Showing posts with label Jackie Earle Haley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jackie Earle Haley. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: "The Birth of a Nation" Offers a Counter Narrative

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 2 (of 2018) by Leroy Douresseaux

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Running time:  120 minutes; MPAA – R for disturbing violent content, and some brief nudity
DIRECTOR:  Nate Parker
WRITERS:  Nate Parker; from a story by Nate Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin
PRODUCERS:  Nate Parker, Kevin Turen, Jason Michael Berman, Preston L. Holmes, and Aaron L. Gilbert
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Elliot Davis (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Steven Rosenblum
COMPOSER:  Henry Jackman


Starring:  Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomie King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith, Gabrielle Union, Tony Espinosa, Jayson Warner Smith, Jason Stuart, and Chiké Okonkwo

The Birth of a Nation is a 2016 historical film and slave drama from director Nate Parker, who has the film's starring role.  A joint American and Canadian production, The Birth of the Nation is a fictional account and dramatization of the Black American slave Nat Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831), his life, and the rebellion of slaves and free Blacks that Turner led in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831.

The Birth of a Nation takes its name from from D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent movie and KKK propaganda film.  In Birth of a Nation 2016, Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher in the antebellum South, orchestrates an uprising.  The film received some of its financing from professional basketball players and NBA stars Michael Finley and Tony Parker.  Among the film's executive producers are Oscar-winning filmmaker, Edward Zwick (Shakespeare in Love), and screenwriter and director David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight and Blade film franchises).

The Birth of a Nation opens in the antebellum South, where Elizabeth Turner (Penelope Ann Miller) teaches a Black child slave, Nat (Tony Espinosa), to read.  Years later, Nat Turner (Nate Parker) is not only a field slave (picking cotton), but he is also a literate slave preacher.  A friend tells Nat's White slave owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), that other White slave owners need something to suppress their Black slaves, whom they believe to be unruly, disobedient, and indignant.  That friend suggests that Nat's preaching, popular with many of the slaves, could earn the financially strained Turner money from owners that want a slave preacher who can preach their slaves into submission.

As he travels with his owner, however, Nat sees countless atrocities committed by White masters against their Black slaves, many of the same that are committed against himself and the slaves at Turner's and other plantations.  Seeing himself as God's chosen instrument of freedom, Nat gathers trusted followers and prepares for a sign to lead a rebellion.

The 21st century has seen a rise in the number of African-Americans and people of color behind the camera in the American film industry.  The result is two great American films about slavery, one being the “Best Picture” Oscar-winner, 12 Years a Slave.  A second is The Birth of a Nation from writer-director Nate Parker.  However, this film was overshadowed by Parker's past (alleged rape charges that led to a trial in which Parker was acquitted – 1999 to 2001).

It is a shame that controversy overshadowed a film that is one of best of the decade, but it is also a truly unique film.  There are many powerful performances in this film:  Parker as Nat Turner, Penelope Ann Miller as Elizabeth Turner; Aunjanue Ellis as Nancy Turner; Aja Naomi King as Cherry Turner; Esther Scott as Bridget Turner; and Colman Domingo as Hark Turner.

For all those fine performances, what makes The Birth of the Nation 2016 unique is that it is like a folk tale or a fairy tale, as much as it is a period drama or biographical film.  Parker and Jean McGianni Celestin, who co-wrote the film's story, seem to approach Nat Turner as both a figure of history and of myth.  African-Americans, Black slaves, and White people (slave owners and otherwise) had and have different interpretations of Turner and his rebellion.

Thus, The Birth of the Nation 2016 clearly demarcates the line between good and evil; kindness and hate; and good and greed.  However, the righteousness of, the success of, and/or the meaning of Nat Turner's actions and his rebellion are left up to interpretation.  One can say the same about this film because it is a bold vision that demands the viewer grapple beyond viewing it as entertainment or as a pastime.  It is a story about the story of our nation, the good ol' U.S. of A, and how one sees the nations will affect how one views this film.

This film is built on powerful visuals that tell the story, more than it is the script that tells the story.  The visuals are not about sensation, but are about narrative.  The Birth of a Nation 2016 is a counter-myth to the story of the United States of America.

9 of 10

Friday, January 5, 2018

2017 Black Reel Awards:  6 nominations: “Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture” (Nate Parker), “Outstanding Director, Motion Picture” (Nate Parker), “Outstanding Screenplay, Motion Picture” (Nate Parker), “Outstanding Ensemble” (Andrea Craven, Craig Fincannon, Lisa Mae Fincannon, Mary Vernieu, and Michelle Wade Byrd), “Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Female” (Aja Naomi King), and “Outstanding Score” (Henry Jackman)

2017 Image Awards:  6 nominations:  “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Independent Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Nate Parker), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Aja Naomi King), “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture-Film” (Nate Parker), and “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture-Film” (Nate Parker)

The text is copyright © 2018 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Friday, September 30, 2016

"I Love Dick," "The Tick," Among New Greenlights from Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios Greenlights Three New Series for Prime Video

