Monday, March 31, 2008

TRAILER: THE FALL

AMAZING POSTER: THE FALL

Tarsem Singh (aka Tarsem) has a new, trippy film coming out. Completed (and released in some areas) in 2006, THE FALL is Tarsem's follow up to THE CELL, which came out in 2000. I found THE CELL to be one of the most visually arresting movies I've ever seen; the contrived serial killer plot line and ludicrous sci-fi threds were fun in a kooky way but it was the visual style of the film that blew me away. Well-regarded for his music video background, Tarsem has been quiet for much of this decade on the filmmaking front. Right after THE CELL became a box office success, he quickly became attached to a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick called TAKEDOWN, which is still one of the best unproduced action scripts I have ever read. At the time, Johnny Depp was attached as the lead in the film. TAKEDOWN never materialized for one reason or another and then there was nothing heard from Tarsem for a while. I heard about THE FALL last year and after seeing the trailer, I knew it was something that demanded to be seen.

Here's a plot outline from the IMDB: In a hospital a little girl with a broken collar bone meets a bedridden man who starts telling her a fantastical story which reflects his state of mind. As time goes by fiction and reality start to intertwine in this uplifting epic fantasy.

There are only a handful of reviews available, one of the being a pretty dismissive pan from Dennis Harvey in Variety. Roger Ebert is quoted on the poster as calling the film "Magnificent" (he was a huge champion of THE CELL, calling it one of the best films of the year) but no full review is available on line.

I will add the trailer for THE FALL in a moment.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

KIMBERLY PEIRCE IS BACK IN THE HOUSE

Just got back from seeing STOP-LOSS. Excellent film. Much better than I thought it would be overall, and I went in expecting something of quality. Ryan Philippe delivers a career best performance and Chris Menges' impressionistic cinematography was downright hypnotic at times. Co-writer/director Kimberly Peirce's film is an angry, passionate, and confident piece of storytelling and while it may not be perfect, there is an honest, inherent intelligence at its core. As overtly anti-Bush/current administration as any of the recent Iraq war films to come out of Hollywood, STOP-LOSS is a film with a distinct political agenda, but Peirce's message transcends politics and gets at something deeply human. How anyone could agree with the idea of "stop-lossing" a soldier is just beyond me. STOP-LOSS is an important film and the best film so far dealing with our current situation in the middle east. My full review will be posted soon. This is a film that I need to digest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

MINI REVIEW: HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (***)

I was primed to hate this movie. I really was. I had successfully avoided watching this chick-flick over the last few years, due primarily to never being in the company of a woman during it's theatrical release and it's initial arrival on dvd. Now that I am engaged, my fiancee gets to pick some of the Netflix choices from time to time. And when she heard that I'd never seen HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (***), she nearly fell out of her seat. The film was a big box office hit and has been replayed countless times on cable/HBO/etc. She just couldn't believe I hadn't seen it yet. Not that it was brilliant or anything, or that it would change my movie-watching life. I think she was mostly shocked because I have seen a lot of films, and to be honest, I am always down with a chick-flick, provided that it doesn't insult my intelligence, it's actually romantic, and it's actually funny. The fact that the film starred Kate Hudson was not a step in the right direction. I cannot stand her. I haven't bought one of her performances and she consistently comes off as amateurish and phony in every film I've seen her in. She almost ruined my enjoyment of ALMOST FAMOUS. Now, having said all that, she wasn't that bad in HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (known in this review from now on as HTLAG). I still don't find her attractive and it helped that she was playing a conceited (of sorts) character. But I didn't want to scratch my eye balls out when she appeared on screen so I guess that's a plus. And to be fair, she was actually pretty funny in a few scenes. The movie's best assett, however, is Matthew McConaughey, who I have always liked as an actor. I just wish he'd quit making the same sort of movie every time out but that doesn't change the fact that he's an immensely likable screen presence. The film is basically a back-and-forth game between Hudson and McConaughey who both dupe each other into a relationship. Hudson writes a column for a Cosmo-esque magazine and proposes an article about how women are able to drive men crazy and how any woman can lose the man she's with in 10 days. McConaughey, meanwhile, strikes a bet with his boss (he's an ad exec) that he can make any woman fall in love with him in 10 days. So, she tries to drive him crazy, and he can't dump her because of the bet he has with his boss. The director, Donald Petrie, has done great comedy (GRUMPY OLD MEN), decent comedy (MYSTIC PIZZA) and terrible comedy (WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT, JUST MY LUCK). He's also responsible for the utterly lame MISS CONGENIALITY. What I liked most about HTLAG was the funny script written by Burr Steers (IGBY GOES DOWN) and the team of Kristen Buckley & Brian Regan (102 DALMATIONS). I laughed out loud at least six or seven times, I liked how there were two revolving plots, and I liked the comedic back-and-forth between Hudson and McConaughey's characters. The movie is completely over the top (the scenes of Hudson trying to get McConaughey to leave her are absurd but humorous), completely predictable (guess how it ends?!), and completely disposable. So why am I reccommending the film? Because it satisfies its genre. It's not incredible but it does what it needs to do, and does it nicely and economically. It doesn't aspire to greatness and doesn't want too. Recent standouts in the rom-com/chick-flick genre for me have been NOTTING HILL, WAITRESS, IN HER SHOES, LOVE ACTUALLY, DEFINITELY MAYBE, and MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS (if you haven't seen this lovely film go track it down). And while HTLAG doesn't reach those heights, it's a fun enough diversion that will put a little smile on your face.

