Sunday, September 30, 2007


Will be leaving shortly to check out THE KINGDOM at the Arclight in Hollywood, the best place to see this type of film.

Not all that surprised that Disney's family film THE GAME PLAN beat THE KINGDOM out for #1 at the box office; a hard-R action flick set in the Middle East just has it's limits. With a $22 million start, THE GAME PLAN is yet another solid earner for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. While not the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his generation, as some had predicted, "The Rock" has delivered respectable, $40-60 million grosses in almost every one of the movies that he's starred in. His career high, I believe, is still THE SCOROPION KING, a MUMMY spin-off that more or less stunk up the joint. He was downright awesome in Peter Berg's underrated action flick THE RUNDOWN, which is about as good as PG-13 action flicks get. And while WALKING TALL was pretty damn cheesy, I thought The Rock was pretty fun in that one too. Looking forward to seeing him in SOUTHLAND TALES and GET SMART.

What does this mean for THE KINGDOM? An $18 million opening is probably a few million short of where Universal thought they'd open at. But I think it will have solid legs through the next few weeks, and reach a respectable $60-65 million domestic. While the reviews were harsher than they should have been, it's an audience picture for sure. I saw it a few months back and the crowd loved it...and I've read/heard similar things froms screenings this weekend. It's a no-nonsense procedural with an incredibly gripping, last-act action battle that is an action movie lovers dream. Full review later today.

Also, I watched Jake Kasdan's brilliant Hollywood satire THE TV SET on DVD a few nights ago and I have to's one of the best inside-the-biz movies I have ever seen. More on that one too in a little while.....

Go see a movie!

Friday, September 28, 2007


PTA's newest movie screened at the Fantastic Fest (a Texas film festival supervised by the guys that run the Alamo drafthouse movie theater and Harry Knowles of aint-it-cool fame) and people are going NUTS for it.

Here is the first official review for the film, from the Hollywood Reporter:

I consider all of PTA's work (SYDNEY, BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, PUNCH DRUNK LOVE) to be great, great films. He's the closest thing we have to a young Martin Scorsese. And from the sounds of it, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which stars the always incredible Daniel Day Lewis, is yet another amazing piece of filmmaking.

The movie opens in December. More to come on this one in the weeks ahead.


THE KINGDOM will be #1 I think, with roughly $21-24 million for the weekend. Could be a bit higher, could be a bit lower. Males are the target and while I think it will be a solid performer, I'm sensing a $60-70 million domestic haul with a likewise number overseas and then a great DVD turnout. Movies that depict the current war on terror and take place in Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be tricky sells to the movie going public. But considering THE KINGDOM is more of a straight ahead action picture I could see it coming in on the high end of expectations.

It will be followed closely by THE GAME PLAN, Disney's football/family movie with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. I am thinking $15-20 million for that. Or maybe less. The trailers are total shit and while it's a kid's movie and there haven't been many of late, I just dont think this one is gonna click all that well with audiences. We'll see....

Ensemble romantic drama FEAST OF LOVE, from renowned director Robert Benton, got mixed reviews and will probably preform modestly, though a dearth of movies like this may work to it's advantage. I am thinking $2-4 million from the 1,200 screens it's going out on.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH widens out in a few hundred more theaters but will be tough to generate a lot of box office excitement. For as much as I enjoyed and respected the film, I think it's too dour and low-key to make big box office waves.

Ang Lee's LUST, CAUTION, a two and a half hour, NC-17 WWII noir thriller opens on 1 screen in NYC, but will be going out wider in the weeks to come.

Wes Anderson's latest flick THE DARJEELING LIMITED, which just opened the New York Film Festival, will open theatrically on 2 screens in NYC this week, followed by a few more in major markets (LA, Chicago, etc) next week.

Expect drops of at least 50% (but probably more) for last weeks RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION and GOOD LUCK CHUCK.

Sean Penn's phenomenal INTO THE WILD adds a few more screens and should continue to impress in the art house circuit. Ditto THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD.

TRANSFORMERS will continue to add to it's blockbuster box office cume over the next month or so with the IMAX engagements; I plan on catching that soon. A friend of mine caught it and said the IMAX treatment of Michael Bay's action-romp is simply staggering to behold.


A Hollywood remake of OLDBOY. If you aren't familiar with Chan-wook Park's brilliant psychological thriller from Korea than you have only one mission for this weekend. Track down a DVD copy (if renting it is impossible and your only choice is to purchase it, DO IT) and check it out. It's a stunning, hypnotically engrossing film with an absolutely fearless lead performance from Min-sik Choi. Not for the faint of heart or queasy-stomached mind you, but if you have some tough cinema guts, you must see this film. And then you'll see why the idea of a Hollywood remake of this truly one-of-a-kind film is, simply put, retarded.

And to make matters worse, the director of choice: Justin Lin. Lin exploded onto the scene with a terrific independent movie called BETTER LUCK TOMORROW. Since then, he's directed one piece of crap after another. ANNAPOLIS, a beyond stupid military "thriller" with the horrid James Franco. And he's also responsible for the lame threequel THE FAST & THE FURIOUS 3: TOKYO DRIFT. Did you actually see that film? It looked more like rejected graphic designs from a Playstation 3 game rather than a car-chase movie. If someone like, say, David Fincher (ZODIAC, SEVEN) or Mark Romanek (ONE HOUR PHOTO) or David Slade (HARD CANDY) or Brad Anderson (THE MACHINIST) were directing a remake of OLDBOY, then maybe I'd think it was a decent idea.

OLDBOY, in it's simplest description, is about a man who is kidnapped and imprisoned for 14 years inside of an apartment room. He's never let out and is never told what he did wrong. Then, one day, he wakes up a free man. But there's a BIG catch. I don't want to spoil anything else about OLDBOY becuase when I plopped down in my theater chair to watch the film, I knew basically nothing. All I knew is that it was an intense and extremely dark Korean thriller that featured a scene where the lead actor ate a live octopus. I didn't know what the story was about and how/why the above mentioned octopus got eaten. I have seen the film numerous times; it's one of those movies that gets better and better every time you watch it. Oh yeah--it also has one of the most realistic fight scenes in cinema history. This particular sequence, beyond its technical bravura (one, long, static tracking shot down a hallway as about 20 guys get their asses handed to them by the hero), is rooted in the lead character's emotional journey so fully, that you will be holding your breath the entire time and genuinely cheering him on as he fights each and every opponent.

The film deals with a lot of cultural elements that will not translate at all to an American setting and I would hate to see the specifics of the original film tampered with soley in the name of the almighty dollar.

Check the original OLDBOY out before Hollywood screws around with a masterpiece.


Disappointing to report, but hottie Jessica Biel will NOT be playing Wonder Woman in George Miller's JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA superhero movie.

No word yet on who will be taking the role.

None of the other superheroe's have been cast either....I really wonder how this project will turn out.

I am a big believer in the talents of George Miller. His MAD MAX movies were a total blast and his work on BABE: PIG IN THE CITY is beyond underrated. His most recent movie, the tap-dancing penguin epic HAPPY FEET, was about as good as kid-friendly, animated-animal movies get. I am not a fan of CGI-animated movies by and large, but there was something distinctly different about HAPPY FEET.


It's quite sad that an action film as expertly made and as smartly written as Peter Berg's THE KINGDOM is getting the shrug from a majority of the nation's critics. I just don't get it sometimes--did I see a completely different movie than everyone else?

AO Scott, one of the lead critics at the New York Times, seems to be about the only big-name critic who actually got what Berg and screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan were after. Check his review out here:

THE KINGDOM is way better than it's 56% Rotten Tomato score would lead you to believe. I will have a full review later this weekend after I see the film for a second time on Sunday.


Yet another wonderfully written (and extremely accurate) review from Ebert.

If there wasn't so much out that I need to see for a first time, I'd be catching INTO THE WILD this weekend on the big screen for a second viewing...down the road certainly.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Robert Redford is in negotiations to direct Sony's political thriller AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, based on Richard Clarke's best selling memoir which chronicles how the Bush administration handled the al-Qaida threat before and after the 9/11 attacks. Clarke was the former US terrorism czar. His book is considered the ultimate insider's look into the nations security forces and procedures. Everyone from Bush to Rumsfeld is depicted in his book, which clearly was aimed to highlight the many faults and issues our country has with our chain of command and anti-terror tactics. The script for AGAINST ALL ENEMIES has been written by James Vanderbilt, who wrote this year's brilliant crime saga ZODIAC, for director David Fincher. AGAINST ALL ENEMIES was originally going to be handled by Paul Haggis, but he intead opted to write and direct IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH.

I am very much looking forward to Redford's upcoming LIONS FOR LAMBS, which gets released this November. I love that he's back in political thriller mode.


Check this out:

Peter Berg's THE KINGDOM, which opens tomorrow, has an amazing opening credits sequence, one of the best in recent memory. The above link will give you a sneak peek.

My full review of the movie will get posted over the weekend probably, as I'd like to see the film again before doing a write-up. I caught a test screening of the film last March and I loved it; it's one of the best action thrillers in a long, long time. A hybrid of movies like the BOURNE flicks and SYRIANA with a touch of the flair from MUNICH, THE KINGDOM is a hard-hitting, political action-thriller that showcases an incredibly gripping 30 minute action sequence towards the end of the movie. The story of an elite FBI team sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate the bombing and murder of US oil workers and their families (as well as a few FBI agents), THE KINGDOM is an eye-opening procedural with a nice dose of sardonic wit and realistic cynicism. Berg, who last directed the fantastic FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, employs a verite-inspired shooting style that directly recalls producer Michael Mann's techniques in MIAMI VICE and the previously mentioned BOURNE movies. It's a topical thriller, entertaining and smart, and always thrilling.


