Showing posts with label Peter Berg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Berg. Show all posts

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Negromancer News Bits and Bites from December 8th to 14th, 2019- Update #25

by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

Support Leroy on Patreon:

TELEVISION - From Deadline:  Orlando Jones says that he was fired from  Starz's "American Gods" for having "the wrong message for black America."  Gabrielle Union, fired from NBC's "America's Got Talent" for her being a "difficult" black woman shouts out to him.

STREAMING - From THR:  Amazon has paid 25 million dollars for a Peter Berg-directed music documentary starring Rihanna.

STREAMING - From YahooEntertainment:  Netflix is running a Christmas comedy special from Brazil, entitled "The First Temptation of Christ," which apparently implies that Jesus Christ was gay.  More than a million angry viewers have signed a petition demanding that Netflix remove it its service.

STREAMING - From IndieWire:  Here is a detailed article about what is known about Amazon's secretive "The Lord of the Rings" TV series.  By the way, it is a prequel set thousands of years before the events depicted in the original "The Lord of the Rings" novels and films.

GOLDEN GLOBES - From IndieWire:  "Queen & Slim" director Melina Matsoukas says "Golden Globe" voters refused to watch her film prior to voting for the awards.  Members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who vote for the Globes, were offered three screening, which hardly any members attended, according to the direction and the film's distributor, Universal Pictures.

From Patreon:  Here is my review of "Queen and Slim."

SCANDAL - From Deadline:  The proposed settlement between Harvey Weinstein, his former company, and the women accusing him of sexual misconduct is causing controversy.  It seems Weinstein's legal fees would be paid and he would not have to admit guilt.

AWARDS - From Deadline:  The nominations for the 26th Screen Actors Guild Awards have been announced. The winners will be announced January 19, 2020 live on TBS and TNT cable networks.

MOVIES - From Deadline:  The U.S. Library of Congress has added 25 films to the "National Film Registry," and that includes Prince's musical semi-autobiographical film, "Purple Rain" (1984).  A record seven films directed by women were added, including Kimberly Pierce's "Boy's Don't Cry" (1999) and Elaine May's "A New Leaf" (1971), the first film from a major American studio in which a woman was the star, writer, and director.

MARVEL TV - From Deadline:  Marvel Television, which produces live-action and animated TV series based on Marvel Comics titles is being shut down.

TELEVISION - From Deadline:  Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" is being developed as a miniseries for Showtime.  It will be written and executive produced by Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.

ANIMATION - From THR:  Vin Diesel debuts "Fast & Furious: Spy Racers," a Netflix original series based on the "Fast & Furious" film franchise.  Produced by DreamWorks and Universal Pictures, the series features Diesel's daughter, Similce, as a voice performer.

TRAILER - From YouTube:  See first official trailer for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife."

COMICS-TRAILER - From YouTube:  Here is the first official trailer for "Wonder Woman 1984."

AWARDS - From Deadline:  The nominations for the 2020 / 77th Golden Globe Awards have been announced.

BOX OFFICE - From BoxOfficeMojo:  The winner of the 12/6 to 12/8/2019 weekend box office is "Frozen II" with an estimated take of 34.7 million dollars.  This is the third straight weekend at #1 for the Walt Disney Animation Studios sequel.

From THR:  "Harriet," the biographical drama about abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has grossed more than 40 million dollars at the domestic box office.  That makes it one of the most successful biographical dramas for Focus Features, a specialty film label.

CELEBRITY - From YahooCBS:  For "CBS Sunday Morning" (Sun., Dec. 8th) Turner Classic Movies' host Bill Mankiewicz interviewed Mel Brools on comedy, on love (his late wife, Anne Bancroft), and on his films (especially "Blazing Saddles").

AWARDS - From Deadline:  The Los Angeles Film Critics Association name "Parasite" the "Best Picture of 2019," with the film's director, Bong Joon Ho, "Best Director."

From Deadline:  The nominations for the 25th Critics Choice Awards (formerly known as the "Broadcast Film Critics Association") in both film and TV categories have been announced.  Netflix and its film, "The Irishman" lead the nominations.

SCANDAL - From Variety:  The firing of actress Gabrielle Union from the reality-competition TV series, "America's Got Talent" (NBC) continues to be a firestorm.  Now, the show's executive producer and main judge, Simon Cowell, has hired an attorney as investigations, both internal and external, continue into the show's off-camera culture.

MOVIES - From LATimes:   Veteran (and some times reviled) film critic, Kenneth Turan, names his ten best films of 2019.


From THR:  The actor Danny Aiello has died at the age of 86, Thursday, December 12, 2019.  He is best known as Cher's lovelorn suitor in "Moonstruck" (1987) and as "Sal" the pizza joint owner in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" (1989), for which he earned a best supporting actor Oscar nomination.  Aiello won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1981 for his appearance on the "ABC Afterschool Special" in 1980.

From CNN:  Swedish pop singer, songwriter, and recording artist, Marie Fredriksson, has died at the age of 61, Monday, December 9, 2019.  She was best known as a member of the Swedish pop music duo, "Roxette," which has a string of hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including "The Look" and "It Must Have Been Love."  She also recorded as a solo artist from 1984 to 2018.

From Deadline:  The actor Rene Auberjonois has died at the age of 79, Sunday, December 8, 2019.  Auberjonois is best known for two roles.  He was Clayton Endicott III on ABC's sitcom, "Benson" (1979-1986).  He was "Odo" on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993-1999).  He was also a prolific voice actor in animated TV series and films ("The Little Mermaid."

From Deadline:   The actor Ron Leibman has died at the age of 82, Friday, December 6, 2019.  He won a Tony Award for playing infamous attorney, Roy Cohn, in the play, "Angels in America: Millennium Approaches."  He won an Emmy Award for his starring role in the short-lived CBS crime drama, "Kaz" (1978-79).


From EW:  Marvel Studios releases the first official teaser trailer and a poster for its next feature film, "Black Widow," which is set for release, May 1, 2020.

From THR:  The first official trailer for the next James Bond movie, "No Time to Die," makes it debut.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: Wahlberg and Berg Drive "Lone Survivor"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 8 (of 2017) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lone Survivor (2013)
Running time:  121 minutes (2 hours, 1 minute)
MPAA – R for strong bloody war violence and pervasive language
DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg
WRITER:  Peter Berg (based on the book by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson)
PRODUCERS:  Sarah Aubrey, Peter Berg, Randall Emmett, Akiva Goldsman, Vitaly Grigoriants, Norton Herrick, Stephen Levinson, Barry Spikings, and Mark Wahlberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Tobias Schliessler (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Colby Parker Jr.
COMPOSERS:  Explosions in the Sky and Steve Jablonsky
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, Yousuf Azami, Ali Suliman, Eric Bana, Alexander Ludwig, Jerry Ferrar, and Rohan Chand

Lone Survivor is a 2013 war film written and directed by Peter Berg.  The film is an adaptation of the 2007 nonfiction book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, written  Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson.  The film is a dramatization of a failed 2005 mission to kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan and also of Luttrell and his teammates fight to survive after the mission goes bad.