MOVIE FOR THE WEEKEND

Tomorrow I will be seeing Kimberly Peirce's new film STOP-LOSS. Perice busted out on the scene back in 1999 with her brilliant, harrowing debut BOYS DON'T CRY, which won Hilary Swank her first Oscar for best actress. Her fist film in almost a decade, STOP-LOSS is a uniquely personal film for Peirce. Her half-brother served in Iraq and she met with many Iraq vets in order to get her story correct. The film centers on the military's controversial "stop-loss" policy, which sends soldiers back into combat after they have fulfilled their original duties. Ryan Philippe plays a soldier who goes AWOL after getting "stop-lossed." The film has been met with mixed reviews (60% overall at Rottentomatoes with a 63% cream of the crop). Mixed reivews have been the norm for almost all of the recent Hollywood films dealing with the Iraq war and the middle east. AO Scott in the NY Times ran a rave review, as well as Kenny Turan in the LA Times. Some critics either just don't want to be reminded of what's going on in the real world or they get too political in their critiques, sidestepping the film at hand, and instead choosing to discuss whether the film is "too liberal" or "too Republican," etc. I love politically themed films, and I have seen almost all of the recent "sand movies," as they've come to be called on the internet. I loved THE KINGDOM (****) and I thought both RENDITION (***1/2) and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (***1/2) were very well done, if not without some small flaws. Brian De Palma's angry anti-war film REDACTED (***) was a noble, important look at our soldiers overseas but suffered from poor acting. Irwin Winkler's overly sentimental HOME OF THE BRAVE (**1/2) had effective moments but was saddled with a lazy script. Sadly, I missed Robert Redford's LIONS FOR LAMBS, but it will be hitting DVD soon. The documentary NO END IN SIGHT (****) was one of the most damning films yet about the Iraq war; it should be mandatory viewing for everyone. The best film about the conflict in the middle east is still David O. Russell's sardonic masterpiece THREE KINGS, and that film was about the first Gulf War. Since that film's initial release back in 1999, it has become all the more prescient and important. Not to mention extremely entertaining. In any event, I look forward to seeing STOP- LOSS; comments will appear soon.

BRUCK, ELLIOT, & ROSSIO ARE LONE RANGERS


Jerry Bruckheimer

Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio
Per the Hollywood Reporter, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio will be penning a live-action big-screen adaptation of THE LONE RANGER for Jerry Bruckheimer Films to produce for Disney. Elliot & Rossio, who also wrote SHREK, THE MASK OF ZORRO, ALADDIN, DEJA VU, and NATIONAL TREASURE 2, are finalizing their deal now. At one point, PIRATES helmer Gore Verbinski was attached as director to this project; it had been announced last year but no deals were sealed. Would love to see what Verbinski could do with a big-budget epic western. Curious to see how this one shapes up.


HANCOCK IS COMING









Original source of pictures (http://www.dvd-forum.at/1105/news_kino.htm)
Peter Berg's upcoming action-comedy HANCOCK is pretty much assured to rake in about half a billion dollars in world-wide ticket sales this summer. Why? Will f'ing Smith. If he can make a passable horror movie like I AM LEGEND reach those box office heights, I'm willing to bet that his first attempt at the superhero genre will be no stranger to blockbuster business. However, there is one thing that really makes me curious about this flick. The tone. What kind of movie is this? If you've seen the trailer, you may have picked up on a different vibe than you normally get with most big-budget superhero movies. The idea of HANCOCK is pretty interesting: an alcoholic, sloppy superhero named Hancock (Smith) is better known for doing more damage than actually good. He's got a bad reputation but continues to save the day when needed. In an effort to become more savvy with the public, he hires a PR exec (Jason Bateman) to help him remake his image. Along the way, he gets romantically involved with the PR exec's wife, played by uber-hottie Charlize Theron, who may or may not be a super-villain of some sort. Berg, coming off of the awesome action flick THE KINGDOM, is working again with that film's producer, Michael Mann, on HANCOCK. For a while, Mann, among many other big name directors, was attached to direct HANCOCK. He got too busy with other projects and recruited Berg for the job. The script was written by Vincent Ngo (a freqent Tony Scott collaborator), and was sold (around 8 years ago I believe) for big, big bucks in a heated studio bidding war. Vince Gilligan (THE X-FILES) was brought in to work on the script as well. The word was that it was a dark, unique, and subversive superhero movie that still blew a lot of shit up along the way. Berg, again working with his FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS cinematographer Tobias Schleisser, has apparently given HANCOCK a more verite feel, which has become his standard aesthetic style. Along with INDY 4 and THE DARK KNIGHT, HANCOCK is one of my most anticipated films of the summer.