I Love Dick, Jean-Claude Van Johnson and The Tick will become Amazon Original Series and will debut next year exclusively for Amazon Prime members

Most recent pilot season was the most watched ever and Jean-Claude Van Johnson and The Tick were available on Twitch

New series come from visionary creators and producers including Peter Atencio, Ben Edlund, Barry Josephson, Ridley Scott, and Jill Soloway, and star notable actors that include Kevin Bacon, Peter Serafinowicz, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kathryn Hahn, and Jackie Earle Haley

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon Studios today announced I Love Dick, Jean-Claude Van Johnson and The Tick have been greenlit to become Amazon Original Series. The new series will premiere exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in 2017 in the US, UK, Germany, Austria, and Japan for Amazon Prime members to watch as part of their membership via the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices including Fire TV, and mobile devices, or online at

    “It’s rewarding to see customers embrace them in such a huge way. We can’t wait to premiere these series next year on Prime Video.”

“These pilots were vast in scope, disruptive in tone, challenging in story and sometimes even funny,” said Joe Lewis, Head of Half-Hour Series, Amazon Studios. “It’s rewarding to see customers embrace them in such a huge way. We can’t wait to premiere these series next year on Prime Video.”

The new half hour series include I Love Dick, based on the renowned feminist novel about a couple’s marital struggles in the artistic and academic community of Marfa, Texas; Jean-Claude Van Johnson, where martial arts film star Jean-Claude Van Damme operates under the alias of “Jean-Claude Van Johnson” to serve as the most dangerous undercover private contractor in the world; and The Tick, an offbeat and dark superhero tale based on the acclaimed comic. Customers can watch the pilot episodes at

I Love Dick

Adapted from the cult classic, I Love Dick—referred to as “the most important book about men and women written in the last century" (Emily Gould, The Guardian)—is set in a colorful intellectual community in Marfa, Texas. Chris (Kathryn Hahn, Transparent) and Sylvere (Griffin Dunne, Dallas Buyers Club) arrive in Marfa when Sylvere is offered a fellowship to finish a book he's been writing on the Holocaust. When they meet Dick (Kevin Bacon, The Following), he taunts their imaginations and upends their preconceptions about love and monogamy. An exploration of the female gaze and how we tell stories about love and desire, I Love Dick charts the evolution of a marriage, the awakening of an artist and the deification of a writer named Dick. I Love Dick is executive produced by Jill Soloway (Transparent), Andrea Sperling (Transparent), and Sarah Gubbins (Ten Aker Wood). The pilot was directed by Soloway and written by Gubbins.

Jean-Claude Van Johnson
If you need to eliminate a political rival, debilitate a multinational corporation, or overthrow an entire government—and you need it done with the utmost secrecy—there’s only one person to turn to: one of the most internationally recognizable movie stars in the history of film. Jean-Claude Van Johnson stars Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) playing “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” a global martial arts and film sensation…and, operating under the simple alias of “Johnson,” the most dangerous undercover private contractor in the world. Lucky for the world’s bad guys, he’s been retired for years…unlucky for them, a chance encounter with a lost love is about to bring him back to the game…and this time, he’ll be deadlier than ever. Probably.

The pilot for Jean-Claude Van Johnson starred Van Damme along with Kat Foster (Your Family or Mine), Moises Arias (The Middle), and Phylicia Rashad (Creed). The show is executive produced by Peter Atencio (Key and Peele), Ridley Scott (The Good Wife), David W. Zucker (The Man in the High Castle) and Van Damme. From Scott Free Productions, the pilot was directed by Atencio, and written and created by Dave Callaham (Mortal Kombat).

The Tick

In a world where superheroes have been real for decades, an underdog accountant with zero powers comes to realize his city is owned by a global super villain long-thought dead. As he struggles to uncover this conspiracy, he falls in league with a strange blue superhero. The pilot for The Tick starred Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy), Griffin Newman (Vinyl), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Valorie Curry (House of Lies), Yara Martinez (Jane the Virgin) and Brendan Hines (Scorpion). The Tick is executive produced by Ben Edlund (Supernatural), Barry Josephson (Bones) and Barry Sonnenfeld (A Series of Unfortunate Events), directed by Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight), and written by Edlund. The Tick is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television.

About Amazon Video
Amazon Video is a premium on-demand entertainment service that offers customers the greatest choice in what to watch, and how to watch it. Amazon Video is the only service that provides all of the following:

  •     Prime Video: Thousands of movies and TV episodes, including popular licensed content plus critically-acclaimed and award-winning Amazon Original Series and Movies from Amazon Studios like Transparent, The Man in the High Castle, Chi Raq, and kids series Tumble Leaf available for unlimited streaming as part of an Amazon Prime membership
  •     Add-on Subscriptions: Dozens of subscriptions to networks like SHOWTIME, STARZ and more, available to Amazon Prime members as add-ons to their membership
  •     Rent or Own: Hundreds of thousands of titles, including new-release movies and current TV shows available for on-demand rental or purchase for all Amazon customers
  •     Instant Access: Instantly watch anytime, anywhere through the Amazon Video app on TVs, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and Fire tablets, or online. For a list of all compatible devices visit
  •     Premium Features: Top features like 4K Ultra HD, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and mobile downloads for offline viewing