Lone Survivor opens in Afghanistan at the Bagram Air Base.  There is an Afghan Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami), who is responsible for killing over twenty United States Marines, as well as villagers and refugees who were aiding American forces.  The Navy SEALs are ordered to capture or kill Shah, and as part of the mission, a four-man SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team gets the task of tracking down Shah and killing him.

That SEAL team:  leader Michael P. “Murph” Murphy (Taylor Kitsch); snipers Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and Matthew "Axe" Axelson (Ben Foster); and communications specialist, Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), are inserted into a mountainous region near Shah's base of operations.  The team finds Shah, but the mission inadvertently goes awry.  The SEALs attempt to leave the area, but are forced to battle Taliban forces.  Injured, outnumbered, and at a tactical disadvantage, the SEALs begin a valiant struggle to survive.

Lone Survivor has visceral power, which it reveals in the way it brings the Navy SEALs mission to kill Shah to life.  Director Peter Berg and film editor Colby Parker Jr. bring the viewers deep into the action, so much so that I started to believe that the Taliban was also hunting me.

However, the film's first 34 minutes are largely about military jargon and also about forcing heavy-handed jingoism about the United States' military mission and presence in Afghanistan on the viewer.  Truthfully, Lone Survivor avoids any examination about the U.S. presence in that country.  The movie is strictly about  (1) the mission, (2) military courage, (3) the band-of-brothers ethos in the U.S. military, (4) how great the SEALs are, and (5) survival.  Lone Survivor is not so much a story as it is the depiction of a moment or perhaps, of a particularly memorable sequence of events in the history of the “War on Terror” in Afghanistan.

I think that writer/director Peter Berg attempts to dazzle his audience with muscular, physical film making and with a story of a grueling struggle to survive.  I think this makes the film light on characterization, but heavy on stereotypes and assumptions.  By the time the film presented friendly natives, it was hard for me to believe they were friendly because, except for a child character, everyone seemed like a dangerous brown person.

Still, I am impressed by Mark Wahlberg's performance.  Unable to show a deeper side of Marcus Luttrell, Wahlberg turns himself into a battered-and-bruised wounded warrior in order to make us like Luttrell.  It's like Wahlberg is channeling Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995).  Peter Berg slyly sets us up for cathartic release when the cavalry shows up to rescue the lone survivor.  It's a cheat, but I guess you do what you have to in order to make a shallow script into a good movie.  And Lone Survivor, in its own way, is indeed a good movie.

7 of 10

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2014 Academy Awards, USA:  2 nominations:  “Best Achievement in Sound Mixing” (Andy Koyama, Beau Borders, and David Brownlow) and “Best Achievement in Sound Editing” (Wylie Stateman)

The text is copyright © 2017 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Serena Williams the Subject of New EPIX Documentary

EPIX Serves Up Original Documentary ‘Serena’

Set to Make Its World Television Premiere on June 22, 2016 at 8pm ET/PT, 7C

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Premium TV network EPIX® announced today that the EPIX Original Documentary Serena, an intimate portrait of 4-time Olympic Gold Medalist and International sports icon Serena Williams, will make its World Television Premiere on EPIX on June 22, 2016 at 8pm ET/PT, 7C. The feature-length documentary provides viewers with unprecedented access inside the world of the athlete-designer-businesswoman, including day-in-the-life interactions with her family and friends, plus her most trusted colleagues and fiercest competitors. Shot verité style – Serena explores the pressures that come with being number one in the world, and Williams unflinching commitment and drive to succeed, ultimately emphasizing the humanity under all of her accomplishments.

Mark S. Greenberg, President and CEO of EPIX, said: “Serena is a personal journey during which we are privileged to follow one woman’s incredible march to achieve a level of greatness that so few tennis players have achieved in the history of the sport. The film presents us with a captivating vision of this world-class athlete while offering the viewer rare insight into what makes Serena Williams the person she is beyond the court. Serena transcends the world of tennis and is sure to fascinate viewers across the country.”

Remarked Serena Williams: "2015 was a defining time in my life and career. I think my story will be relatable to audiences whether you love tennis or not. It’s a story of perseverance, failure and triumph. It’s the most intimate I’ve ever allowed myself to be on film. It was a scary but ultimately really gratifying experience, which I’m hoping inspires others to pursue their dreams. I’m really grateful to EPIX for this incredible opportunity and the care they’ve shown me. Can’t wait for you all to see it."

For Serena, the documentary team was provided unparalleled access. Viewers will be witness to the external pressures and vulnerabilities Williams faces in her quest to achieve four Grand Slams in a row (a “Serena Slam”), and her losses at the 2015 U.S. Open and 2016 Australian Open. In addition, the film takes an unprecedented look at Williams’ life off the court as the filmmakers capture intimate and unguarded moments with her family and inner circle of coaches, trainers and friends.

Join the conversation about Serena on Twitter with #Serena and visit

Serena, an EPIX Original Documentary is produced by Matthew Goldberg and Brandon Carroll – Film 45, and directed by Ryan White. The executive producer is Peter Berg. Jocelyn Diaz, Ross Bernard and Jill Burkhart are the executive producers for EPIX. Valerie Bishop is the producer for EPIX.

For photos and more information about EPIX programming log on to:

About EPIX
EPIX is a premium entertainment network delivering the latest movie releases, the biggest classic film franchises, original documentaries, comedy and music events on TV, on demand, online and on digital devices. Launched in October 2009, EPIX has pioneered the development and proliferation of “TV Everywhere.” It was the first premium network to provide multi-platform access to its content online at and to launch on Xbox, PlayStation®, Android phones and tablets, and Roku® players. EPIX is also available across Chromecast, Apple® iPhones® and iPads®, Android TV and more and is the only premium service providing all its programming on all platforms, delivering more movies than any other premium network, with thousands of titles available for streaming.