David Duchovny, aka Fox Mulder, recently commented that a second X-Files flick would start shooting this December. Chris Carter has written the script and is set to direct (Rob Bowman, one of the series's top directors, helmed the first movie). I gather that the new movie will NOT focus on the alien mythology explored in the series and in the first movie. This one will be a stand-alone monster movie of some sort. I am sure it will be cool, but I have always been a fan of the alien plot line; that was the entire point of the show after all. But any new X-Files anything is a great thing to me!


After just finishing his Rolling Stone's documentary SHINE A LIGHT, which gets a theatrical release next April, Marty Scorsese is turing his attention to late Beatles member George Harrison, for a big documentary. Working with Harrison's family archives, Scorsese and most of the team behind SHINE A LIGHT, will work over the next few years on the doc.

Have never been a big Beatles fan though anything Scorsese touches turns to gold. He's my favorite director of all time.


Apparently MTV is getting to roll on JACKASS 3, which is looking to start shooting in January. The moron known as Steve-O let that slip while he was a guest on Howard Stern's show.

I loved the first two; can't imagine another one would disappoint.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Wow. Just wow. If you haven't seen Phil Morrison's terrific independent film JUNEBUG, seek it out on DVD immediately. It's a little gem. Working for a beautifully observed and sensitive script by Angus McLachlan, Morrison weaves a sad, funny, dark little tale of Southern familial dysfunction that will make you cringe one moment and laugh out loud the next. Never condescending or at any point making fun of the characters, Morrison's subtle direction works perfectly with McLachlan's lived-in portrait of Southern values and lifestyles. The story revolves around a guy named George, played by Allesandro Nivola, who takes a trip down south with his wife Madeleine, played by Embeth Davidtz. She's an art dealer specializing in offbeat pieces who is drawn to the incredibly weird paintings of a racist and possibly crazy artist, who also happens to live near her husband's family. Having only been married for six months and having never met his family, Madeleine is taken back by the culture shock of staying with his family and his brooding, sullen brother Johnny, played by Benjamin McKenzie. The ensemble cast is perfection all down the line. Amy Adams is astonishing as Johnny's immature pregnant wife; it's a performance that is so believeable you'll be convinced it's not really acting. Geroge's mother, who almost instantly disapproves of Madeleine, is played by the great Celia Weston. And character actor Scott Wilson is George's quiet, wood-working father. I don't want to reveal any plot points or spoil anything in this little film. Bottom line, it's funny and sad and well paced and a quirky little dramedy that you should discover.

Here is Roger Ebert's rave review of the film, which I think is pretty accurate:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Rachel McAdams, Helen Mirren and Robin Wright Penn will join Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Jason Bateman in "State of Play," the Universal Pictures/Working Title adaptation of the British miniseries. Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland") is directing from a script by Matthew Michael Carnahan ("Lions for Lambs," "The Kingdom").

McAdams will play a reporter in the middle of a career-making story, as her newspaper investigates the death of the mistress of a fast-rising congressman. Mirren will play the steely newspaper editor. Wright Penn will play the estranged wife of the congressman. She becomes romantically involved with the pol's former campaign manager (Pitt), who leads the newspaper's investigative team. Norton plays the congressman and Bateman plays the other lead reporter.

This sounds just terrific. I have never seen the original British mini-series but would love to check it out before this film hits theaters.


Andrew Dominik, the director of THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, recently was interviewed by Nick Dawson @ Filmmaker Magazine:

I first saw this link at, one of my favorite blogs to read.

It's a fascinating article/interview and a must read if you've seen and loved (or hated) the film.


TRANSFORMERS 2 has a release date: June 26, 2009.

And apparently, action specialist Michael Bay will be back to direct the sequel.

I loved the first film. But after it was over, I immediately said to myself: what will they possibly be able to do in the sequel? There was so much robot ass-kicking and tremendous action sequences that I just don't know what's left to annhilate on screen. But this being a Michael Bay sequel (think BAD BOYS 2), I can just imagine how utterly crazy TRANSFORMERS 2 will actually be...


Kiefer Sutherland arrested on DUI
Actor scheduled to appear in court Oct. 16
Kiefer Sutherland was arrested early Tuesday on misdemeanor drunken driving charges after failing a field sobriety test, police officials said.
The actor was pulled over at about 1:10 a.m. in West Los Angeles after officers spotted him making an illegal U-turn, said Officer Kevin Maiberger.
Sutherland, 40, tested over the state's legal blood alcohol limit of .08 percent, and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, Officer Karen Smith said.
He was released around 4 a.m. after posting $25,000 bail, according to Sheriff's Department records.
Maiberger said Sutherland was scheduled to appear in court Oct. 16.
Sutherland won a best actor Emmy Award last year for his role as agent Jack Bauer on the Fox TV series "24." The series is set to return to the air in January.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Variety is reporting that Jessica Biel is in talks to play Wonder Woman in George Miller's upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA movie.

Jessica Biel. Wonder Woman. 'Nuf said.


Sean Penn's INTO THE WILD ****

It's been a few days since I saw INTO THE WILD, and in that time I've also seen the final version of THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, which happens to be my favorite film of the year. INTO THE WILD is currently at #3 on my list. Sean Penn, the actor, is an intense screen presence, bringing a masculine brio to almost every role he takes on. As a filmmaker, Penn has been able to channel that searing intensity into the films he's written and directed: THE INDIAN RUNNER, THE CROSSING GUARD, and THE PLEDGE. His latest film, INTO THE WILD, based on the true-story, best-selling book by John Krakauer, is his best and most ambitious film to date. Part ravishing travelogue and part spiritual journey, the film is anchored by a larger-than-life, uniquely compelling performance by Emilie Hirsch, who should certainly be rewarded with a best actor nomination at next year's Academy Awards.

At first I wasn't sure what to make of Hirsch's character, Christopher McCandless. Here's a newly college-graduated young man, born into wealth, who is at odds with his domineering parents (especially his father) over basically every facet of his life. Not wanting to follow in his father's footsteps by getting a real-world job and starting a family, McCandless dumps everything he has to his name--credit cards, drivers license, social security card, cash, and the rest of his "college fund" (roughly $24,000 which he dontated to Oxfam). He's a kid that has everything (jobs, girls, money, a future) at his finger tips, but didn't want any of it. McCandless resented everything that his parents stood for. Played by the always reliable William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden, his parents never wanted to understand their son, nor did they ever try it seems. Frustrated with them and, in a way, himself, McCandless set out to explore America in his beat-up junker but didn't make it very far. His car gets destroyed when he encounters a flash-flood in the dessert, vividly brought to life on screen. Ditching his wheels, he hitchhiked and walked everywhere. His ultimate destination: Alaska, where he'd be at one with nature and free from the strict confines of normal-day life. Guided in his travels by the writings of Kerouac, Hemingway, Thoreau and Tolstoy (to name a few), McCandless relied on the generosity of strangers and the diverse opportunities that life on the road presented him with. And he never spoke to his family again.

In truth, for the first 20 minutes or so, I was kind of annoyed with the guy. Coming off like a wannabe hippie about 30 years late to the party, he reminded me of some of the more foolish, pretentious kids I went to college with. But as the film moved along (it's two and a half hours though it never drags for a moment), I became fully consumed by McCandless's journey. Unlike, say, the demented thought process that brought a sociopath like Timothy Treadwell (showcased in Werner Herzog's brilliant documentary GRIZZLY MAN) to the remote Alskan wilderness, McCandless was a smart, focused, and totally in control person. He may have been a tad naive, but he was always in control of his destiny. Along his journey, he becomame friends with a variety of people: two older hippies with relationship problems (Catherine Keener and the phenomenal Brian Dierkner); a farm/mill owner who gives him some work (Vince Vaughn, in a welcome dramatic performance which also injects the picture with some much needed humor); a cute, teenage trailer-park singer (Kristen Stewart) that eyes him in more ways that one; and most memorably, a lonely, widowed WWII veteran, played by the great Hal Holbrook, who wants to adopt McCandless as the grandson he never had.

One of the best aspects of the film is the time and patience that Penn, as writer and director, brought to the picture. In the hands of a less attentive or invested filmmaker, INTO THE WILD could have felt truncated or shallow. The long run time allows Penn to fully develop every character that McCandless encountered, giving everyone an arc and a distinct voice and personality. The scenes with Holbrook are among the very best in the film. Here, McCandless reawakens the old man's spirit to live and take on new challenges; their firendship is touching and in the end, extremely uplifting. One scene in particular, where McCandless dares the old timer to meet him at the top of a small mountain peek, is outstanding; I cried. Holbrook also deserves Academy recognition.

Penn opts for a shooting style that is both intimate and epic all throughout INTO THE WILD. The lush photography and nimble, expressive camerawork by cinematographer Eric Gautier, is a wonder to behold. The snow-capped mountains look achingly cold and the river rapids sequence is pulse quickening. Penn also finds ways to incorporate the journal left behind by McCandless (I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that he doesn't make it back from his trip alive; the details I will leave for you to discover) by scrawling his journal entries across the screen in a stylish fashion. The Terrence Malick-esque voiceovers and introspective moments of character observation blend beautifully with the overall rebellious nature of the story. Penn bites off almost more than he can chew, but he brings it all together in a truly powerful way.