In addition to Prime Video, the Prime membership includes unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on millions of items across all categories, more than one million songs and thousands of playlists and stations with Prime Music, early access to select Lightning Deals all year long, free secure, unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive with Prime Photos, one free pre-released book a month with Kindle First, and more. To sign up for Prime or to find out more, visit:

About Amazon
Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: "RoboCop" Remake Has Lots of Ideas, but Lacks Focus

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 33 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

RoboCop (2014)
Running time:  118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense sequences of action including frenetic gun violence throughout, brief strong language, sensuality and some drug material
DIRECTOR:  José Padilha
WRITERS:  Joshua Zetumer and Edward Neumeier & Michael Miner (based upon the 1987 screenplay by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner)
PRODUCERS:  Marc Abraham and Eric Newman
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Lula Carvalho (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Peter McNulty and Daniel Rezende
COMPOSER:  Pedro Bromfman


Starring:  Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marrianne Jean-Baptiste, Samuel L. Jackson, Aimee Garcia, Patrick Garrow, and John Paul Ruttan

RoboCop is a 2014 science fiction film from director José Padilha.  The film is a remake of the Oscar-winning, 1987 film, Robocop.  The 2014 RoboCop follows a police detective who is transformed into a part-man/part-robot police officer by a powerful corporation that wants to place robot police officers all over America.

The film opens in year 2028.  Omnicorp, a division of the multinational conglomerate, OCP, specializes in “robot soldier” technology.  Omnicorp supplies the robots and drones that the United States military uses to pacify populations around the world.  Omnicorp wants to sell their product in the U.S. for civilian law enforcement, but is prohibited both by the federal Dreyfus Act and by public opinion.

Omnicorp CEO Raymond Sellars (Michael Keaton) concocts the idea of creating a new law enforcement product that blends the human police officer with the robot.  Sellars believes that this kind of police officer could really help Detroit, the crime-ravaged home city of Omnicorp.  Dr. Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), a scientist under contract to Omnicorp, believes that he can take a permanently injured police officer or solider and use him as the core of a robot policeman prototype.  He wonders, however, if he will find the kind of police officer that is perfect for his experiment.

At the Detroit Police Department, Detective Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) and his partner, Sergeant Jack Lewis (Michael K. Williams), are pursuing drug lord, Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow).  However, Vallon has an unknown number of crooked cops on his payroll, and they keep him apprised of Murphy and Lewis’ investigations.  Vallon orders Murphy killed, but Murphy survives the attempt, just barely.  Suddenly, Murphy is the perfect subject for Dr. Norton’s bid to create a part man/part machine cop, and RoboCop is born.  But how much of Alex Murphy is left inside of RoboCop, and how much of him does Omnicorp want to control?

The 1987 Robocop featured a number of thematic elements, and it contained black humor and satire, especially early in the film.  It was also a quasi-Western with RoboCop/Alex Murphy as a kind of frontier lawman facing off against heavily-armed criminals and a corrupt government all on his own.  RoboCop 2014 also includes themes about corporate manipulation of governments, the militarization of law enforcement, and the man-machine interface, among others.  There is a gallows humor about the remake, and it also has elements of the Western film.  That is where the comparisons end, for the most part.

RoboCop 2014 has a big problem in that it lacks focus.  The screenplay for the 2014 film takes almost every subplot, setting, and character from the 1987 film and makes them so important – even the elements the original film largely passed over.  For instance, Alex Murphy’s family was largely unseen, except for in flashbacks, in the 1987 film.  In the 2014 film, however, Murphy’s wife and son are important to the point of being in the way of the story.

It is almost Shakespearean the way the screenplay for the new film wants to make every supporting character and two-bit character a major player in the plot and story.  I could not help but think that more could have been done with Samuel Jackson’s Pat Novak, a Bill O’Reilly-like host of the pro-corporate, law and order television show, “The Novak Element.”  But where would he fit in an already overstuffed story?

With so many ideas and characters, RoboCop 2014 ends up without an identity.  In the original film, the title, Robocop, really meant that the movie was about Alex Murphy/RoboCop.  In the remake, the title RoboCop is practically about the idea of the “robot cop” or RoboCop.  The film is about weighing the good and the bad of having corporately-controlled robot cops patrolling the streets of America.  RoboCop/Alex Murphy just happens to be the robot cop of the moment.  Without an identity, what is RoboCop 2014?  Is it about Alex Murphy?  Is it about Omnicorp’s plans?  Is it about military technology as law enforcement?  Is this movie about corporate product as a means to uphold law and order?  Is it about Dr. Dennett Norton’s questionably experimentation on humans?

There is so much stuff in the new RoboCop that it would work better as a television series than it works as a two-hour feature film.  It is not a bad movie; it is simply packed with too many good ideas, characters, and plotlines.  That is a shame, because RoboCop 2014 is a cautionary tale.  It is a Frankenstein scenario that is relevant to our current times.  RoboCop warns us to beware of profit-driven, multi-national corporations that want to sell us permanent war and also a police state because those are the means by which they make piles of corporate cash.