EPIX is a joint venture between Viacom Inc., its Paramount Pictures unit, Lionsgate and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. (MGM). Through relationships with cable, satellite and telco partners, EPIX is available to over 50 million homes nationwide. For more information about EPIX, go Follow EPIX on Twitter @EpixHD ( and on Facebook (, YouTube (, Instagram (, Google+ (, Pinterest ( and Vine (


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Entertaining "Hercules" is Old-Fashioned and a Bit Different

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 2 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Hercules (2014)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA - PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity
DIRECTOR:  Brett Ratner
WRITERS:  Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos (based on the Radical Studios Hercules: The Thracian War comic book written by Steve Moore)
PRODUCERS:  Beau Flynn, Barry Levine, and Brett Ratner
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Dante Spinotti (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Mark Helfrich and Julia Wong
COMPOSERS:  Fernando Velázquez and Johannes Vogel (score composer)


Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Joseph Fiennes, Tobias Santelmann, Peter Mullan, Rebecca Ferguson, Karoline Szymczak, and Isaac Andrews

Hercules is a 2014 fantasy drama and action-adventure film from director Brett Ratner.  This film presents a new take on the mythical Greek hero, Hercules, and the film's story is based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars, a graphic novel written by the late Steve Moore.  In this Hercules movie, Hercules and his band of mercenaries enter the service of a Thracian lord who is fighting a bloodthirsty warlord.  Of note, director Peter Berg is one of this film's executive producers.

This movie finds Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) as the leader of a band of mercenaries:  the prophet, Amphiaraus (Ian McShane); the knife-throwing thief, Autolycus (Rufus Sewell); the feral warrior, Tydeus (Aksel Hennie); the Amazon archer, Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal); and Hercules' nephew, Iolaus (Reece Ritchie), a storyteller.   It is the year, 358 B.C., and they are on the Macedonian Coast in Northern Greece, paid to dispatch troublesome pirates.

Shortly after that mission, Hercules and his band are celebrating at a tavern where they are approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson) with the offer of a new mission.  She has come to Hercules on behalf of her father, Lord Cotys (John Hurt) of East Thracia.  Cotys wants Hercules to lead his army against Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann), a bloodthirsty warlord said to have mystical powers.  The legend of his “twelve labors” precedes Hercules, and the people expect supernatural results from him in dealing with the mysterious Rheseus.  All is not what it seems, however.

The trailers, commercials, and advertisements do not do justice to Hercules.  I am not going to lie to you and say that this is a great movie, but Hercules is an old-fashioned, action-adventure movie that manages to be both different and quite entertaining.  The film has dramatic heft because the story engages Hercules' shame and grief, and also the nature of his personality as related to the legends about him.  The story also delves deeply into Hercules' relationships with his band of mercenaries, as a whole and as individuals.  They are a family, and the story allows each member of this family to reveal his or her's personality and desires (or goals).

The advertising for Hercules emphasized the battle scenes, and the trailers made Hercules look like a Conan the Barbarian movie set in Greek antiquity.  However, this Hercules is not quite swords-and-sandals (or swords-and-sorcery, for that matter), but there are indeed two battles fought directly against Rheseus' forces.  These two battle sequences are fantastically staged.  I wish that they were longer, or that there was a third fight out on the battlefield.

Early in this film, Dwayne Johnson looks bored as Hercules, and he may be.  On the other hand, I think that his attitude is a deliberate choice of performing the character on the part of Johnson.  Having experienced the fickleness of the gods or perhaps of existence, Johnson's Hercules does not take everything so seriously that every professional setback seems like the end of the world.  Hercules and his friends take each job as it comes, with a jaundiced eye toward the declared motivations of potential buyers of their services.

Director Brett Ratner takes that and makes a Hercules that is spirited and fun, but not shallow.  It is a film not overwhelmed by computer generated imagery, environments, and actions.  The CGI simply enhances the fantasy, while the story stays grounded.  So Hercules is the kind of solidly-entertaining action-adventure that is worth repeated viewings.  And yeah, I'd like a sequel.

6 of 10

Monday, January 12, 2015

The text is copyright © 2015 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Hercules" Starring Dwayne Johnson on DVD and Blu-ray November 4th, 2014

Dwayne Johnson Stars in the Rollicking, Action-Packed Epic HERCULES, Debuting on Blu-Ray™ & Blu-Ray 3D™ Combo Pack November 4, 2014 with Theatrical and Extended Cut

“Dwayne Johnson was born for this role.” —Scott Bowles, USA Today

HOLLYWOOD--(BUSINESS WIRE)--“Fast-paced and packed with eye-popping action” (Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News), Paramount Pictures’ and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ wildly entertaining epic adventure HERCULES debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and DVD November 4, 2014 from Paramount Home Media Distribution. The film arrives two weeks early on Digital HD October 21. Global superstar Dwayne Johnson delivers an unforgettable performance as the mighty Hercules in this thrilling story of strength, courage and heroism. When a terrifying new enemy threatens the innocent, Hercules and his fearless team of warriors must lead their army in a battle against overwhelming odds. HERCULES boasts a sensational cast of acclaimed actors including Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Joseph Fiennes (TV’s “American Horror Story”), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist), and John Hurt (Immortals).

The HERCULES Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray Combo Packs with Digital HD include both the theatrical version of the film, as well as an extended cut (in 2D only) with exciting new action not seen in theaters. The sets also boast over an hour of in-depth, behind-the-scenes special features including 15 deleted and extended scenes, interviews with the cast and crew, a look at the weapons employed by Hercules and his team, commentary featuring director Brett Ratner and more.

HERCULES Blu-ray Combo Pack
The theatrical version of HERCULES on Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The DVD in the combo pack is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, French and Spanish subtitles. The combo pack includes access to a Digital HD copy of the film as well as the following:

Theatrical version in high definition
     Commentary by director Brett Ratner and producer Beau Flynn
    Extended cut in high definition
    Brett Ratner and Dwayne Johnson: An Introduction
    Hercules and his Mercenaries—Delve into the story behind the team assembled by Hercules for his perilous missions and the skills required of them.
    Weapons!—Exploration of the weapons created for the spectacular action scenes, including training with the actors.
    The Bessi Battle—Discover how one of the major action sequences of the film was created with the filmmakers, actors, stunt team, make-up effects and more.
    The Effects of Hercules—A behind-the-scenes look at the film’s spectacular visual effects.
    15 Deleted/Extended Scenes

Theatrical version in standard definition

HERCULES Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack
The Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack includes all of the above, as well as a Blu-ray 3D with the theatrical version of the film presented in 1080p high definition with English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.

The Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack and Blu-ray Combo Pack available for purchase include a Digital Version of the film that can be accessed through UltraViolet™, a way to collect, access and enjoy movies. With UltraViolet, consumers can add movies to their digital collection in the cloud, and then stream or download them—reliably and securely—to a variety of devices.