But the star of the film is Hirsch, who at times feels like a young Leo DiCaprio. Tough, poetic, and handsome, Hirsch delivers what amounts to a tour de force of a performance. His physical transformation during the last third of the film is startling (he apparently went the Christian Bale route of rapidly losing weight) and as McCandless started to lose his grip on his surroundings, Hirsch never feels out of control or over the top. During the intense "magic bus" sequences, he is an actor on fire. It's a mesmerizing performance, one I won't soon forget. And the film's final shot, one of the most haunting moments I have seen on screen this year (or any year) is truly spectacular. Penn takes a cue from Brian De Palma in the film they worked on together, CARLITO'S WAY, and stages a bravura swooping camera move that is beyond compare.

Attention must also be paid to the driving, exciting musical score provided by Eddie Vedder. I have never been a huge fan of the group Pearl Jam, more a casual listener. But here, Vedder's compositions work tremendously well with the visual style that Penn and Gautier devised for the film. The brand new recordings from Vedder signify change and fulfillment for McCandless; it's another directorial move by Penn that brings the film together in a sublime way.

INTO THE WILD is a tough film for serious audiences. There is excitement, sadness, poetry, and a sense of deadly foreboding that permeates through every scene of the film. It's an art film, to be sure, and I for one congratulate Penn for making the film in the fashion that he did. It couldn't have been easy to get this film made (for a variety of reasons) but I'm glad Penn took the time to tell this story. Always fascinating, and in the end, down right moving, INTO THE WILD is Sean Penn's masterpiece as a director, and one of the best films of the year.

**** stars out of ****


Prison. Federal prison. Don't lie to the F.B.I.

per Yahoo news:

A federal judge sentenced Hollywood director John McTiernan to four months in prison Monday after refusing to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to charges of lying to the FBI about his association with disgraced private eye Anthony Pellicano.

I don't enjoy reporting this. I have wanted a to see a big comeback from McTiernan for years now. This is the guy who gave us such action flicks like DIE HARD, PREDATOR, THE HUNT FOR THE RED OCTOBER, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. He's also the guy who directed ROLLERBALL, BASIC, THE 13th WARRIOR, and THE LAST ACTION HERO, so suffice to say, he's due for something great.

Who knows how all of his legal troubles will affect his directing career....


I will be on the radio show LAZAR/HOT LUNCH at 1:15pm PST/4:15pm EST today.

Here is the website:

Again, the show I am on is currently called LAZAR (but is being re-named HOT LUNCH soon)

Go to the LISTEN NOW section in the top right hand corner of the screen (in orange) and you can access the broadcast using either REAL PLAYER, QUICKTIME, or WINDOWS MEDIA. The website also says that it's available at 80.1 FM and 100.7 FM radio on Comcast cable radio.


David Fincher’s ZODIAC
David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES
Peter Berg’s THE KINGDOM
Zack Snyder’s 300
Jimmy Mangold’s 3:10 TO YUMA
John Carney’s ONCE

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Action auteur Tony Scott is apparently set to re-make the seminal 1970's action film THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1, 2, 3. Denzel Washington is tipped to be taking on the lead role of a hostage negotiator (played rather brilliantly by Walter Matthau in the original) who has to contend with an insane criminal (played in the original by Robert Shaw) who hijacks a NYC subway car and takes all of the passengers hostage.

This would be the fourth team-up for Tony Scott and Denzel (they have collaborated on CRIMSON TIDE, MAN ON FIRE and DEJA VU, all awesome flicks) and while there are other things I might rather see them do, this has some serious potential to be a kick-ass action movie.


I have already reviewed THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD on the blog so I don't necessarily need to write another lengthy piece. From the surreal opening train robbery to the chilly, desolate landscapes that punctuate the entire story, writer-director Andrew Dominik is operating on another level of storytelling with this epic yet intimate Western. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, aka cameraman of the Gods (FARGO, JARHEAD, KUNDUN, O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?), shoots the film as a living, breathing painting, which springs to life in a lyrical, haunting fashion. It's pure visual art, filmmaking of the highest order, a triumph for all involved. Casey Affleck is a revelation as Robert Ford; awkward, off-putting, and sneaky. And Brad Pitt is simply magnetic as Jesse James, giving one of the absolute best peformances of his underrated career. You will never take your eyes off him in this picture when he appears on screen. Here is a real life Jesse James (in a certain way--see the film and you'll know what I mean) playing a cocky, brash outlaw thug, with a rabid, mad-dog intensity circulating in his eyes and in his mannerisms. The entire ensemble cast, including the always fascinating Sam Rockwell, James Remmar, Paul Schneider, Sam Sherpard and Mary-Louise Parker all lend deft support in memorable roles. Movies like JESSE JAMES come around once in a great while, and it would be a shame if the public gives it a cold shoulder. It did very well in limited release this weekend which is encouraging. And it will get a wider release in the weeks to come. But this is a specific film for a specific type of film goer. It's a monumental acheivement, and easily the best film of the year.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Sean Penn's bold, ambitious new picture INTO THE WILD is a powerful, artsy travelouge (both spiritual and geographical) of a film with a tour-de-force performance from Emilie Hirsch. I am not prepared to fully get into the film quite yet, as it's still settling in. But for two and a half hours I sat in the Arclight today completely transfixed on the images and words brought to life by Penn, who has taken himself to a new level as a filmmaker. The cinematography by Eric Gautier is ravishing in a very real way and the Terrence Malick-style interludes of self reflection and love for wild nature were extremely captivating. It's certainly one of the best movies of 2007, and is a rare work of art in terms of personal storytelling. It's funny that both this film and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD are both being released this weekend (granted both are in limited release). Both films have many distinct similarities, and it's great to know that some people in Hollywood are taking big, risky chances with intense, adult, and personal subject matter.

More to come...

Friday, September 21, 2007


Just finished watching BROKEN ENGLISH, the debut film from Zoe Cassavettes. It was a nice romantic dramedy with a smart, terrific lead performance from Parker Posey. Effortlessly sexy and very honest and believeable, her performance is one of the best of the year. The movie was a wee bit contrived but the unexpected nuance and a couple of nice story surprises makes this movie a cut-above for the genre. Produced by Magnolia films, it doesn't look like it cost too much to make, but that was part of the charm to be honest. The New York and Paris scenery is very appealing and the French actor, who's name escapes me, who plays Posey's main love interest was quite good as well. A very enjoyable little film.


If you don't know who director Uwe Boll is, just go to google and type his name in. If you're lazy, he's the cinematic ass-clown behind such amazing pieces of work as:

POSTAL piece of dung after another.

Now check out this article from critic Phil Villareal in Arizona.....

I love how Boll has the nerve to say that Oliver Stone's ALEXANDER is "shit." I am a HUGE Oliver Stone fan, and I'll be the first to admit that while far from his best work, ALEXANDER is nowhere near as bad as everyone made it out to be. But someone like Boll bashing someone like Stone...are you kidding me?!


The New York Yankees are working on taking the American League's Eastern Division from the Boston Red Sox. At one point this season, the Bronx bombers were roughly 14 games out of first the gap is 1.5 games. The Yanks are hot right now; the Sox aren't. I detest the Boston Red Sox and all of the stupid, drunk, meat-head Mass-holes that populate Fenway and surrounding areas. There are even a disgusting amount of Sox fans living in southern California. I would be supremely pleased if the Yankees took the division away from the Sox; nothing could make me happier in the world of sports. But whatever the final outcome, what a collapse by the Sox these last few weeks. And even if the facist pigs still win the division, I have a feeling that the Yanks (who will at least take the Wild Card), will beat them down the line this post-season. It will make for an exciting October!


The new trailer for Bob Zemeckis's BEOWULF has hit apple/trailers and it looks appropriately bad-ass. This film will be a 3-D IMAX release, so get ready for that....


I don't really have anything to say other than I want to see this movie right now. I loved DONNIE DARKO and Richard Kelly's script for Tony Scott's DOMINO was a blast.


I read every day. While I think that the site is a bit juvenille, there is no debating over whether or not they get great info on a daily basis. I do, however, always look forward to the reviews written by "Moriarity," one of the key-contributors to the site.

Here is the link to his review of JESSE JAMES:

It's a great, spot-on look at the film.


Michael Bay's action-extravaganza TRANSFORMERS has opened on IMAX screens across the country today.

There's the link to the IMAX website so you can find a local theater where the film is smashing through the screen.


This sounds INCREDIBLE. Per Variety:

FX is developing "Paranoid," an edgy thriller with themes of privacy and spying, from "Fight Club" scribe Jim Uhls. Series is described as a modern-day "Parallax View," centering on a surveillance agent who himself may be spied upon, all set against Patriot Act-America.
Sources say a pilot deal is likely but has not officially been ordered. "Paranoid" has had a long history, with a number of cable execs privately praising the script for months but also saying it was too dark to put on the air; in one scene, for instance, a man rips open his skin searching for an embedded surveillance device.

Wow. If you've seen Alan Pakula's seminal thriller THE PARALLAX VIEW then you'll know why I'm so excited by the possibility of ANY potential television show that is described as a riff on THE PARALLAX VIEW. If you haven't seen that flick, which stars Warren Beatty as a journalist caught in the middle of a political conspiracy, rent it immediately. It's phenomenal.


So THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD opens today in 4 cities and the critics are weighing in. And to to be honest, I am shocked. Granted, there are a lot of extremely positive reviews from major critics but there are a good number of middling reviews out there and I just don't get it. THIS FILM IS A MASTERPIECE, one of the best films of the decade. Seriously. Movie lovers could only hope for one film like this to come along each year. And my fear is that without superlative reviews across the board, it's gonna be tough to get people into the theaters to watch a long, psychological Western, even with Brad Pitt in the lead.