For that reason, RoboCop 2014 is worth seeing.  It is a science fiction movie with a horror movie twist.  It has the thrills of an action movie, but also the chill of a scary movie that has a ring of truth to it.

6 of 10

Monday, July 14, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: "Little Children" is Social Satire at Play (Happy B'day, Jackie Earle Haley)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 87 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Little Children (2006)
Running time: 137 minutes (2 hours, 17 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong sexuality and nudity, language, and some disturbing content
DIRECTOR: Todd Field
WRITERS: Todd Field and Tom Perrotta (based upon the novel by Tom Perrotta)
PRODUCERS: Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, and Todd Field
EDITOR: Leo Trombetta
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
2007 Academy Award nominee


Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly, Gregg Edelman, Sadie Goldstein, Ty Simpkins, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville, Helen Carey, and Mary B. McCann

The lives of several suburbanites who are struggling with satisfaction intersect on the streets of their small town in director Todd Field’s Little Children.

Little Children is a 2006 drama with darkly comic undertones from director Todd Field and starring Kate Winslet. The film is based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Tom Perrotta, who also co-wrote the film’s screenplay.

Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet) is a young mother who doesn’t really know how to be a mother to her daughter, Lucy (Sadie Goldstein). She is dissatisfied with her husband, Richard (Gregg Edelman), so she starts an affair with stay-home dad, Brad Adamson (Patrick Wilson). Brad has failed the bar exam twice, much to the chagrin of his wife, Kathy (Jennifer Connelly), who while preoccupied with her career, still has time to suspect that Brad and Sarah are having an affair while using Lucy and their son Aaron (Ty Simpkins) as cover. Meanwhile, Ronnie J. McGorvey (Jackie Earle Haley), a child predator recently released from prison, has moved back in with his mother, May McGorvey (Phyllis Somerville), much to the consternation of his neighbors. The angriest resident is Larry Hedges (Noah Emmerich), a retired cop with a tragic past. Will Lyman, the voice of PBS’s “Frontline,” provides narration.

Fields seems to be of two minds in Little Children. For most of the first hour, Little Children is a satirical comedy about suburban dissatisfaction. It’s almost an anthropological study of suburbanites who are physically adults and who have taken on adult responsibilities, but who are really adolescents. The second half of Little Children is mostly a domestic drama that deals with the repercussions of immaturity, irresponsibility, and disloyalty to the nuclear family to which one belongs.

Chilling, smart, acerbic, poignant, and occasionally sly, Little Children takes a sharp look at suburban life without criticizing the lifestyle so much as it mocks how some live it. (Thanks in no small part to Will Lyman’s narration.) In that, Little Children is potent, but it has a glaring weakness. It drifts in the middle. Somewhere between transforming from a social satire to an edgy domestic drama, the narrative gets really soft. It’s enough to kill the film, before the edgy events of the second half take hold.

The performances are good, but Kate Winslet, who earned many award nominations for playing Sarah Pierce, is merely good, not great, which is good enough. (She doesn’t have to be great all the time.) On the other hand, Jackie Earle Haley makes the most of his relatively small role. He doesn’t make Ronnie a sex offender with a heart of gold. In fact, he isn’t shy about showing how dangerous Ronnie can be. Ultimately, what opens this film and what earned him so much praise, is how Haley reveals the struggle and frustrated anger that resides in a man who cannot grow a good future because he may be trapping himself in the poison ground of his dreadful, sinful past.

7 of 10

2007 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jackie Earle Haley), and “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Todd Field and Tom Perrotta)

2007 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Actress in a Leading Role” (Kate Winslet)

2007 Golden Globes, USA: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Kate Winslet), “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Todd Field and Tom Perrotta)

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review: Johnny Depp Shines in Dim "Dark Shadows"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 35 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Dark Shadows (2012)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
WRITERS: Seth Grahame-Smith; story by John August and Seth Grahame-Smith (based on the television series, Dark Shadows, created by Dan Curtis)
PRODUCERS: Christi Dembrowski, Johnny Depp, David Kennedy, Graham King, and Richard D. Zanuck
EDITOR: Chris Lebenzon
COMPOSER: Danny Elfman


Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloë Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Ray Shirley, and Christopher Lee

Dark Shadows is a 2012 gothic horror and comedy fantasy film from director Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. The film is based upon Dark Shadows, a gothic horror soap opera that was created by Dan Curtis and was originally broadcast from 1966 to 1971 on ABC. Dark Shadows the film follows a vampire who returns to his ancestral home, after two centuries of imprisonment, and finds his dysfunctional descendants in need of help.

Dark Shadows begins in the mid-1700s where we meet Joshua and Naomi Collins and their young son, Barnabas, as they sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. Joshua builds a fishing empire in Maine at a town he names Collinsport. Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) grows into a wealthy playboy, who loves and leaves numerous women. His biggest mistake is to spurn the love of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), because she is a witch. Angelique puts a curse on Barnabus, turning him into a vampire, and then, has him buried alive.