The single-disc DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs with English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English, French and Spanish subtitles. The disc includes the theatrical version of the feature film in standard definition.

Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures present a Flynn Picture Company production in association with Radical Studios a Brett Ratner film: “Hercules.” Executive produced by Ross Fanger, Jesse Berger, Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey. Produced by Beau Flynn, Barry Levine and Brett Ratner. Based on Radical Comics' 'Hercules' by Steve Moore. Screenplay by Ryan J. Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Directed by Brett Ratner.

About Paramount Home Media Distribution
Paramount Home Media Distribution (PHMD) is part of Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment. PPC is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. The PHMD division oversees PPC’s home entertainment, digital and television distribution activities worldwide. The division is responsible for the sales, marketing and distribution of home entertainment content on behalf of Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and CBS and applicable licensing and servicing of certain DreamWorks Animation titles. PHMD additionally manages global licensing of studio content and distribution across worldwide digital and television distribution platforms including online, mobile and portable devices and emerging technologies.

Street Date:
November 4, 2014 (Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and VOD)
October 21, 2014 (Digital)

$49.99 U.S. (Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack)
$39.99 U.S. (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
$29.99 U.S. (DVD)

98 minutes (theatrical version)
101 minutes (extended version)

U.S. Rating:  PG-13 for epic battle sequences, violence, suggestive comments, brief strong language and partial nudity

Canadian Rating:  14A for violence; not recommended for children


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: "The Kingdom" is a Thrill Ride (Happy B'day, Richard Jenkins)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Kingdom (2007)
Running time:  110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – R for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence and for language
DIRECTOR:  Peter Berg
WRITER:  Matthew Michael Carnahan
PRODUCERS:  Peter Berg, Michael Mann, and Scott Stuber
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mauro Fiore (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Colby Parker, Jr. and Kevin Stitt
COMPOSER:  Danny Elfman


Starring:  Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom, Ali Suliman, Jeremy Piven, Richard Jenkins, Kyle Chandler, Frances Fisher, Danny Huston, Kelly AuCoin, Anna Deavere Smith, and Minka Kelly

The subject of this movie review is The Kingdom, a 2007 action thriller and crime drama directed by Peter Berg.  The film follows a team of agents from the United States, investigating the bombing of an American facility in the Middle East.

When terrorists attack and kill over 100 people at the Al Rahmah Western Housing Compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, FBI Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) leads a small squad to investigate the bombing and find the culprits.  Once Fleury and the other U.S. agents – Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), and Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman) – arrive, they learn that in Saudi Arabia, many consider them the true enemy.

Culture and the local bureaucracy hamper their investigation, but a local policeman, Col. Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), becomes sympathetic to Fleury’s predicament.  Soon, Fleury realizes that he and his team are the targets of the mysterious terrorist leader, Abu Hamza, but neither the threat of death or disgrace back home will stop Fleury’s mission.

With The Kingdom, director Peter Berg (The Rundown, Friday Night Lights) and writer Matthew Michael Carnahan (Lions for Lambs) dive headlong into the snake pit that movies about the “war on terrorism” and set in Middle East can be.  What Berg and Carnahan come up with is an imperfect, but entertaining and engaging action flick that doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are few if any easy answers when fighting the murderous criminals who are terrorists.

Berg doesn’t shy away from making a hardcore action movie.  There are intense car chases, with the requisite automobile flips and explosions, and there are sequences of manic gun battles that arrive in the kind of big slabs that keep an action movie junkie euphoric.  The screenplay even insists on being a police procedural, making The Kingdom something like Black Hawk Down meets Michael Mann’s Heat (Mann also co-produced The Kingdom), and TV’s “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Honestly, the movie drags when it focuses on the investigation, detective work, and forensics.  On the other hand, The Kingdom soars when it lays on the gun battles and car violence.  When the movie tries to be an FBI investigation flick, the narrative and indeed the performances get bogged down in detective work and the complications that can arise when different cultures meet.  The film does raise several issues – asking questions that complicate what many only want to see as black and white.  Are the FBI agents seeking justice or are they out for revenge?  Does the subsequent violence only make matters worse?  Does anyone gain anything or does everyone lose?  These are the kind of questions that get a movie like this in trouble in the current political/social climate.  An action movie requires that everything be in black and white, but the film’s setting and the issues it tackles just won’t be divided in two like that.

Ultimately, The Kingdom is a riveting action thriller that delivers.  It affirms that Jamie Foxx can carry an action flick (but is there room for more than one or two action “stars of color?”), that Jason Bateman is funny, and that Jeremy Piven is a great character actor.  However, the audience might have to take on some sticky issues to enjoy the thrill ride that is The Kingdom.

7 of 10

Friday, January 18, 2008

Updated:  Sunday, May 04, 2014

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" Debuts a Trailer

Watch the official teaser trailer for HERCULES starring Dwayne Johnson:

Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ film HERCULES, starring Dwayne Johnson, bows on July 25th.  Based on Radical Comics’ Hercules by Steve Moore, this ensemble-action film is a revisionist take on the classic myth, HERCULES. The epic action film also stars Golden Globe Winner Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Joseph Fiennes, Peter Mullan and Academy Award®-nominee John Hurt.

In theaters July 25th

Official Website:
Official Twitter:
Official Facebook:

Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Writers Guild Award Nominations - Feature Film Categories

by Amos Semien

On Friday, January 3, 2014, the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) announced nominations for outstanding achievement in writing during the year 2013 – the 2014 Writers Guild Awards.  The winners will be honored at the 2014 Writers Guild Awards on Saturday, February 1, 2014, during simultaneous ceremonies held in both Los Angeles and New York.

The Writers Guild of America is a labor union representing film, television, radio, video game, and new media writers.  The Writers Guild of America Award acknowledges outstanding achievements in film, television, and radio and has been presented annually by the Writers Guild of America, East and Writers Guild of America, West since 1949.

A complete list of 2014 Writers Guild Award nominations can be found here:


American Hustle, Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell; Columbia Pictures

Blue Jasmine, Written by Woody Allen; Sony Pictures Classics

Dallas Buyers Club, Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack; Focus Features

Her, Written by Spike Jonze; Warner Bros.