There's the link to rottentomatoes for the flick. It currently has a 72% fresh rating which is sold, but only a 55% cream of the crop rating. The film should be in the 90% column. I am SHOCKED that Manhola Darghis of the New York Times, one of the best and sharpest film critics in the county, took some shots at the movie. She was a huge supporter of Terry Malick's THE NEW WORLD, a similar film in many ways to JESSE JAMES. But she totally missed the point of JESSE JAMES, and her review, which isn't so much a review as it is a summation of the legend of Jesse James, is wrong on more than one count. This film is certainly going to divide critics and audiences but I am shocked that more people aren't flipping out for this film. It's a movie for adults that requires patience and an understanding of the genre; maybe people just won't get it. Sad.


Brad Pitt is stepping in for Matt Damon in director Darren Aronofsky's boxing movie THE FIGHTER, co-starring Mark Wahlberg. Scott Silver, who wrote 8 MILE, is finishing the script. Based on the true story of Boston boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, Wahlberg is set to play Ward, with Pitt playing his troublesd half-brother.

Aronofsky last directed the extremely personal head-trip flick THE FOUNTAIN. This sounds much more overtly commercial and an interesting movie for Aronofsky to make at his point in his career.


Very interesting news that HAPPY FEET and MAX MAX director George Miller is going to be putting together a big superhero movie revolving around The Justice League of America. Warner Brothers is producing the flick. What's most interesting is that Warner's has their BATMAN sequel hitting theaters next summer and are working on getting a SUPERMAN sequel up and running. But this JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA movie would be a stand-alone project, not using anyone involved from their regular BATMAN and SUPERMAN flicks. What's quite cool about the JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA movie is that we'll get to see multiple superheroes in the same movie (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, The Green Lantern). And with someone like George Miller taking on the directing chores, one can only imagine how visually amazing the project could be.

Or, this project could fall apart like Wolfgang Petersen's proposed SUPERMAN VS. BATMAN project that stalled in favor of separate re-boots of the Batman and Superman franchises.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I will be checking out THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD again this weekend. I am very excited that the cut I saw last March ran 2 hours and 15 minutes while the release version is a longer 2 hour and 40 minutes. When something's this good, you want to stay with it forever.

I will also plan on checking out INTO THE WILD. I have high hopes.

If time permits, I will also check out Julie Taymor's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, which expands a bit wider this weekend. I am very curious, though reactions have been wildly mixed.

On DVD from Netflix I have BROKEN ENGLISH with Parker Posey and the supposedly sexy art house flick CASHBACK.

Happy viewing!



RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. The third film in the series, this time, hackmeister Russel Mulchay is the director. Good old Russell did make the first HIGHLANDER and the underappreciated (and a little ahead of its time) comic book film THE SHADOW, but mostly, he's directed crap. And this looks like more of the same. The first two sucked...I have to assume this one will too.

GOOD LUCK CHUCK. Other wise known as the movie where Dane Cook appears semi-naked and Jessica Alba stays fully clothed. I think I'll pass. Looks like shite.

SYDNEY WHITE with Amanda Bynes in a riff on SNOW WHITE. Um.....maybe if I was a 12 year old girl. Next......


David Cronenberg's masterpiece EASTERN PROMISES rolls out across the country and I implore you to seek this crime thriller out. After seeing this film last weekend, I've been left thinking about it all week. It's one of the best movies of the year.


THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Also known as the best film of 2007. It will open this weekend in NY, LA, Toronto and Austin and will expand over the coming weeks. I have doubts about how well this movie will do with the paying public; needless to say, it's arguably one of the best films of the decade and I urge you to see this film on the largest possible screen whenever it comes to your area.

Sean Penn's INTO THE WILD, based on the best selling book by Jon Krakauer, also opens in NY and LA (maybe a few more major-market areas) and it's getting terrifc reviews. I plan on seeing it this weekend.


American Pie 1999

American Pie 2 2001

American Wedding 2003

American Pie Presents: Band Camp (straight to DVD) 2005

American Pie Presents: The Naked Mile (straight to DVD) 2006

American Pie Presents: Beta House (straight to DVD) 2008

Are you f'ing kidding me with this shit?


Last night saw the debut of two new reality shows: KID NATION and KITCHEN NIGHTMARES.

CBS's KID NATION, which was only OK, is basically survivor in a dessert ghost-town...with kids. 40 kids ages 8-15 all set up shop in the ghost town, and are charged with bringing the town to life. They have to set up a town council, elect officials, run a general store, cook for themsleves, etc. While it was interesting to see just how much little kids could do, the show was only moderately entertaining.

FOX's KITCHEN NIGHTMARES stars Gordon Ramsay from HELL'S KITCHEN. Ramsay bullies his way into flailing restaurants and gives everyone involved a swift kick in the ass. Hysterically funny and actually riveting a on a occasion, the live-wire and foul-mouthed Ramsay could eat Simon Cowell for breakfast. An extremely entertaining hour of reality tv.


a 13 episode second season has been ordered of AMC's MAD MEN. Second season will begin airing in Summer 2008.


Amazing. If only I could be in Rome for this:

Malick hasn't done a public event like this in 30 years. There better be some youtube clips up fast!


I will be in Hollywood all day today at a production office so postings will be light.

Have a good one.


If you aren't familiar with the great, distinct body of work from filmmaker Tom Tykwer, you should get to know it fast. His films, such as RUN LOLA RUN, PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, WINTER SLEEPERS, HEAVEN, and THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, are all a heady mixture of existentialism, surrealism, fantasy, and sexuality. I saw RUN LOLA RUN four times in the theater and have watched it repeatedly on DVD; I consider that to be his best film. However, do yourself a favor and rent on DVD his most recent picture, last years criminally underrated (at least in America) PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER. This film made over $150 million outside of the United States, yet only around $4 million here. Rent it and you'll see why. It's a bizzarre masterwork, and while not perfect, is so bold and audacious that I guarantee you you'll be fascinated. Maybe repulsed at times, but always engrossed. Anyways, here are a few links; one to Roger Ebert's phenomenal review of PERFUME, and the other a link to Tykwer's website:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD opens in NY, LA, Toronto, and Austin this weekend. Don't let the long run time (2 hours 30 minutes) dissuade you from seeing this masterpiece.

Here is yet another rave for the film, this time from Andrew Sarris @ The New York Observer. I am hit-and-miss with Sarris's viewpoints on modern cinema, but here, we're in complete agreement.


Oh, and for what it's worth, I consider Pete Berg's film version of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS to be the best football movie ever made.


As the premiere of season 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS approaches, I will have more in depth comments. But for now, please check out this's perfect:

Simply put, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is one of the top 5 programs on television and easily the best television show about sports that I've ever seen. Peter Berg, who wrote/directed the film version as well as the pilot for television, has developed the stories so beautifully with his incredible writing team and the truly outstanding ensemble of actors, that I have actually cried more than once while watching.

The show returns in October and the first season is now available on dvd. Considering the dismal ratings from last season, it's probably not a long shot that most people haven't seen this excellent program. Do youself a favor and check it'll be instantly hooked.


I love reading movie reviews. And I have always loved reading the work of David Denby, who writes for the New Yorker magazine. Here is a link to his review of Paul Haggis's IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, which I saw, and quite enjoyed, last weekend. It's a very strong piece of work from Haggis, and as the days have gone by, I have come to like the film even more.

Denby's review is spot-on. I hope people give this film a chance.


do yourself a favor and call your cable/satellite provider and get Showtime. And start watching the aweosme new David Duchovny show CALIFORNICATION. It's priceless. You can get caught up with the show with the "on-demand" feature. Duchovny is just incredible in the lead role, and the always lovely and talented Natascha McElhone plays his ex. It's a dark, sexy romp through Los Angeles with Duchovny playing a boozing, womanizing writer with writers-block. It airs Monday nights at 10:30pm after WEEDS, another fun show (although the current third season hasn't been as sharp as the first two thus far).


Per Variety:

A second-season renewal for MAD MEN is imminent and could be official by end of day Wednesday. The AMC series, which was created by ex-"Sopranos" writer Matthew Weiner and is produced by Lionsgate, follows a group of advertising executives in 1960 New York. Reviews have been stellar and the skein has helped the network improve on its male demo. "Mad Men," exec produced by Weiner, stars Jon Hamm and John Slattery and airs Thursdays at 10.

This is GREAT news for fans of this show. When the inevitable DVD of season 1 is released, if you haven't yet gotten into this amazing show, catch up with the dvd's in preparation for the second season. I love just about everything about this show. From the rich storylines to the terrific performances and the beautiful look and style, MAD MEN is a stand out for television drama lovers.


Stephen H. Burum, one of my favorite cinematographers, is getting the lifetime achievement award from the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC). Some of his credits include:


Getting up there in age, he hasn't worked in the last few years. But his work over the years, especially with director Brian De Palma, has been outstanding.


This is old news, but I had been remiss in mentioning it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's unparalleled comedy SOUTH PARK won best animated program. The episode that won, MAKE LOVE NOT WARCRAFT, is certainly one of the funniest (and most perceptive) episodes they've ever done. No other comedy on television has been as consistently funny and smart as SOUTH PARK. It's a brilliant show. Can't wait for the new season to start up on October 3rd.


Starting this coming Sunday 9/23/07 @ 8pm to 10:30pm, PBS will unveil documentarian Ken Burns's latest epic THE WAR, a two-week, 15 hour series, that will highlight America's role in WWII.

Everything else Burns has done has been nothing short of magnificent...I expect nothing different with his latest work. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter called it masterful. Can't wait.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I am always looking for the next piece of cutting-edge visual effects work.

Check this out:'s fake...but it doesn't look it one bit. Mind-blowing to say the least.