Nearly 200 years later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb into the very changed world of 1972. Returning to his family’s estate, Collinwood Manor, Barnabas finds that his relatives are now dysfunctional and not as well off financially. Family matriarch, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), rules over a small group that includes her rebellious daughter, Carolyn Stoddard (Chloë Grace Moretz), and troubled, precocious nephew, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). They need Barnabas’ help, and so he begins to revive the family fortune and the family home, but an old enemy is determined to destroy them all.

Dark Shadows is a Johnny Depp movie, as directed by Tim Burton, and Depp is brilliant as always. I couldn’t get enough of his Barnabas Collins, and neither could the screenplay. This movie is so much about Barnabas that the other characters are left in Depp/Barnabas’s considerable wake. First of all, some of the supporting characters are extraneous, like young Miss Grace’s Carolyn Stoddard and Helena Bonham Carter’s Dr. Julia Hoffman; the good doctor provides some nice comic relief, which is good, because the character is otherwise useless. Some like, Pfeiffer’s Elizabeth and young Mr. McGrath’s David, are under-utilized. Everything about the witch Angelique Bouchard is forced, and so is much of Eva Green’s performance as her.

Still, this is Depp’s show, and he creates a Barnabas that is so cool, you’ll want to be his friend (in spite of the inherent danger of being pals with a vampire). In a career full of idiosyncratic characters, Barnabas is Depp’s most endearing oddball.

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I often came across articles about Depp or director Tim Burton that described either man as quirky. Dark Shadows is quirky and also campy. It spoofs the melodrama of soap operas, and Depp’s droll, tongue-firmly-in-cheek comedy gives this sometimes awkward film a lot of humor and laughs, which it needs. Like all of Burton’s films, Dark Shadows has excellent production values, especially the costumes and set and art decoration. However, Dark Shadows is not only quirky, but also odd in its quality. It is partially a good Burton-Depp movie, but the rest of it is a misfire because of the poor screenwriting. The acting and directing cannot, try as they might, change that.

5 of 10

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" Gets Soundtrack Release on May 8th

Danny Elfman’s Dark Shadows Original Score to Be Released May 8

Film Marks 14th Collaboration Between Composer Danny Elfman And Director Tim Burton

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--WaterTower Music will release Dark Shadows – Original Score digitally and in stores on May 8, 2012. The album features original music by Grammy Award-winning and four-time Oscar®-nominated composer Danny Elfman, which is featured in director Tim Burton’s new gothic comedy Dark Shadows.

For more than 25 years, Burton and Elfman have collaborated on some of the cinema’s most beloved and recognizable films and soundtracks, including Big Fish, for which Elfman received an Oscar® nomination; Beetlejuice; Batman; Edward Scissorhands; Sleepy Hollow; Corpse Bride; and, more recently, Alice in Wonderland.

“Tim had some specific ideas about the music on Dark Shadows,” says Elfman. “I knew that the bigger dramatic scenes would be played in a rather grand theatrical manner, but the real treat was tapping into the retro pallet Tim had imagined. He wanted something that payed homage to both the original TV series and other '70s horror genres as well. For that we kept it minimal, eerie, and atmospheric with only electronics and a few solo instruments carrying the melodies.”

Elfman has also received Oscar® nominations for his scores for Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black, and Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting and Milk. Movie audiences worldwide have also heard Danny Elfman’s unique sound and style in some 80 film scores, including Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man; Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible; Martin Brest’s Midnight Run; Jon Amiel’s Sommersby; the Hughes Brothers’ Dead Presidents; Rob Marshall’s Academy® Award-winning Chicago; and Shawn Levy’s Real Steel.

In the year 1750, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin and the dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets.

Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, presents an Infinitum Nihil/GK Films/Zanuck Company production, a Tim Burton Film Dark Shadows in theaters and IMAX on May 11, 2012. “Dark Shadows” stars Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote and Gully McGrath.

The Dark Shadows -- Original Score on WaterTower Music will be available digitally and in stores on May 8, 2012; and on the same date, WaterTower Music will also be releasing the Dark Shadows –Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, containing eleven songs from the film.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: "Semi-Pro" is an Uneven Comedy (Happy B'day, Will Ferrell)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Semi-Pro (2008)
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – R for language and some sexual content
DIRECTOR: Kent Alterman
WRITER: Scot Armstrong
PRODUCER: Jimmy Miller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Shane Hurlbut (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Debra Neil-Fisher


Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, André Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Andrew Daly, Andy Richter, David Koechner, Rob Corddry, Matt Walsh, Jackie Earle Haley, DeRay Davis, Josh Braaten, Jay Phillips, Peter Cornell, and Patti LaBelle

When a comic actor hits his stride as a box office star and has a string of huge successes, he has also reached a place where everything he does afterwards will be judged by this peak. It seems as if Eddie Murphy is forever being judged by his legendary time on “Saturday Night Live,” and by his trio of early 80’s hit films: 48 Hrs., Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop. Fans and critics still think Murphy should go back to being what they think he was back then.