Nebraska, Written by Bob Nelson; Paramount Pictures

August: Osage County, Screenplay by Tracy Letts; Based on his play; The Weinstein Company

Before Midnight, Written by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Based on characters created by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan; Sony Classics

Captain Phillips, Screenplay by Billy Ray; Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty; Columbia Pictures

Lone Survivor, Written by Peter Berg; Based on the book by Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson; Universal Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street, Screenplay by Terence Winter; Based on the book by Jordan Belfort; Paramount Pictures

Dirty Wars, Written by Jeremy Scahill & David Riker; Sundance Selects

Herblock – The Black & The White, Written by Sara Lukinson & Michael Stevens; The Stevens Company

No Place on Earth, Written by Janet Tobias & Paul Laikin; Magnolia Pictures

Stories We Tell, Written by Sarah Polley; Roadside Attractions

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks; Written by Alex Gibney; Focus Features


Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: "Corky Romano" Has Enjoyable Cheap Laughs (Happy B'day, Fred Ward)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 140 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Corky Romano (2001)
Running time:  86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for drug and sex-related humor, and for language
DIRECTOR:  Rob Pritts
WRITERS:  David Garrett and Jason Ward
PRODUCER:  Robert Simonds
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Steven Bernstein (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Alan Cody
COMPOSER:  Randy Edelman


Starring:  Chris Kattan, Vinessa Shaw, Peter Falk, Peter Berg, Chris Penn, Richard Roundtree, Fred Ward, Matthew Glave, Roger Fan, Dave Sheridan, Vincent Pastore, and Kip King

The subject of this movie review is Corky Romano, a 2001 crime-mafia comedy.  The film stars “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, Chris Kattan, as the loser son of a low-level Mafia boss forced to infiltrate the FBI.

Bad movies can be hilarious, eliciting countless belly laughs; sometimes they can be uproarious, which is the case with the Chris Kattan vehicle Corky Romano.  The writers filled the scripts with such implausibility (the central premise of a bumbling idiot infiltrating the Federal Bureau of Investigation stretches the imagination; then, again, who thought 9/11 could happen?), so one must really suspend disbelief.  Chris Kattan, an excellent physical comedian, probably as good as Jim Carrey, firmly takes control of this rickety movie.  He manipulates his co-stars as ably as he maneuvers his body and makes Corky Romano quite funny.

Corky (Chris Kattan) is an assistant veterinarian with dreams of being a licensed vet.  His father “Pops” Romano (Peter Falk) is a wealthy low-rent hood specializing in rackets and gambling, but some unknown person has implicated Pops on murder charges.  The feds are after him, and he’s facing hard time (in the typical “upstate” prison).  He and his sons Paulie (Peter Berg) and Peter (Chris Penn) have hatched a plan to have Corky infiltrate the local FBI office the way the feds have obviously penetrated the Romanos’ operations.  Paulie, a functional illiterate, and Peter, a closet homosexual, have no faith in their brother Corky, but they assist him in his mission to pass as an agent of the FBI and retrieve whatever incriminating evidence they have on Pops.

Once inside, Corky, through the usual movie luck, misunderstanding, and being in the wrong place at the right time somehow convince the feds that he’s a topnotch agent.  His boss Howard Shuster (Richard Roundtree) loves him, and Corky catches the eye of a comely, young FBI wench, Agent Kate Russo (Vinessa Shaw), who is, of course, trying to show the guys that she’s just as good as any male agent.  While most of his colleagues think that Corky is the not only the real deal, but a great G-man, Agent Brick Davis (Matthew Glave) is a rival with Corky for Shuster’s attention and approval, and he out to prove that Corky is a phony.

If you set your brain on dumb, you’ll have a great time because Corky is an very good, bad movie.  Although it’s short on the kind of grossness one can expect from the American Pie and Austin Powers films, Corky Romano has it’s share of bizarreness.  All the male characters in the film really crave the attention of their male peers and associates (in addition to the whole father-son-mentor subtext), and there is a not-too-subtle gay subtext of physical attraction between men, not to mention that certain male characters are always paired together.  Either way, Corky Romano is many cheap laughs, and sometimes, that is hard to find in many movies that claim to be funny.

5 of 10

Updated:  Monday, December 30, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Review: "Smokin' Aces" is Not Quite Smokin' (Happy B;day, Ray Liotta)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 117 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Smokin’ Aces (2006)
Running time:  109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity, and drug use
PRODUCERS:  Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Joe Carnahan, and Liza Chasin
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mauro Fiore (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert Frazen
COMPOSER:  Clint Mansell

CRIME/ACTION with elements of comedy and drama

Starring:  Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Common, Taraji Henson, Martin Henderson, Peter Berg, Christopher Michael Holley, Nestor Carbonell, Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, Maury Sterling, Tommy Flanagan, Curtis Armstrong, Jason Batman, Mike Falkow Joseph Ruskin, Alex Rocco, Joel Edgerton, and Matthew Fox

The subject of this movie review is Smokin’ Aces, a 2007 crime and action film from director Joe Carnahan.  The movie focuses on a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch and the large number of people trying to kill him.  The film was released theatrically in January 2007.

Smokin’ Aces is the first film from writer/director Joe Carnahan since his gritty crime flick, Narc, which premiered at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and went onto receive rave reviews (including praise from Harrison Ford).  The attention even earned him a deal to direct Mission: Impossible 3 before Carnahan departed the project over creative differences with Tom Cruise.

Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) grew up amongst card sharks, gamblers, killers, and thugs.  By the time he was 21, Buddy was a wildly popular magician in Las Vegas, a celebrity who also got to hang out with the most dangerous criminals.  But Buddy wanted more.  He wanted to be gangster and became one before the law caught up with him.  After the sleazy Las Vegas illusionist agrees to testify against his former mob partners, he embarks on one last hurrah in Lake Tahoe before entering witness protective custody.

His one-time benefactor, Primo Sparazza (Joseph Ruskin), a mob power broker, isn’t about to let that happen.  Rumors are that Sparazza is willing to pay up to $1,000,000 for Buddy dead and his heart delivered back to Sparazza.  When word hits the street, a rogues gallery of degenerate assassins, killers, and psychopaths head for Lake Tahoe and the Nomad Casino where Buddy is hiding to claim the prize.  FBI Deputy Director Stanley Locke (Andy Garcia) sends his top agent, Richard Messner (Ryan Reynolds) and Messner’s veteran partner, Donald Carruthers (Ray Liotta), to keep Buddy safe, but can a few agents protect the seedy magician from a slew of would-be assassins?

Although the film has a delightful and wildly diverse cast, Smokin’ Aces is mostly a Pulp Fiction clone except that it has an even weirder cast of characters.  Defined by action movie frivolity, Smokin’ Aces attempts to make slime look glamorous.  Carnahan raises the crass display of bloodletting to new faux art heights.  The film has its moments, and its violence is as much cartoonish as it is nightmarish.  In a sense, it’s like some crazy, hyperactive crime comic book.  The film’s narrative is itself a card trick – an illusion in which the viewer keeps seeing what he expects to see and misses the obvious.  So the ending may come as a shock because it is something of a commentary on the dishonest and sometimes illegal means by which law enforcement goes after a large quarry.