Per Variety:

"Following a fierce bidding war, CBS has beat out ABC for the rights to a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adaptation of Brit thriller "Eleventh Hour." Eye has committed to at least a pilot, with a hefty seven-figure penalty attached if the Warner Bros./Granada project--which remains untitled in the States-- doesn't move forward. Reports from people familiar with the situation suggest that CBS may have agreed to as much as a 13-episode on-air commitment, but the Eye is denying it's stepped up to that level. Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman are set to exec produce the untitled adaptation of "Eleventh Hour". "Eleventh Hour" aired as a four-part miniseries in Blighty last year, with Patrick Stewart starring. Thesp played Professor Alan Hood, who's called in by the government to investigate mysterious cases that involve matters of science--from cloning to global warming. U.S. adaptation is said to have a tone similar to "The X-Files."

Sounds awesome. I would flip-out if a new X-FILES-ish show was on its way to the small screen courtesty of the Bruck.


Then I could care less about a sequel to TRANSFORMERS.

Per Michael Bay:

“'Transformers 2', well that's another story. Itching to work pre-strike (June) so I might jump ship and come back a year or so later cause people at the studio have been dragging for two months. Not sure why. I'll keep you informed.”

Basically the ONLY reason why the first TRANSFORMERS was as amazing as it was was beacause of Michael Bay and his attention to detail. There is no other director, with the possible exception of Spielberg (who was exec-producer on the first film), who would have made all the robots and the battle scenes as believeable and realistic as they were. These types of movies aren't Shakespeare, but they require filmmakers of enormous visual and technical talent to pull off correctly. Spare us a summer movie season with TRANSFORMERS 2: A film by Brett Ratner.


Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire are teaming up for a new film from director Jim Sheridan (IN AMERICA, MY LEFT FOOT). Per Variety:

"The film, a remake of Susanne Bier's Danish-language war drama, centers on a man (Maguire) who is sent to fight in Afghanistan while his black-sheep brother (Gyllenhaal) cares for his wife and child. Bier's film, which was released in 2004, stars Connie Nielsen, Ulrich Thomsen and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. In the remake, which David Benioff (TROY, THE 25th HOUR) is writing, Gyllenhaal would play the younger brother and Maguire the older one. Shooting is scheduled to begin in early November."

Sounds like it could be interesting. Have been a big fan of Sheridan's work for a long time and Benioff is a solid writer. Gyllenhaal has made excellent choices of late and Maguire is always good (though I hope he's all done with playing Peter Parker/Spiderman).

Monday, September 17, 2007


A must see. I first saw this link at Jeff Wells's blog A great place to read about movies.

I have always known that David Fincher is a visual artist/genius and this just further proves my feelings. Incredible. Simply incredible.


I expect critical reaction to THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD to be mostly positive (or through-the-r00f positive) but there will be some sticks-in-the-mud (as there were with movies like THE NEW WORLD and THE THIN RED LINE, movies that JESSE JAMES shares similar qualities with). But here is the link to Todd McCarthy's spot-on rave for the film from trade magazine Variety

This is a terrific piece of film writing, and I agreee with virtually everything he says.


If you live in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, or Austin, you'll have the chance to see the best film of 2007 this weekend: Andrew Dominik's THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. I saw a 2 hour 15 minute cut of this film last March at a test screening, while a longer version (2 hours 40 minutes) will be the release version this weekend. It's a masterpiece, and one of the best Western's I've ever seen. It's the kind of film that rewards patient viewers, people who want to be immersed in the story and its characters. And it has to be the most beautiful film, on a purely visual level, since Terrence Malick's THE NEW WORLD (JESSE JAMES shares many common stylistic qualities of Malick's work). I can't wait to see it again and again.


Michael Haneke's film FUNNY GAMES, one of the most disturbing and unqiue thrillers I've ever seen has been remade by Haneke himself with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth.

Here's the trailer:

A bleak, dark, scaborously funny thriller with third-wall breaking tendancies, Haneke's original film left me feeling uncomfortable all throughout, which certainly was his intent. You need a tough stomach for this film, and the remake looks like no exception.

Haneke also directed the thriller CACHE, which was pretty good as well.


I enjoyed Scott Frank's directorial debut THE LOOKOUT but was left a little underwhelmed. Maybe it was the heaping amounts of praise it received upon its theatrical release last March. I read more than one review that labeled it as a "small masterpiece" and I just didn't see get that feeling. Joseph-Gordon Levitt, who was great in BRICK, is again very solid in THE LOOKOUT, and while everything adds up and makes enough sense in the end, I couldn't help but feel that overall, while entertaining and smart and stylish, it was pretty predictable and not all that exciting. The story of a bank heist and the emotionally/psychologically troubled night janitor caught in the middle of the action, THE LOOKOUT is a nice addition to the genre while never going above and beyond the normal call of duty. The ensemble cast is good in all areas, and the ending has a tough, brutal shootout that I sort of didn't expect. But the movie never raised the stakes enough and while engrossing, I never cared enough about the outcome or the characters to the extent that I would have liked. But it's a good neo-noir thriller with some great individual scenes and a nice, mean tone. Certainly rent it, just keep expectations in check.


TELL ME YOU LOVE ME continued in the right direction on its second episode last night. The writing and acting is just great, and the show looks to be settling into its groove. I have some ideas on how the various storylines are going to progress, but so far, it's been an excellent, dark, and honest show about sex and relationships. HBO should pat themselves on the back for putting out such a daring and unique hour of television.

Last night's episode of CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM was priceless, better than last weeks season premiere. I laughed out loud more than once and Larry David never ceases to amaze me with his unpredicability and his effortless awkward behavior. Will probably re-watch it tonight before bed.


The thrid season premiere of IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, one of the funniest shows on television, debuted big last week with 2.3 million overall viewers, which is the highest number it's reached in its entire run. So happy to see that people have found this hysterical show.


David Fincher’s ZODIAC
David Cronenberg’s EASTERN PROMISES
Peter Berg’s THE KINGDOM
Zack Snyder’s 300
Jimmy Mangold’s 3:10 TO YUMA
John Carney’s ONCE
Werner Herzog’s RESCUE DAWN


Starting today, and hopefully occuring every Monday, I will be a featured guest critic on a San Francisco State radio program called HOT LUNCH. It airs at 12pm PST/3pm EST to 2pm PST/5pm EST. I will be talking at roughly 1:15pm PST/4:15pm EST so if you can, here's the weblink where you can hear the broadcast:


The name of the show at 12pm PST/3pm EST that's on the sked is called LAZAR, which is the name of the old show that my friend took over. The new name for his show is HOT may or may not be updated today on the website.

There is a REAL PLAYER, QUICKTIME, and WINDOWS OPTION that can be used to listen to the live broadcasts.

The website also says this: Broadcast: 80.1 FM and 100.7 FM radio on Comcast cable radio

Thanks for tuning in!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


David Cronenberg's EASTERN PROMISES is the biggest surprise of the year thus far. And certainly one of the best. I will have a full write up soon, but let me just say that this is the best film that I have seen of Cronenberg's, and it's better than his previous film, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, which I thought was pretty awesome. Working with the incredible Viggo Mortensen for the second straight film, Cronenberg's uniquely cold, detached style works perfectly with the pitch-black script from writer Steven Knight, who wrote a great little thriller called DIRTY PRETTY THINGS a few years ago. Without giving anything away, EASTERN PROMISES is as engrossing a thriller that I've seen in quite some time, and has a few smart, completely unpredictable surprises. But the film's ultimate set piece, a five minute fight-to-the death with Mortensen taking on two thugs in a steam bath, is easily the most brutally punishing movie fight I have seen in quite some time. Maybe ever. Eschewing guns in favor of small knives, Cronenberg's masterful direction is truly riveting, and Mortensen, working completely nude throughout the entire fight, delivers a tour de force of physical acting, something I won't soon forget. The sequence demands multiple viewings, as does the film. EASTERN PROMISES is a genre film at heart, which will make it tough to garner Academy consideration I think. The brutal yet realistic violence will turn off some, but because each incident so neatly serves the air-tight script, nothing ever feels cheap or exploitive. EASTERN PROMISES deserves nominations in the writing, directing, and acting, category, if not a best picture nomination. Every once in a while a thriller like EASTERN PROMISES comes along and reminds you what can be done with familiar material. It's a great film, and one of my favorites of 2007.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, Paul Haggis's follow up to his Academy Award winning film CRASH, is a sensitive war/detective thriller that while not perfect, is a damn good film, with a tremendous performance from Tommy Lee Jones, who is also now almost guranteed an Oscar nomination. Reminding me of Hal Ashby's superior film COMING HOME, ELAH is one of the first big Hollywood movies to directly address the war in Iraq. It's not a combat film, but an intense psychological and emotional drama about the effects of the war on our young soliders, and the determination of a father to find out what has happened to his son. I will have more on both ELAH and EASTERN PROMISES tomorrow, but it's been a great weekend of movie watching. Going to go and check out THE LOOKOUT on dvd now.

Happy watching.


Off to see EASTERN PROMISES. Will have thoughts on that and ELAH later today. Also got Scott Frank's THE LOOKOUT from Netflix.

THE BRAVE ONE opened very weak with only $13.5 million. Color me surprised.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Just got back from seeing IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH. Excellent film, very well done. Comments coming up.


Very surprised to hear that THE BRAVE ONE only did about $5 million last night, for what looks to be a $14-15 million weekend....considering Jodie Foster, I would have thought this flick would have done at least $20 million opening weekend. Reviews have been mixed, but the movie had strong trailers and Foster has proven time after time that she's the only major female movie star who can open a movie.