Will Ferrell, also the owner of a legendary SNL run, became an A-list hit-making comedy monster with a co-starring role in Old School, before having something for which most actors would sell their souls – a family hit (and a Christmas one at that) with Elf. But after a string of hit movies, will Semi-Pro be looked upon as a misfire?

It shouldn’t. Semi-Pro is quite funny, and is rich in Ferrell’s brand of tomfoolery, which will appeal to Ferrell’s fans. Semi-Pro just feels like something that could have been much better.

Set in Flint, Michigan in 1976, Semi-Pro follows the wacky exploits of Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell), who became a one-hit wonder with his groovy disco song, “Love Me Sexy.” Moon used the profits from his chart-topping success to achieve his dream of owning a basketball team. However, his Flint Michigan Tropics are the worst team in the ABA (American Basketball Association), and the league is about to fold and merge its four best teams with the NBA (National Basketball Association). The Tropics are not one of those four teams.

Now, Jackie is desperate to do what seems impossible for his lovable losers – win. He brings in Monix (Woody Harrelson), a former NBA champion to be the team’s new point guard, but Monix’s knees are practically ruined. Moon’s star player, Clarence “Coffee” Black (André Benjamin), has all-star talent, but is so self-centered that he’s stalled his career. Although he has an endless supply of wacky promotional ideas, Jackie is running out of cash, and even when they start to win, Moon and the Tropics may have already run out of time.

Like his Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Chazz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory, Will Ferrell’s Jackie Moon is a success in his chosen field, but that is surpassed by his arrogance, conceit, and inanity, which makes for a lovable comic character. For all the laughs Ferrell’s Moon gives Semi-Pro, the film is best when it lets the other guys get in on the fun.

Watching this motley crew of sub-par basketball players, sad addicts, crazy announcers, and assorted oddballs gas and sass each other is a good time at the movies. The characters are untidy, but like the film, they feel familiar. They’re not at the top of the heap, but they aren’t necessarily losers; they’re semi-regular guys just trying to get their piece. Each character brings something good to Semi-Pro in the way he or she walks, talks, and looks, but the film spends too much time on Ferrell making goofy faces, as funny as that might be.

Semi-Pro sits somewhere between sports melodrama and parody. Ferrell sells the parody, but if only the filmmakers had allowed the supporting cast to build the melodrama. Then, Semi-Pro would be the kind of memorable comedy/drama that great sports films like Bull Durham and The Longest Yard (1974) are, and not just another funny Will Ferrell movie.

6 of 10

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tim Burton Begins Filming "Dark Shadows" with Johnny Depp

Filming Begins on Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows”

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter head an all-star cast.

BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Filming begins this week on Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ “Dark Shadows,” which brings the cult classic television series to the big screen under the direction of Tim Burton. The film’s all-star ensemble cast includes Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Moretz, and newcomer Gulliver McGrath.

In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) has the world at his feet—or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Brouchard (Eva Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive.

Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles.

Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth’s ne’er-do-well brother, Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Moretz); and Roger’s precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis, played by Jackie Earle Haley, and David’s new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.

Burton is directing and producing “Dark Shadows” from a screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, story by John August and Grahame-Smith, based on the television series created by Dan Curtis. Also producing are Oscar® winner Richard D. Zanuck (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Driving Miss Daisy”), continuing his long association with Burton; Oscar® winner Graham King (“Rango,” “The Departed”), continuing his collaboration with Depp; Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski, and David Kennedy. The executive producers are Chris Lebenzon, Nigel Gostelow, Tim Headington, and Bruce Berman.

The behind-the-scenes creative team includes cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, Oscar®-winning production designer Rick Heinrichs (“Sleepy Hollow”), Oscar®-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (“Alice in Wonderland”) and editor Chris Lebenzon (“Alice in Wonderland”). The score will be composed by Danny Elfman.

“Dark Shadows” is being filmed entirely in England, both at Pinewood Studios and on location.

“Dark Shadows” will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

New "Nightmare on Elm Street" Scary for Real

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Running time: 95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror and language
DIRECTOR: Samuel Bayer
WRITERS: Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer; from a story by Wesley Strick (based on the story and characters created by Wes Craven)
PRODUCERS: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Bradley Fuller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeff Cutter (director of photography)
EDITOR: Glen Scantlebury


Starring: Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, and Clancy Brown

The new film, A Nightmare on Elm Street, is, of course, a remake of the 1984 horror classic of the same title. While people unfamiliar with the original can certainly enjoy this film (and will), I think that it is better if you have seen the original because you can better appreciate the new ideas. The 2010 return to Elm Street is less a remake than it is a re-imagining or retelling of a beloved ghost story in a way that adds fresh fear to boogeyman.