Before that ending, there are some exceptional characters brought to life by actors giving rich performances.  Ryan Reynolds is the best of the lot, but Common as Sir Ivy and Alicia Keys and Taraji Henson as the badass assassin duo, Georgia Sykes and Sharice Watters, are fun to watch.

5 of 10

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Updated:  Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


Monday, June 10, 2013

"Hercules" Begins Filming with Dwayne Johnson


Starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner

HOLLYWOOD, CA (June 10, 2013) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, a division of MGM Holdings, Inc., and Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom, Inc., announced principal photography began today on “HERCULES,” starring Dwayne Johnson (“G.I. JOE: RETALIATION,” “Fast and Furious” franchise) and directed and produced by Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour” franchise, “X-Men: The Last Stand”). Filming takes place in Budapest, Hungary.

“HERCULES” will be distributed worldwide by Paramount Pictures on July 25, 2014 with select international territories as well as all television distribution being handled by MGM.

“HERCULES” also stars Golden Globe-winner Ian McShane (“Deadwood,” “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES”), Rufus Sewell (“LEGEND OF ZORRO”), Joseph Fiennes (“SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE,” “American Horror Story”), Peter Mullan (“War Horse,” “Top of the Lake”) and Academy Award®-nominee John Hurt (“HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS”). Rounding out the main cast is Rebecca Ferguson (The BBC’s “The White Queen”), Ingrid Bolsø Berdal (“HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS”), Aksel Hennie (“HEADHUNTERS”) and Reece Ritchie (“PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME”).

“HERCULES” is produced by Beau Flynn (“JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND,” “HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS”), Barry Levine (“OBLIVION”) and Ratner. Executive producers are Peter Berg (“BATTLESHIP”), Sarah Aubrey (“BATTLESHIP”), Ross Fanger (“IRON MAN”) and Jesse Berger (“OBLIVION”).

Based on the graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars, the ensemble-action film is a revisionist take on the classic myth set in a grounded world where the supernatural does not exist. The screenplay is by Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos.

Everyone knows the legend of Hercules and his twelve labors. Our story begins after the labors, and after the legend…

Haunted by a sin from his past, Hercules has become a mercenary. Along with five faithful companions, he travels ancient Greece selling his services for gold and using his legendary reputation to intimidate enemies. But when the benevolent ruler of Thrace and his daughter seek Hercules' help to defeat a savage and terrifying warlord, Hercules finds that in order for good to triumph and justice to prevail... he must again become the hero he once was... he must embrace his own myth... he must be Hercules.

The behind-the-scenes creative team led by Ratner includes: Academy Award®-nominee director of photography Dante Spinotti (“THE INSIDER,” “LA CONFIDENTIAL”), editor Mark Helfrich (“X-MEN: THE LAST STAND”), production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos (“10,000 B.C.”), costume designer Jany Temime (“SKYFALL”), 2nd Unit director Alexander Witt (“SKYFALL”), VFX supervisor John Bruno (“AVATAR”), SFX Supervisor Neil Corbould (“BLACK HAWK DOWN”) and stunt coordinator Greg Powell (“FAST & FURIOUS 6,” “HARRY POTTER” franchise).

MGM and Paramount most recently partnered on the release of the blockbuster “G.I. JOE: RETALIATION,” also starring Dwayne Johnson, as well as the global box office hit “HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS.”

About Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is a leading entertainment company focused on the production and distribution of film and television content globally. The company owns one of the world's deepest libraries of premium film and television content. In addition, MGM has investments in domestic and international television channels, including MGM-branded channels. For more information, visit

About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dwayne Johnson to Star as Hercules

MGM and Paramount Pictures to bring Radical Studios’ Hercules: The Thracian Wars to the big screen.

Radical Studios is excited to announce that its best-selling original graphic novel Hercules: The Thracian Wars will be adapted as a motion picture to be co-produced by MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures.

Hercules is an original graphic novel written by Steve Moore for Radical Studios. It is an action-filled story based on the popular Ancient Greek mythology of Hercules. The film stars Dwayne Johnson and is directed by Brett Ratner. Hercules will be produced by Radical President Barry Levine, Beau Flynn and Brett Ratner. Peter Berg, Sarah Aubrey, and Radical EVP Jesse Berger will executive produce. The screenplay was adapted by Ryan Condal with script revisions by Evan Spiliotopoulos. Production is scheduled to start in early 2013.

Hercules is the second Radical Studios project set to reach the big screen following the recent wrap of production on Oblivion. Oblivion is an original concept conceived by TRON: Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and developed by Radical Studios. The film stars Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Melissa Leo. Oblivion is being produced by Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Joseph Kosinski, Duncan Henderson and Barry Levine, with executive producers David Morrison, Jesse Berger and Justin Springer. Oblivion is being distributed by Universal Pictures and is set for an April 12, 2013 IMAX release and April 19, 2013 worldwide release.

Please visit to learn more about Hercules: The Thracian Wars. The graphic novel is available for purchase on the site as well as digitally through iTunes and Amazon.

Radical Studios will continue to release news and updates surrounding both Hercules and Oblivion. Stay informed by liking Radical’s Facebook page at, following Radical’s YouTube channel at, and following @radicalstudios on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: "Hancock" Fails to Be Special (Happy B'day, Will Smith)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 31 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Hancock (2008)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
WRITERS: Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
PRODUCERS: Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, and Will Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tobias A. Schliessler
EDITOR: Colby Parker, Jr. and Paul Rubell
COMPOSER: John Powell


Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan, David Mattey, Maetrix Fitten, Thomas Lennon, Johnny Galecki, and Darrell Foster

The subject of this movie review is Hancock, a 2006 superhero film starring Will Smith in the title role. Directed by Peter Berg, the film is part action movie, comedy, and drama, as well as part superhero fantasy.

Will Smith’s new film, Hancock, is a special effects-heavy movie about a superhero who is a drunken, dangerously careless jerk. Instead of looking shiny and futuristic in a fancy costume, he looks like a skid row bum in thrift store rags, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When the story presents this hero’s very public disasters and later his public struggles to be a good guy, this film is quite good, but sadly, it’s not always that good.