YUMA did about $3 million on Friday, for what will be a nice second place finish of around $10 million. I knew it would never become a blockbuster, but a solid $50-60 million gross for a dark, violent Western is pretty solid these days.

EASTERN PROMISES and ACROSS THE UNIVERSE did incredible buiness playing on a very small amount of screens in NY and LA. They both go wider over the coming weeks. IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH did so-so only opening on 9 screens nationwide. It will be quite interesting to see how all of the Iraq/Afghanistan movies do at the box office. As much as I want to see all of them, I just dont think that the majority of the movie going public wants to see these types of movies nor do they want to be reminded of all the problems our world is facing. I think the true test will be how THE KINGDOM does, as that's more of a traditional action film with an exotic location. The film sneak previews tonight nationwide.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I am beyond thrilled that a cop thriller with both Robert de Niro AND Al Pacino is being filmed right now. The fact that this movie has written by Russell Gewirtz, who wrote the terrific INSIDE MAN, makes me extremely pleased. What irritates me is who is directing and producing it. Jon Avnet is the director. Jon Avnet. The director of UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL and RED CORNER. Two beyond movies that were beyond tedious. Oh yeah. He did FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. He's also the director of 88 MINUTES, which is also known as the Al Pacino thriller that's going straight to DVD. So let me be first to say that he doesn't strike me as the first director I'd expect to be directing an apparently R-rated cop thriller with De Niro and Pacino. Where is Michael Mann? Or Marty Scorsese? Or...I don't know...anyone...better? I will give the guy some credit...he did produce and director the underseen television show BOOMTOWN, which I highly urge that you check out NOW on dvd. It's an incredible television series that was too smart for the average viewer. But check this. The film is being produced, amongnst many people, by none other than Avi Lerner. Just look at this list of PURE shit he has unleased upon the multiplexes:

Alien vs. Alien (2007) (completed) (executive producer)
Blonde Ambition (2007) (completed) (executive producer)
Cleaner (2007) (producer)
Finding Rin Tin Tin (2007) (executive producer)
Mega Snake (2007) (TV) (executive producer)
When Nietzsche Wept (2007) (executive producer)
The Death and Life of Bobby Z (2007) (executive producer) ... aka Bobby Z (USA: DVD title) ... aka Kill Bobby Z (Germany: DVD box title) ... aka Let's Kill Bobby Z (Germany)
Until Death (2007) (executive producer)
88 Minutes (2007) (producer)
Gryphon (2007) (TV) (executive producer) ... aka Attack of the Gryphon (USA: DVD title)
Wicked Little Things (2006) (executive producer)
The Contract (2006/I) (producer)
Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep (2006) (TV) (executive producer)
The Wicker Man (2006) (producer)
The Black Dahlia (2006) (producer) ... aka Black Dahlia (Germany)
The Black Hole (2006) (TV) (producer)
Relative Strangers (2006) (executive producer)
Journey to the End of the Night (2006) (executive producer)
Mercenary for Justice (2006) (V) (executive producer) ... aka Mercenary (International: English title)
Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006) (executive producer) ... aka Undisputed 2 (International: English title: DVD title)
End Game (2006) (executive producer)
The Cutter (2005) (executive producer)
The Mechanik (2005) (executive producer) ... aka The Russian Specialist (Canada: English title: DVD title) (USA: DVD title)
Before It Had a Name (2005) (executive producer) ... aka The Black Widow (USA: DVD title)
Edison (2005) (executive producer) ... aka Edison Force (USA: DVD title)
Today You Die (2005) (V) (executive producer)
Nature Unleashed: Fire (2004) (V) (executive producer)
Unstoppable (2004) (producer) ... aka 9 Lives (Europe: English title: DVD title)
Nature Unleashed: Avalanche (2004) (V) (executive producer)
Shadow of Fear (2004) (executive producer)
Direct Action (2004) (executive producer)
Alien Lockdown (2004) (TV) (executive producer) ... aka PredatorMan (International: English title)
Skeleton Man (2004) (TV) (executive producer)
Nature Unleashed: Earthquake (2004) (V) (executive producer)
Nature Unleashed: Tornado (2004) (V) (executive producer)
Nature Unleashed: Volcano (2004) (V) (executive producer)
Target of Opportunity (2004) (executive producer)
Detention (2003) (executive producer) ... aka Détention (Canada: French title)
Special Forces (2003) (V) (executive producer)
In Hell (2003) (executive producer) ... aka The S.H.U. (USA) ... aka The Savage
Den of Lions (2003) (executive producer)
Death Train (2003) (V) (executive producer)
Highwaymen (2003) (executive producer) ... aka Pourchassé (Canada: French title)

I mean...shiiiiiiiiiit. How horrible is that? If you really want to puke, just look at his IMDB page:

Knowing this, all I can think is that Lerner paid Gewirtz a pile money for MAYBE a good script and the he paid De Niro and Pacino a SHIT TON of money so he could hang out with them. I guess it's great to be Avi Lerner.


This sounds like a very hard-hitting film from filmmaker Brian De Palma. Having just won best director at the Venice film festival for his new Iraq war drama, REDACTED is getting a lot of press, both intensely positive and intensely negative. Based on the true story of a group of American soldiers who raped a 15 year old Iraqi girl and then murdered her family, it appears as if De Palma has made a companion piece to his 1989 masterwork CASUALTIES OF WAR. I haven't seen REDACTED yet but am very curious. I have been a big De Palma fan for years. Even when his movies don't work 100% (think MISSION TO MARS, SNAKE EYES, THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES) there's always something interesting going on. And when he succeeds, he really turns out a great piece of filmmaking (FEMME FATALE, CARLITO'S WAY, THE UNTOUCHABLES, BODY DOUBLE, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, SCARFACE, BLOWOUT). Always a phenomenal technician (the bravura opening stedicam shot in SNAKE EYES is still one of the best of its kind), it sounds as if De Palma is up to something new with REDACTED. The film uses a variety of footage styles to tell its story and was made on a small budget of around $5 million. Produced by Mark Cuban, the HD television advocate and owner of HD Net, the film will hit theaters in November, as well as running on HD Network around the same time.

Here's a very interesting article about some of the legal problems that De Palma faced while trying to finish his film.


I love reading Roger Ebert's reviews. There is no other critic out there that so obviously LOVES going to the movies. I read a lot of reviews. And over the years, while I don't agree with Ebert all the time, I have found that I just love reading his reviews. There is such passion and love for all genres, and his unique, personal writing style is one that I really respond too.

Here are links to his latest reviews. He's also been playing catch-up and writing reviews for films that he missed upon their inital release when he was sick in the hospital (he's making a full recovery from cancer and related surgeries).

THE BRAVE ONE, which he gave 3.5 stars

EASTERN PROMISES, which he gave 4 stars

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, which he gave 4 stars

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, which he gave 4 stars


Bob Redford's LIONS FOR LAMBS, his new political thriller with Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and himself, will world premiere at the London Film Festival on OCT 22. The film, from THE KINGDOM screenwriter Matthew Michael Carnahan, revolves around three storylines all set against the backdrop of the invasion of Afghanistan right after the 9/11 attacks. It's an interesting picture for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it's the first movie to be released by the newly restructured United Artists, which Tom Cruise is now operating as studio chief.


David Heyman, producer of the Harry Potter franchise, is bringing Paddington Bear to the big screen. The film will be live-action with a CGI bear ala the Stuart Little movies. This should be a lot of fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


So it looks like Al Pacino will be playing surrealist-artist Salvador Dali in a new film from writer/director Andrew Niccol. Niccol, who's last film was the brilliant and underseen Lord of War and who also made the fantastic sci-fi film Gattaca, has also cast Cillian Murphy as an art dealer who becomes Dali's protege. Sounds great. I wonder how wacky the film will get considering the eccentricities of Dali's real life?


THE BRAVE ONE, from director Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME, BREAKFAST ON PLUTO), with Jodie Foster.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, from CRASH writer/director Paul Haggis, with Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron.

EASTERN PROMISES, director David Cronenberg's (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) new thriller with Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, from director Julie Taymor (TITUS, FRIDA), featuring Evan Rachel Wood and lots and lots of Beatles music.

Won't get a chance to see all of these this weekend, but hope to see at least two of 'em. Reactions will appear over the weekend/early next week.


Go see the new balls-out-fucking-crazy action film SHOOT 'EM UP if you want to see any of the following cinematic moments:

Clive Owen delivering a baby while simultaneously shooting about 20 henchmen, then blowing the umbillical cord off with a bullet

People skydiving while shooting at each other with automatic weapons

Clive Owen having sex with Monica Belluci while also shooting about 10 bad guys during the act of coitus

Clive Owen jumping off a high-way over pass and shooting out the sun roof of a BMW underneath him and landing in the drivers seat...all the while holding a baby under his arm

Don't see this film if ANY of what I have just described isn't your cup of tea. If this sort of thing floats your boat, then do check it out. There's much more in store for you.

Over the last few years, there have been a number of super-stylized, hard-R action films to hit cinemas. Most of these movies have become hits on DVD after weak showings at the box office. SHOOT 'EM UP wants to be in the same class as Robert Rodriguez's SIN CITY (the biggest theatrical hit out of this group), Tony Scott's DOMINO, Wayne Kramer's RUNNING SCARED, Neveldine/Taylor's CRANK, and Joe Carnahan's SMOKIN' ACES. All films that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. And while writer/director Michael Davis does put forth an admirable effort and sustained energy into his entry in this nasty little sub-genre of the traditional action flick, the rampant silliness of the entire endeavor overcomes parts of the movie resulting in a sometimes unbalanced tone. It's a sometimes cheesy, sometimes sharp, R-rated comic book that bears no resemblance to anything approximating real life or believeable situations. This film gives new meaning to the phrase "over-the-top." Clive Owen is Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith has to protect a new-born baby from an army of hitmen who are trying to kill it, for reasons which are made clear towards the end (but in all honesty, it never really mattered). Paul Giamatti is the villian, not simply chewing the scenery, but devouring it. He gets to curse, shoot some pistols, and act like a bad ass. And he's a lot of fun to watch. The insanely hot Italian actress Monica Belluci is the hooker with a heart of gold who helps Mr. Smith along the way.