After the peculiar death of a classmate, a group of teenagers in suburban (and fictional), Springwood, Ohio, discover that they have more in common than they ever imagined. First, a horribly disfigured killer is hunting the teens in their dreams. Secondly, he may a mysterious man named Freddy Krueger (Jackie Earle Haley), a dark figure from a shared past they didn’t even know they had. When one of them, Nancy Holbrook (Rooney Mara), discovers that she is of particular interest to Freddy, she joins forces with the smart kid, Quentin Smith (Kyle Gallner), to stop Freddy before he kills them all.

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 could have dutifully grinded out the usual thrills of a routine horror movie – people jumping from around corners, monsters suddenly sliding into view from outside the picture frame, pets knocking down knick-knacks to make sounds that chill the blood, etc. This new Nightmare is more thoughtful, and the familiar scare tactics have a delightfully, chilling new edge to them. That’s not just because CGI can exploit the landscape of dreams and nightmares and do things that writer/director Wes Craven could not have done in the original film.

As the new Freddy, Academy Award-nominee Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) is so malevolent and menacing as Krueger that he actually seems to embody the remorseless killer. Haley is able to do something that the original Freddy, Robert Englund, was probably not allowed to do – make it obvious that Freddy has a hard-on for murder and a taste for slashing up mommy and daddy’s pride and joy. Freddy’s murderous impulses aren’t just about revenge; they’re also about perversion.

This movie feels like everyone involved – the filmmakers, the creative crew, and the cast – really wanted to make a good film. Director Samuel Bayer (who directed the music video for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” among many others) explores the range of color, sound, design, movement, staging, etc. and creates a scary moving picture that is genuine unsettling. Bayer’s A Nightmare on Elm Street is like a bad dream that you want to leave because you know that there is absolutely going to be some screwed up stuff happening. If a director wants to get fans off his back about remaking a beloved horror flick, this is the way to do it; give them a brutal bonbon like this new Nightmare.

Bayer had a good script from which to work. Writers Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer bring more dark magic to Freddy Krueger, presenting new ideas about how Freddy can stalk and kill even when his victims are not sleeping.

Ultimately, what really sells this movie is the young cast playing the teens. Maybe no one told them that the Screen Actors Guild is unlikely to hand out an “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” nomination (let alone a win) to the cast of a horror movie. As an ensemble, however, I believe they were as earnest and as hard working for Bayer as they would be for Martin Scorsese. This is the art of the convincing performance.

I wouldn’t put A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 next to an outright horror masterpiece like The Exorcist, but this suspenseful, blood-freezing treat is the real deal in horror flicks.

7 of 10

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: "WATCHMEN" Movie is Too Big to Fail, But Fails Anyway

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 25 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Watchmen (2009)
Running time: 162 minutes (2 hours, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity and language
DIRECTOR: Zack Snyder
WRITERS: David Hayter and Alex Tse (based upon the comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
PRODUCERS: Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin, and Deborah Snyder
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Larry Fong (director of photography)
EDITOR: William Hoy


Starring: Malin Ackerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer, Stephen McHattie, Laura Mennell, and William Taylor

Watchmen was a 12-issue limited comic book series written by Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) and drawn by Dave Gibbons. Published over 1986 and 1987, DC Comics eventually collected the series into a single volume trade paperback. Afterwards, Watchmen came to be known as a “graphic novel,” eventually being included in TIME magazine’s 2005 list, “ALL TIME 100 Greatest Novels.”

Various Hollywood figures had been plotting since 1986, the year of the comic book’s release, to turn Watchmen into a film. People previously involved with this project include such names as Joel Silver, Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, and Paul Greengrass. After numerous starts and stops, Watchmen, the movie, finally debuted in March 2009 and amounted to a large, expensive fart. Warner Bros. Pictures called the film’s director, Zack Snyder (300), a visionary, which must be Hollywood parlance for hack.

Watchmen is set in 1985 in an alternate version of the United States. The “Doomsday Clock,” which charts American’s tension with the Soviet Union, is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. Tensions between the two superpowers has escalated to the point that they are on the brink nuclear war. Costumed superheroes are also part of this alternate world. In fact, because of a superhero named Doctor Manhattan (Billy Crudup), the U.S. won the Vietnam War. This allowed Richard Nixon (Robert Wisden) to repeal term limits laws and win a third term as President of the United States. By the 1980s, however, the outpouring of anti-vigilante sentiment caused Congress to outlaw superheroes.

The most famous superheroes are the Watchmen. When one of them, the Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is murdered, a colleague, the masked vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), sets out to uncover what he believes is a plot by an unknown “mask killer” to kill former superheroes. What Rorschach uncovers is a wide-ranging conspiracy linked to the other Watchmen: Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), the smartest man in the world who is also self-made super rich; the godlike Dr. Manhattan; his girlfriend, the ass-kicking Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre (Malin Ackerman); and Daniel Dreiberg, the Batman-like Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson). It is a conspiracy that could destroy or save the world.

Watchmen is mostly a failure as a drama because it lacks emotional resonance. Except for a few moments of the film – the relationship between Dan Dreiberg and Laurie Jupiter and Laurie’s relationship with her mother Sally Jupiter (Carla Gugino), among them – Watchmen is flat. The characters come across as if they were lead figures being slide across a board game. They are poorly developed and bloated rather than lively.