John Hancock (Will Smith) is the only superhero on the planet. He lives and works in Los Angeles, and boy, is everywhere else very happy that L.A. is stuck with him. If great power comes with great responsibility, Hancock ain’t buying that notion. He’s edgy, sarcastic, and prone to abusing civilians. His well-intentioned heroics get the job done saving lives and stopping criminals, but the same heroics always seem to leave jaw-dropping damage in their wake.

Los Angelinos have finally had enough. As far as they are concerned, if Hancock can’t do the job right (i.e. without causing millions of dollars in damages every time he plays hero), he needs to go away. But Hancock isn't the kind of man who cares what other people think; then, one day he saves the life of struggling PR executive Ray Embrey (Jason Batman). Grateful to be alive, Ray chooses to see his savior not as a menace, but as conflicted and misunderstood, so Ray convinces Hancock to let him embark on an image makeover of the hero. Hancock even sits down to a decent meal with Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), and young son, Aaron (Jae Head). Hancock’s biggest obstacle, however, may be submitting to a prison sentence and finally facing both his demons and his past.

Peter Berg’s quasi-superhero film, Hancock, is at its best when the film presents Hancock fighting the war inside his head out in public. He’s adrift – doesn’t know who he is or remember from where he came. His life is a mess, so he’s messy on the job – literally tearing apart the city’s infrastructure and terrorizing the citizens. Watching those disasters are actually fun.

As fun as the action sequences and Hancock’s confrontations with the public are, the focus only on Hancock’s mental problems is not. It seems that somewhere along the line of developing this project, the filmmakers missed the point that watching Hancock interact with the public is great. When the film focuses on John Hancock’s origin (no spoilers here!) or features him alone, drinking and sulking about, it becomes a morose drama.

This great concept doesn’t exactly fail because of the shaky execution, but Hancock is a strange movie because half of it is a fun, high-concept superhero flick and the other half is a depressed superhero drama. It’s bizarre a situation. Will Smith is so good at creating this mentally, emotionally, and spiritually troubled super human that he also creates a somewhat unsatisfying hero that makes for a movie that is sometimes … well, unsatisfying.

Luckily Jason Bateman (who doesn’t make a bad move in this performance), as Ray Embrey, is so good at understanding what a movie needs at particular moment in the story. It’s the right facial expression, the perfect quip, or the best time to be serious. This movie is victorious when Smith’s Hancock and Bateman’s Embrey are onscreen together. Too bad Hancock doesn’t stick with that simple, yet highly entertaining formula.

6 of 10

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: "Lions for Lambs" is a Political Film That Roars (Happy 50th B'day, Tom Cruise)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lions for Lambs (2007)
Running time: 91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – R for some war violence and language
DIRECTOR: Robert Redford
WRITER: Matthew Michael Carnahan
PRODUCERS: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tracy Falco, Andrew Hauptman, and Robert Redford
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Joe Hutshing


Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Peña, Andrew Garfield, Peter Berg, Kevin Dunn, and Derek Luke

Lions for Lambs is a 2007 drama from director Robert Redford. The film stars Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise in a story that connects the actions of a veteran television reporter, a powerful U.S. Republican senator, a college professor, and a stranded platoon of soldiers trapped in Afghanistan.

Tom Cruise re-launched United Artists as viable movie studio with Lions for Lambs, the Robert Redford-helmed look at America's “War on Terror.” Using a complex three-pronged narrative, Redford (who also stars in this film) connects the lives of the movie’s characters by politics and bloodshed. While a young, but powerful Washington senator goes toe to toe with a reporter, who on the down side of her career, on the issue of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, an idealistic professor and Vietnam veteran tries to keep a promising student engaged, while two of his former pupils struggle to survive behind enemy lines in Afghanistan.

At an unnamed California university, the anguished Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) calls Todd (Andrew Garfield), a talented, but aimless student who usually misses class into his office for a heart to heart conversation. Malley is trying to reach this privileged, but disaffected student to hopefully encourage him to do something to make change rather than just be cynical about the current state of affairs. Two of Prof. Malley’s students volunteered to join the U.S. military and now serve with Special Forces in the “War on Terror.” This bold decision by Arian Finch (Derek Luke) and Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Peña) has left Malley both moved and distraught, but he wants to share their determination to make a difference with Todd.

Unbeknownst to Malley, Arian and Ernest are stranded on a snowy mountainside in Badakhshan, Afghanistan as Taliban fighters move in and their commanders struggle to get them out.

Meanwhile, charismatic Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) is giving probing TV journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) a bombshell of a story, as the two go toe to toe over the “War on Terror.” Sen. Irving has used his influence to launch a new phase in the war in Afghanistan – one that will affect the fates of Arian and Ernest, as arguments, memories, and battle weave these three stories ever more tightly together.

Much has been made of the lack of success at the box office of films dealing with Iraq (Rendition, In the Valley of Elah), which is really no surprise considering how disconnected so many Americans are from the “Global War on Terror,” not to mention how unpopular the Iraq War is among Americans and in other nations. This unpopularity and lack of connectivity is precisely why a film like Lions for Lambs is so important. Lions for Lambs is so indicative of our current state of affairs as Americans as to be painful. No wonder the film received mostly middling to negative reviews and was a dud at the box office. Like Spike Lee’s scandalous 1987 film, School Days, Redford’s film insists on throwing the painful but necessary truth in our faces, and so many Americans would rather be chasing the latest consumer toys or obsessing over meaningless pop culture tittle-tattle. It has been said that Lions for Lambs is too “talky,” supposedly a handicap for a film.

Lions for Lambs does talk a lot, but it has something to say and we should be listening.

Still, Cruise (who gives the film’s best and sharpest performance, by far) and Streep arguing history, politics, and war as a ruthlessly ambitious politician and a jaded reporter, while American servicemen die is a sign of the times. Watching Redford’s old school activist professor trying to get Garfield’s cynical and spoiled rich boy get engaged in change while the student’s classmates shed blood for him is deeply saddening. While Peña’s Ernest and Derek’s Arian are lions in this supposed war for our civilization, the lambs are back home holding the keys to the lions’ fates.

Redford’s film clearly asks that a country embrace a more selfless agenda and do some serious soul searching, instead of acting and lying in our own self-interests. It’s good when a Hollywood movie tackles the national mood and asks tough questions. It means that American cinema still matters beyond being mere corporate product.