Listen...if you like your action flicks short and sweet (this one is 83 minutes) and can tolerate some graphic violence with your popcorn and soda, check SHOOT 'EM UP out. It's nifty at times, has a great title sequence, will make you laugh (and roll your eyes occasionally), and Clive Owen is beyond icy-cool. I just love watching the guy on the big screen. His laconic line delivery and the way he looks when engaged in a shoot out are extrememly, well, cool...and that's what SHOOT 'EM UP aspires to be. Cool. It's just about the least pretentious movie I've seen in the last few years. And while it isn't as serious as some of the other films listed above, it's a hoot and a holler. Extreme to be sure. But fun all the same.

*** stars


On 9/21 (next Friday), this summer's mega-blockbuster Transformers will be released on IMAX screens nationwide for a limited engagement. Here's the kicker: 5 new minutes of footage. Hopefully all five of those minutes will include more robot-on-robot ass-kicking. Either that or more shots of Megan Fox. If you missed this extravaganza the first time around in theaters this past summer, don't miss it now. It's an incredible ride. Bay's visual sense is just astounding and the robots themselves are, to put it midly, awe-inspiring. Sure, the script is beyond ludicrous and the characters are wafer thin, but Shai Lebouf turned out a great star-in-the-making performance and the previously mentioned Megan Fox is white-hot. But what would a $150 million Transformers movie be without insane action scenes? Not much to be honest. But leave it to Bay, who was practically born to direct this movie, to set the bar once again as far as seamless CGI and practical effects are concerned. The last 40 minutes of the movie is one extended robot/militay battle all filmed in downtown Los Angeles. The sight of Optimus Prime tackling Megatron and toppling over the 105 freeway into oncoming traffic is nothing short of staggering. Shooting in his customary over-the-top style, Bay and his amazing team give the audience one astonishing sequence of destruction after another. You'll see multiple tanks flipping through the air, fighter jets transform into robots in mid-air and landing on a city street, robots throwing each other through buildings and much, much more. And to top it off, there is a humor and genuine sense of gee-golly-whiz entertainment packed into every scene. It's the ultimate summer pop-corn film, one of the best of it's kind. Of all time. Leave it to Bay (and exec-producer Steven Speilberg) to set the standard for summers to come.


So the looming writers/actors guild strikes that may or may not occur next year are sending the studios and production companies into a tizzy. Everyone is scrambling to get projects rolling this fall and early winter. Here's an incredible link that you might find interesting:

This lays out, by company, all of the films in active development, many with directors attached.


Ben Affleck is back--big time--this fall. His directorial debut, GONE BABY GONE, is getting great buzz from the various film festivals. A detective/crime-thriller based on the book of the same name from Mystic River author Denis Lehane, the film stars Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Michelle Monaghan. The early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and it seems as if Affleck is a natural born director. I am looking forward it seeing it. Have always been a fan of Affleck. He's not the world's greatest actor, but when he wants to be, he's charming and effective (see the terrific and underrated Changing Lanes, Bounce, Boiler Room and The Sum of All Fears). But it sounds like he's a director to watch from now on.


Full details will be provided soon, but I will be joining a San Francisco based radio program next Monday to provide movie reviews and commentary. Hope you can have a listen...I gather that it's streamed online for live airing. More details to come as I get them


Sydney Lumet is a great filmmaker, has been for the better part of 40 years. Sounds like his latest film, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, and Marisa Tomei, is a winner based on the reactions it's received at the Toronto Film Festival. A dark story of two brothers and a crime they commit, the film sounds like a return to the mean streets of NYC that Lumet has often depicted in his work.


Tonight is the third season premiere of FX network's IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA.

Don't miss it! And pick up the newly released DVD set of the first two seaons....a laugh riot.


Season four of Denis Leary and Peter Tolan's masterpiece RESCUE ME ended last night. I hate that fact. One of my favorite shows over the last four years, RESCUE ME is one of the most intricate character dramas that I've ever seen. If you aren't up to speed with the show, do yourself a favor and rent all of the previous seasons. You'll constantly be rewarded with great writing, incredible fire-fighting action scenes, a copious amount of tough-guy fire-house banter, some hot sex scenes, and a positively electrifying lead performance from Denis Leary. Now I have been a fan of Leary's since middle-school when I heard his stand up act "No Cure for Cancer" on cassette tape. At the time, I didn't quite understand everything he joked about; I just knew that he liked to say the word fuck a lot and that made me laugh. But over the years, Leary has struggled to find something to call his own, landing small supporting roles in a slew of average to above-average movies, and then his own, short-lived (but excellent) tv show "The Job." RESCUE ME has given this talented actor and comedian an outlet to showcase his abilities, and episode after episode, the viewer is reminded of the depth of his abilites. Having written a mjority of the episodes along with co-creator Tolan, Leary has given each character their own distinct voice and personna, and I'd be lying if I said that I'm not emotitonally invested in everyone on the show. It's a tough, dark ride at times (9/11, suicide, alcoholism, child-death, parental-death, drug abuse have all been featured) and the flights of surreal fancy that occured in the earlier seasons were downright spooky at times. But this is one of the best hour-long shows of all time, one that makes you laugh, cry, and get angry all in the same hour. And the closing moments of last night's season finale were just terrific. Sad, but terrific just the same. I really hope that Leary nabs his well-deserved Emmy for best actor this weekend. He deserves it. Can't wait for next summer for the show to start back up.


What a perfect follow up to BEFORE SUNRISE, the little romantic drama with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Reprising their roles from the first film, Hawke and Delpy show us once again how perfect of a screen couple they are. Every moment that they share, both big and small, are just divine. The story picks up 9 years after they shared their perfect day/night together in Vienna in the first film. After promising to meet up with one another 6 months after their first encounter, they talk about why they never ended meeting up (don't want to spoil the specifics), and from there, they rekindle their relationship in ways I dare not reveal. Hawke and Delpy co-wrote the script for BEFORE SUNRISE, with some help from director Dick Linklater, who co-wrote and directed the first film. The style remains loose and breezy and sexy, with some wonderful stedicam shots through Parisian streets and back alleys and coffee shops and tour boats. Hawke's character is an author on a book tour, promoting his new novel that deals with his chance encounter with a lovely French girl. Gee...does life imitate art? Again, to spoil the specifics of this little gem would be cruel. Clocking in at 80 minutes, my only complaint with the film was that it was too short. I love these two characters, and could have esaily spent another hour listening to them talk and reminisce and fall in love all over again. The catch of the film is that Hawke is now married with a child, but the specifics of his situation are layered and again, I don't want to spoil anything. Rent both of these movies at the same time and watch them back to back. After you're done, you'll be hoping that a third film will get made down the road. I could only hope that this happens. I loved this film. It's small, intimate, smart, sexy, and just flat-out entertaining on a variety of levels.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

3:10 TO YUMA

James Mangold's 3:10 TO YUMA ****

Writer/director James Mangold is a very interesting filmmaker. His first film, the quiet drama HEAVY, showcased Liv Tyler at the beginning of her career, and she's never been better on screen than she was in that little film. Mangold then went and made the extremely underrated police mystery COPLAND, which is still his best film. After that came the interesting but flawed GIRL, INTERRUPTED, the schmaltzy chick-flick KATE & LEOPOLD, the stylish and crafty thriller IDENTITY, and last year’s terrific biopic WALK THE LINE. Mangold has worked in a variety of genres and clearly is not interested in repeating himself. Tackling a Western seemed about as unlikely a choice of a project for him, especially considering that the genre has long been considered dead. True, the modest theatrical success of Kevin Costner's excellent OPEN RANGE suggests that there is an audience, however limited, for a big screen Western. It's interesting to note that the Western thrives on the small screen; David Milch’s brilliant series DEADWOOD, the entertaining min-series INTO THE WEST and BROKEN TRAIL, and a plethora of TV movies like BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE have all found success. It seems that audiences prefer their tales of the old West in the comfort of their own homes. In any event, Mangold's thrilling and wholly satisfying action flick 3:10 TO YUMA once again shows how durable the American Western can be.

Anchored by two great performances from Russell Crowe (reminding everyone in the audience how incredible of an actor he is) and Christian Bale (yet another intense bit of thesping from this tireless actor), the film is a gun-happy and bloody oater with some fantastic horse chases and shootouts. The setup is simple: Crowe's Ben Wade is a legendary and feared gunslinger who kills whenever it makes sense for him to kill. Bale's Dan Evans is a down-on-his-luck rancher with a family to support and bills to pay. When Wade rides through town with his posse and gets captured by local law enforcement, Evans accepts a paid invitation to help transport the outlaw to the train station for him to catch the 3:10 to Yuma, where a prison cell awaits. Along the way, Wade's crew, led by vicious psychopath and right-hand-man Charlie Prince (the riveting Ben Foster who steals just about every scene he appears in), tries to bust Crowe out of capture. Throw in an extended cameo from a grizzled Peter Fonda and an amusing appearance by Luke Wilson and you've got a great foundation.

