter Sova, ASC
EDITOR:  Andrew Hulme
COMPOSER:  J. Ralph

CRIME with elements of mystery and thriller

Starring:  Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley, Lucy Lui, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis, Dorian Missick, Mykelti Williamson, and Peter Outerbridge

The subject of this movie review is Lucky Number Slevin, a 2006 crime thriller.  The film is about a young man trapped by a case of mistaken identity that lands him in the middle of a brewing gang war between two rival crime bosses and also makes him the target of an infamous assassin.

Slevin Kelevra (Josh Hartnett) arrives at his friend, Nick Fisher’s New York City apartment only to find him missing, but Slevin does strike up a friendship with Nick’s chatty neighbor, Lindsey (Lucy Lui).  Later, two thugs looking for Nick arrive at the apartment and mistake Slevin for his missing friend.  It turns out that Nick owes a lot of money to two crime bosses:  $96,000 to The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and $33,000 to The Rabbi (Sir Ben Kingsley).

The Boss and The Rabbi, once partners, are now bitter, deadly enemies.  Before long, The Boss wants Slevin to perform a high-profile hit against The Rabbi’s son as a way to pay off his $96,000 debt.  The Rabbi just wants his money, and he gives Slevin a few days to come up with the cash.  And it doesn’t matter to them that Slevin isn’t Nick – that’s just his hard luck.  How unlucky is Slevin?  The infamous assassin, Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis), is also gunning for Slevin, or is he?  Slevin suddenly has to hatch an ingenious plot to win this game of death.  And what is the Kansas City Shuffle?

Paul McGuigan (GANGSTER Number 1) mixes sub-genres in his crime flick, Lucky Number Slevin.  It blends noir, gangster flicks, and the con game into a violent little tale of betrayal, crass brutality, and revenge.  The viewer that doesn’t figure out the trick early on will find himself rewarded for having waded through this often slow moving and gabby flick.  Even figuring out the surprise midway through the movie makes the waiting pay off.  Figure out the secrets early on, and you might have to enjoy Lucky Number Slevin’s execution and style.  (Strangely, the direction and writing on this film seem at their best during the flashbacks.)

The performances are good, but not great.  It’s these actors’ status as movie stars – whether it be A-list, B-list, or lower – and their ability to sell a character they’re playing that makes what they’re doing look good and convincing (although Sir Ben Kingsley seems an automatic for the most part).  Meanwhile, Josh Hartnett is a “face.”  He’s handsome and has movie idol written all over him, but he still hasn’t found enough good material to make him iconic.  Lucky Number Slevin isn’t that kind of great material, but it’s good enough for the time being.  Sexy, vulnerable, and utterly sympathetic, Hartnett makes this odd and sometimes uneven tale a sweet treat for fans of crime cinema.

7 of 10
B+

Updated: Friday, July 19, 2013


Bruce Willis and Mos Def a Good Pairing in "16 Blocks"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

16 Blocks (2006)
Running time:  102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, intense sequences of action, and some strong language
DIRECTOR:  Richard Donner
WRITER:  Richard Wenk
PRODUCERS:  Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Arnold Rifkin, John Thompson, Jim Van Wyck, and Bruce Willis
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Glen MacPherson (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Steve Mirkovich
COMPOSER:  Klaus Badelt

CRIME/DRAMA/ACTION/THRILLER

Starring:  Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, Jenna Stern, Casey Sander, Cylk Cozart, David Zayas, Robert Racki, and Brenda Pressley

The subject of this movie review is 16 Blocks, a 2006 crime thriller from director Richard Donner.  The film stars Bruce Willis and Mos Def in the story of an aging cop escorting a fast-talking witness from police custody to a courthouse, while unknown forces try to stop them from making it to the courthouse.

Aging and alcoholic New York City detective, Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis), finds himself stuck with the task of escorting loquacious prosecution witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), from police custody to a nearby courthouse.  However, the 16 block trek becomes perilous when a gang of corrupt cops, led by Mosley’s former partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), attempt to kill the talkative Bunker.  With less than two hours to get Bunker before a jury, Mosley takes on the power of the police force in a small war that might find Mosley and Bunker dead before they get to their destination.

Director Richard Donner has had one of the longest and most versatile careers as a Hollywood filmmaker.  Working in television and film as both a producer and director, he helmed episodes of such TV series as “The Twilight Zone,” “Gilligan’s Island,” and “The Wild Wild West.”  He’s directed such films as The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), all four movies in the Lethal Weapon franchise, and the recent underrated sci-fi flick, Timeline.  Because of this I shouldn’t be surprised that his recent corrupt cop crime drama, 16 Blocks, is so good, but I am.  This film reveals what a fine director can do – take all the elements that go into making a movie and shape them into a quality flick without one element dominating the others.  A great director doesn’t even need all the ingredients to be the best available to turn them into a good movie.

16 Blocks isn’t Bruce Willis’ best performance, but he creates an off-beat cop that’s hard to read and that makes Jack Mosley intriguing.  The viewer might not necessarily know where the guy is coming from or where he’s going, but we know that he fits the part in the film.  Mosley is doing a job he doesn’t want to do, and that’s a perfect setup for a film in which the lead undergoes the heroic change.  Willis gives a lot of the performance in his demeanor and how he carries himself.  He doesn’t need to say a lot or make speeches, but a great physical actor, he can reveal the character in body language as much as he can with dialogue or facial expressions.

Mos Def continues to prove himself an actor, breaking away from the rapper/actor label.  In fact, he’s way better as an actor than he is as a rapper (and with his inimitable style, he is good at that).  With a robust whine in his voice, Mos creates an Eddie Bunker who gives 16 Blocks a distinctive New York flavor.  David Morse is also robustly menacing as the vile and bullying corrupt detective, Frank Nugent, another particular New York touch.

While getting solid performances from his leads and supporting players, Donner brings it all together in a taught thriller that truly brings one to the edge of his seat.  It’s not that the concept behind 16 Blocks in new.  It’s that everyone involved was determined to make a gritty urban drama with the explosiveness of an action thriller, and that determination shows in a high-quality end product.  16 Blocks is a heart stopper and a thrill ride.

7 of 10
B+

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Updated, Friday, July 19, 2013