8 of 10

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: "Collateral" is Flashy, Gritty, and Edgy (Happy B'day, Michael Mann)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 143 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

Collateral (2004)
Running time: 120 minutes (2 hours)
MPAA – R for violence and language
DIRECTOR: Michael Mann
WRITER: Stuart Beattie
PRODUCERS: Michael Mann and Julie Richardson
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dion Beebe (D.o.P.) and Paul Cameron (D.o.P.)
EDITORS: Jim Miller and Paul Rubell
COMPOSER: James Newton Howard
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, Bruce McGill, Irma P. Hall, Barry Shabaka Henley, Javier Bardem, and Klea Scott

Director Michael Mann is certainly a master of filming deliciously eye candy movies; from his hit 80’s TV series “Miami Vice” to such glossy power ballad films as Last of the Mohicans and Heat, he has delighted us with his visual acumen. His most recent film, Collateral, is, as a visual feast, an absolute delight and, just maybe, a masterpiece, albeit one with a flaw here and there.

A cabby named Max (Jaime Foxx) finds himself the hostage of Vincent (Tom Cruise), an engaging contract hit man, as he uses Max to ferry him around Los Angeles from hit to hit. The screwy duo eventually attracts the attention of Fanning (Mark Ruffalo), a savvy homicide detective. But despite the attention of the police, Max must, on his own, find a way to save himself and the last of five victims, Annie (Jada Pinkett Smith), a federal prosecutor who rode in Max’s cab before Vincent and befriended Max.

Collateral’s success is definitely the product of Michael Mann’s vision and of his cast, especially Cruise and Foxx. Mann’s film feels like his last L.A. blast off, the aforementioned Heat, but don’t mistake his visual flair for lack of substance. Mann’s films are always thrilling, even the character dramas, and they breath with life and vitality. Every frame suggests motivation and conflict, so Mann’s glossiness isn’t the shallowness of the many filmmakers his 1980’s work influenced.

Cruise is, of course, a delight to watch; he merely takes his usual film persona and turns of the heat to super intensity and makes Vincent a cold, ruthless machine – a machine that simultaneously has disdain for life and how we live it and a fascination with existence and how we understand it. This performance by Foxx is likely another hint that he is a comic who will reinvent himself as dramatic star much the way Robin Williams and Steve Martin did, but with the success of the former. Foxx’s Max is a troubled man, dealing with the failures and disappointments of life with a mixture of weariness and hope, cynicism and optimism, and stoicism and passion.

But Mann, Cruise, and Fox can’t do it alone. Ms. Smith and Mark Ruffalo are excellent supporting performers, and Ruffalo’s Fanning would himself make an excellent lead character in his own film. Stuart Beattie’s script is also good, especially in creating Vincent, part cipher and intriguing mystery man, but an inviting character who leaves us wanting more. The script did seem a little soft on really fleshing out Foxx’s Max, but overall, the script is a tightly-crafted short story that Mann was able to turn into a thrilling, short, dangerous crime tale that is both gritty and glorious. Collateral may be somewhat lacking in substance, but it’s just about the best confection you can have.

8 of 10

2005 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Editing” (Jim Miller and Paul Rubell) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jamie Foxx)

2005 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Cinematography” (Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron); 5 nominations: “Best Editing” (Jim Miller and Paul Rubell), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Jamie Foxx), “Best Screenplay – Original” (Stuart Beattie), “Best Sound” (Elliott Koretz, Lee Orloff, Michael Minkler, and Myron Nettinga) and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Michael Mann)

2005 Black Reel Awards: 1 win “Best Supporting Actor” (Jamie Foxx) and 1 nomination: “Best Supporting Actress” (Jada Pinkett Smith)

2005 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jamie Foxx)

2005 Image Awards: 3 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Jamie Foxx) and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Jada Pinkett Smith)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: The Rock Gave Action Stardom "The Rundown"

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

6 of 10


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Review: "The Losers" is Just Not Good

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 68 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Losers (2010)
Running time: 97 minutes (1 hour, 37 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, a scene of sensuality and language
DIRECTOR: Sylvain White
WRITERS: Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt (based upon the comic book series written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Jock and published by DC Comics/Vertigo)
PRODUCERS: Kerry Foster, Akiva Goldsman, and Joel Silver
EDITOR: David Checel


Starring: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Idris Elba, Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Jason Patric, and Holt McCallany

The film, X-Men, which debuted in 2000, is seen as the film that began the current wave of superhero movies. In the 10 years since X-Men’s debut, the worst movie based upon a comic book that I have seen was The Punisher in 2004.

The Losers, a military-style action thriller which hit theatres this past April, is based upon a comic book of the same name. The Losers was published by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint for 32 issues from 2003 to 2006. Written and created by Andy Diggle and drawn by the artist Jock (the British comics artist, Mark Simpson), the series followed a Special Forces team tied to the CIA and later betrayed by their CIA handler, Max.

The Losers is the worst comic book movie I’ve seen since The Punisher. The movie introduces an elite U.S. Special Forces unit sent into the Bolivian jungle on a search-and-destroy mission. The team is led by Franklin Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and includes William Roque (Idris Elba), Jake Jensen (Chris Evans), Linwood “Pooch” Porteous (Columbus Short) and Carlos “Cougar” Alvarez (Oscar Jaenada).

Despite a few surprises, the mission goes well until Clay and company are betrayed by their commander, Max (Jason Patric), a man whom they’ve never met. Presumed dead, the men struggle to make enough money to return to the U.S., but Clay is approached by Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful operative who offers to help them get home. Her price is what amounts to a suicide mission – kill the heavily-guarded Max. Meanwhile, Max is plotting to embroil the world in a global war by launching an environmentally-friendly bomb with the power of a nuclear weapon. But some of the people on this mission are also hiding secrets and plotting betrayal.

Like many current action movies, The Losers is slickly produced and offers plenty of flashy visuals, but it feels clunky and moves with an awkward gait, like a kid whose legs and feet are growing faster than he can adjust to them. In fact, for all the fast moving The Losers does, there is no sense of urgency in the characters. This is a guy movie about a band of guys (and one girl) who kick ass, but they just aren’t very interesting. Also, as Clay, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is just not cut out to be the lead in a movie.

Early in the film, Clay and his unit are supposedly desperate to go home, but don’t really seem to be doing much to get back. The entire bomb sub-plot just doesn’t have that ticking-time-bomb sense of urgency that films about bombs have (like the hugely underrated The Peacemaker from 1997). There is really only one truly cool moment here, and that is when Chris Evans’ Jake Jensen breaks into Goliath Worldwide Headquarters. The scene is so funny that it seems out of place with the rest of this sluggish movie.

Here, even the witty banter that is standard for a standard action flick is lame. Director Sylvain White, who used his flashy style to make Stomp the Yard feel so electric three years earlier, seems to know what he wants to do with The Losers. He simply made movie that makes it seem as if he didn’t know what he was doing. With The Losers, the viewer is the real loser.

2 of 10

Thursday, August 19, 2010