As an action film, Watchmen lacks the high energy of an action flick because the few action scenes that this movie has feel as if they were dropped in to punch up this contrived screen story. However, such scenes as Nite Owl and Silk Spectre’s rescue at the burning tenement and their mission to free Rorschach from prison are quite good.

Watchmen pretends to have something to say about the human condition, the state of the world, the manifestation of the superhuman in society, the threat of annihilation, etc., but the film lacks any sociological context. In spite of its references to real world events, the film feels empty, as if its references are more about image than substance. Characters meant to have significance – such as Watchmen’s version of Richard Nixon (played by an actor wearing a ridiculous prosthetic nose) and Henry Kissinger – are just stick figures and caricatures occupying the screen until the main Watchmen characters come back. The filmmakers use songs and famous recordings by Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, to convey the appropriate socio-political themes and messages, because the script is too retarded to do that.

Watchmen feels empty. It is like a giant art or creative project that is impressive because of the materials and technical expertise used to make it, but is ultimately devoid of meaning or substance. It is confounding in its emptiness and shallowness and is actually the opposite of cerebral. When it tries to be compelling – especially during the big reveal in the final act – it is laughable. Where Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons original comic book was daring, Watchmen the film is often boring and sadly, disappointingly staged and stuffy. The great original is now an embalmed big budget Hollywood misfire. The few moments of genuine goodness that Watchmen has are not worth watching a movie that is almost three hours long.

3 of 10

Friday, April 23, 2010


Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Leonardo DiCaprio Elevates "Shutter Island"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Shutter Island (2010)
Running time: 138 minutes (2 hours, 18 minutes)
MPAA – R for disturbing violent content, language and some nudity
DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese
WRITER: Laeta Kalogridis (based on the novel by Dennis Lehane)
PRODUCERS: Mike Medavoy, Arnold W. Messer, Bradley J. Fischer and Martin Scorsese
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Richardson, ASC (D.o.P)
EDITOR: Thelma Schoonmaker

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Max von Sydow, Jackie Earle Haley, Ted Levine, John Carroll Lynch, Elias Koteas, and Curtiss Cook

Shutter Island is the fourth film uniting Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese (The Departed) and multiple Oscar-nominated actor, Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator). Based on the best-selling novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone), Shutter Island is a psychological-mystery thriller set entirely on a fortress-like island housing a hospital for the criminally insane. As I watched this engaging, haunting tale, I certainly understood what the term, “riveting” means when applied to movies. I also watched an outstanding actor take a good film and make the story work on so many more levels than it could have without him.

Shutter Island is set in the year 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) are summoned to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando. Solando, who drowned her three children, disappeared from a locked room within the impenetrable Ashecliffe Hospital. Teddy and Chuck arrive at the remote, windswept isle and find the situation tense, and an eerie, volatile atmosphere suggests nothing is quite what it seems. Psychopathic patients surround them and the brilliant Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) psychoanalyzes Teddy and Chuck’s every move, even as he presses them to find Solando.

As the investigation moves forward, a hurricane bearing down on the island escalates. Teddy’s suspicions about both the facility and the investigation begin to grow as he uncovers hints and rumors of sordid medical experiments and secret wards within the hospital. But the more he digs into this mystery, the more Teddy realizes that he may never leave Shutter Island alive.

Without giving too much more about Shutter Island, I can say that both Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio deliver their usual high quality work. For Scorsese, Shutter Island is a chance to make an existential terror film in the tradition of the films of producer Val Lewton (Cat People). In a way, Shutter Island is less about story and more about genre. This movie is an exploration of the conventions of genres like Film-Noir and the detective thriller, and it also plays on the styles and themes of old Hollywood thrillers that focus on the psychology of the characters.

As good as Shutter Island is, what makes it a great film is Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance. DiCaprio sells the viewer on everything about Teddy Daniels, his habits, facial ticks, demeanor, belief system, conflicts, dilemmas, struggles, and even Teddy’s sharp, off-kilter sense of humor, founded in part on a world view shaped by his time as a serviceman during World War II. I am not trying to diminish Scorsese’s contribution; it is no coincidence that DiCaprio has delivered great performances in all four of the movies that he has made with Scorsese. Whatever one might say about Scorsese, he is an actor’s director, and he finds ways to get intense, terrific performances from all his actors – from the most talented to the ordinary.

But Shutter Island is ultimately all about Teddy Daniels. Its success as a taut, riveting thriller that grabs the viewer and holds him until the very end rests in DiCaprio. Because he has us enthralled by his performance, DiCaprio also has us as engrossed with this mystery and as we are absorbed with Teddy. Shutter Island’s resolution will no doubt leave many viewers with questions, but there is also no doubt that this is one of those occasions when the lead actor is so good that he makes even a terrific movie unforgettable and special.

9 of 10

Monday, March 15, 2010


Saturday, February 6, 2010

On Jackie Earle Haley

At the Comic Book Bin, columnist Philip Schweier writes an appreciation of former child star and now in-demand actor Jackie Earle Haley.