But it's the script by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, which is based on the original 1957 film, which constantly surprises. In between the numerous shoot outs, chases, and manly showdowns, there are some genuinely funny lines of dialogue, an ironic/cynical flavor to the writing, and a gritty, lived-in quality to the surroundings that elevates the film above other period actioners. On more than one occasion, I was reminded of the nastiness of the late, great HBO show DEADWOOD. While that show was a total masterwork of sustained storytelling and floral, oblique dialogue, 3:10 TO YUMA channels the black heart of DEADWOOD while making a name of its own in the lexicon of Western mythology. Its man vs. man in YUMA, as Crowe and Bale's characters bond in a complex and smart way. Both men operate by a particular code, and both hold a certain type of respect for each other for different reasons (I dare not spoil), and the decisions they make are smart and believable. Mangold and his gifted cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, who also shot WALK THE LINE, go for grit and muck and dirt and blood. Gone are the grand sunsets and sunrises and the John Ford style mannerisms that have populated the genre for years. This is a mean, nasty, darker Western, one that feels very contemporary in many ways. The handheld shooting style puts the audience in the middle of all the gun fights, especially the climactic battle that ties up the story. It's a tight, fast two hours with very little fat on its bones so people looking for an exciting, fast-paced blast won't be disappointed.

But it's Crowe who owns the film, exuding a menacing warmth and casual cruelty. I forget how awesome of a leading man he is, and I don't know if there are any other major actors who could pull off roles like this one and the roles he had in MASTER & COMMANDER and GLADIATOR. We need stronger, leading men actors that exude cinematic machismo in our action films. I could care less how many phones that Crowe throws at hotel long as he continues to dazzle in all of his performances, that's all I care about. Bring on Ridley Scott's AMERICAN GANGSTER, which finds Crowe paired for the first time with Denzel Washington. Now that should be something.


So, enough about all of the great movies I have seen....what about the bad ones? Well, there have been a few, with some notable surprises.

As good as the first Spiderman was and considering how incredible Spiderman 2 turned out, it was shocking to see Sam Raimi's Spiderman 3 sink so low. The story and dialogue were beyond lame, plot points made no sense, every performance including Tobey Maguire's felt forced, and the special effects...well...there was just nothing special about them. Everything looked fake, and when the majority of your film has a special effects shot in them, that's not good. The visuals had a soft, murky quality to them, almost as if they had been created with a first generation Playstation console. The action scenese were over-blown and dull, noise for noise's sake. Nothing ever felt at stake in the film, which is pretty weak considering the movie had three major villians and the ever present rocky romantic entanglements with Kirsten Dunst's character Mary Jane. I have now given up on Dunst. She was phenomenal as a 12 year old in Interview with the Vampire, but as she's grown up, she's becoming an irratating screen presence. She played stony and cute in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind pretty well, and was certainly impressive in The Virgin Suicides. But of late, there's no energy or passion in her performances. Her best bit of anything is still the upside down kiss in the fist Spiderman, but that had more to do with her dress being rain-soaked than her acting abilities. And while we're on the subject of acting, let's be clear: James Franco CANNOT ACT. To put it simply/mildly--he sucks. He is never convincing on any level in this film. And the talented Thomas Hayden Church is just wasted in a criminally underdeveloped role that means nothing in the grand scheme of the plot. Raimi used up all his Spidey sense in the first two films (the second film is one of the best superhero movies of all time in my estimation). In the third film he was an autopilot, and it showed.

The debacle that was Grindhouse was an even tougher failure for me to endure as I truly have loved just about everything that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have done before. For 3 hours, I sat in the theater, shaking my head in this REALLY the movie these guys wanted to make? I'll admit that maybe part of my problem is that I never grew up on a diet of these so called "grindhouse" films that they cherished as youngsters. My parents made the decision not to subject me to those pieces of trash so I hold no fond memories of seeing crappy films projected crappily in crappy theaters with crappy sound systems eating stale popcorn while my sneakers stuck to the bottom of the theater floor. Rodriguez made the better of the two films with Planet Terror, his ode to the zombie/gore-splatter genre. The sight of Rose McGowan with a machine gun for a leg was certainly zesty and funny but the film just repeated itself over and over again with people getting bitten by zombies and then the military shooting them all to a gory pulp. Had Planet Terror lasted 45 mins instead of 90 mins (and dont get me started on the unnecessary length of Tarantino's entry, Death Proof), it might have been fun. But it was a bore, and that's the ultimate sin of a filmmaker--boring his/her audience. Tarantino's Death Proof, simply put, was a giant waste of time. I have heard the term "mastaburtory" used by film critics to describe intensely personal or stylish works from certain directors. But I've always thought that was a cheap and lazy way of critiquing something that a critic didn't enjoy. But here, I will have to agree with that word choice. Tarantino's film is the epitome of a short film, but he stretches it to an interminable 90-100 minutes where nothing fucking happens. Kurt Russell, who was actually really good in the role, plays an psycopathic ex-stuntman driving around in a 60's muscle car that he declares is "death proof." He drives around country backroads looking for hot girls to run off the road or smash to death. He meets his match with a group of spunky chicks who spend about an hour discussing their boyfriends, their sexual proclivities, and their feet. Granted, there is one car chase/smash 'em up that is truly eye-popping. But there is so little going on in the movie, and nobody or nothing to care about, that I just sat there twiddling my thumbs and checking my voicemail (I NEVER turn my phone on in a movie). Now again...Tarantino and Rodriguez may have wanted their films to be exactly how I have described them, and that's fine. Filmmakers have the right to a singular vision, and the relationship that these guys have with Harvey and Bob Weinstein have allowed them to basically do whatever they want (see the two Kill Bill flicks and Sin City, all masterpieces as far as I'm concerned). But with Grindhouse, they basically spent 3 hours patting each other on the back and molesting each other's private parts and I didn't want any of it. It just sucked.

An even bigger waste of time was Len Wiseman's Live Free or Die Hard, a movie that I should have known would suck for a number of reasons. First, and most important: how could Fox allow a PG-13 Die Hard movie to get made? It's so asinine a decision that I almost boycotted the film in the theaters all together. But no...the flashy trailers suckered me in to the theater, and boy was I disgusted. The film doesn't exsist in the Die Hard universe so perfectly displayed in the previous three films. Gone is the hard core violence and action sequences in favor of a more cartoonish tone with nothing resembling any sense of reality. Sure, many of the action scenes in the first three films were over-the-top but there was always the sense that MAYBE it could happen. And there was always a feeling of jeopardy involved with whatever trouble John McClane found himself in. Not here. Instead, director Len Wiseman, who's also responsible for the tepid horror franchise Underworld, directs like a knock-off Michael Bay without the wit or exuberance of that action master. There are a few nice bits of car flipping and exploding buildings, but Timothy Olyphant's villain is poorly conceived and the tag-along 20-something character played by Mac spokesman Justin Long is not as funny as the writers think he is. Again, the worst sin a director can commit is boring the audience. This was one action film (and action movies are my favorite genre) that bored me to no end. Nonsensical and just silly, Live Free or Die Hard was a major misfire. The simple fact that McClane's signature catchphrase ("Yippie Ki Ya Motherfucker!") was smoothed over to attain the PG-13 rating thus ensuring a bigger opening weekend by enabling teens in the theater is enough to disgust me to the point of writing off this series for dead. And shame on Bruce Willis for going through with this film, but hey, the guy wanted a box office hit after many many bombs and he got what he wanted. But the film was a giant turd.

There is no real reason to delve into the cinematic merits of crap like Wild Hogs, The Number 23, and The Hitcher, the absolute worst of the year that I've been exposed too. Wild Hogs, a film that grossed $165 million domestic this spring, is a woefully unfunny "comedy" that relied on the most obvious forms of humor, and pandered to the dumbest possible audience allowable. How could a filmmaking team take the talents of guys like Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy, and Tim Allen and completely render them useless? Director Walt Becker and writer Stuart Copeland did just that. Garish and beyond lame-brained, Wild Hogs was pretty pitiful.

I felt bad for Jim Carrey all throughout Joel Schumacher's "thriller" The Number 23. On paper, it all must have looked good. Take an actor known for outrageous comedy and let him stretch a little bit, playing a neurotic husband for part of the film, and in a series of surreal sequences, a hard-boiled noir-ish killer/stalker/something-like-that. Joel Schumacher, the definition of a hit-or-miss filmmaker, gussies up the incomprehensible screenplay with an overly stylized aesthetic that is neither stylish or interesting. It was boring. It was stupid. Carrey was flat out bad. The beautiful and talented Virigina Madsen is the only person who looks like they're having any fun and even her role(s) are pretty pedestrian. At least Carrey go to experience his first on-screen sex scene; pity it was only fun for him and not the rest of us. Shumacher has made some excellent to solid thrillers in the past (Falling Down--still his best film, Tigerland, Phone Booth, Veronica Guerin, The Client, A Time to Kill) but The Number 23 is more in line with his clunkers like 8mm and the two Batman films that he directed.

Lastly, The Hitcher is a film that serves no purpose other than to generate paychecks for a few actors and the crew. Music video director Dave Meyers shows no discernible style or visual juice in this limp thriller that wastes the talent of it's star, Sean Bean, in yet another horror/thriller remake. I do give Meyers some credit--the way he and his cinematographer lit and shot Camille Belle made me very happy. Limited in the acting department, Belle is a natural born hottie who looks just sexy as all get out in a tank top and low-riding jeans. Oh yeah, and it was cool to see her punk ass boyfriend get torn apart between two big-rig trucks (if you've seen the original I'm not spoiling anything; if you haven't, don't worry, the movie is dreck). What a lifeless thriller The Hitcher was, with nothing added to an incresingly tired genre.