Thursday, March 27, 2008

X MARKS THE SPOT

Can't. Wait.

LOOKS SICK

(click on the picture to blow it up)


Jon Favreau's IRON MAN, the first big-budget summer movie extravaganza, hits theaters May 3. Can't get here soon enough!

BATTLESTAR MASTERMIND TO BRING CHILDREN OF MEN TO TV

Aint-it-cool is reporting that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA mastermind David Eick will be creating a pilot for a television series based on Alfonso Curaon's masterpiece CHILDREN OF MEN. That 2006 film, which was the best film of that year and criminally snubbed by the Academy for a best picture nomination, was a visionary story of a future world where women can no longer conceive children and the quest of one man (Clive Owen) to safeguard one woman who has miraculously become pregnant.

Aint-it-cool is linking its readers to the original source of the story...here's that link:

http://www.scifi.com/scifiwire/index.php?category=1&id=50711

The proposed series would air on the Sci-Fi channel; Eick is starting to write the pilot any day now. I will be keeping a close eye on this project.




WILL OLIVER PLAY NICE?

I am very, very anxious to see Oliver Stone's upcoming George Bush biopic currently being called W. Stone has signed an amazing cast of actors for the project. Josh Brolin (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) is set for the title role and Elizabeth Banks (DEFINITELY, MAYBE) has just been cast as the first lady. George Cromwell (BABE) will be playing the elder Bush, with Ellen Burstyn protraying the prez's mom. Stone co-wrote the script with Stanley Weiser, who also co-wrote Stone's WALL STREET. Moritz Borman (ALEXANDER, WORLD TRADE CENTER) is producing the film. No distributor has been set yet. The film will supposedly be ready for release this November, with shooting set to commence at the end of April in Louisianna.

Stone has been one of my absolute favorite filmmakers ever since I started taking film seriously. His last film was WORLD TRADE CENTER, which I thought was excellent, though a major departure from what audiences have come to think an "Oliver Stone film" is or should be. I wonder if Stone will be bashing Bush or playing it safe? I don't know what events are depicted in the script and how expansive the film's timeline will be. In any case, this is one of my most anticipated up-coming films. The other presidential films of Stone's career, including JFK and NIXON, have been masterworks as far as I'm concerned. My only question at this time over the film is who will be serving as Stone's cinematographer. He used to exclusively work with Robert Richardson (one of my favorites) but since ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, Stone has bounced from dp to dp (Salvatore Totino shot SUNDAY, Rodrigo Prieto shot ALEXANDER, and Seamus McGarvey shot WORLD TRADE CENTER). I am hoping for the return of Richardson.

IT'S AMAZING WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH DIGITAL EFFECTS

video

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

THE BEST CELEB IMPRESSION I'VE EVER SEEN

Now, I am posting this with the full disclosure that I am sick of all of the Tom Cruise bashing. It's boring, obnoxious, and pretty tired at this point. So what....the guy is a Scientologist, is outspoken, and likes to jump on chairs. Big fucking deal. As long as he continues to deliver great performances in quality films that's all I really care about. I have never quite understood how some people turned their back on him. What people do in their personal life shouldn't make a difference when it comes to actors and people we pay to entertain us. Unless you want it to interfere. Personally, I could care less what celebrities say and do on their free time. That's their business. As long as I am not let down when I pay my hard earned money to watch their movies is pretty much all I care about. In the case of Tom Cruise, it's just asinine to be honest. He is arguably the biggest movie star of all time. Look at his resume: TOP GUN, RAIN MAN, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, A FEW GOOD MEN, THE FIRM, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, EYES WIDE SHUT, MAGNOLIA, VANILLA SKY, MINORITY REPORT, WAR OF THE WORLDS, JERRY MAGUIRE, THE LAST SAMURAI, COLLATERAL. I am sure I have missed others. He's always intensely committed to whatever project he's working on, and he always delivers. At least for me.

Now, having got all that out of the way, the above video represents the greatest celebrity impression that I think I have ever seen. The actor's name is Miles Fisher and he plays Cruise in the upcoming spoof movie SUPERHERO MOVIE, which comes out this weekend. As for the movie, I won't be seeing it until it hits DVD (if that...). I also want to state that I absolutely hate the TV spots for SUPERHERO MOVIE with the news reporter ending the trailer with the phrase "Tome Cruise is dead." It's utterly tasteless and not funny in the slightest. But this clip clearly demonstrates a serious comedic talent in Fisher, and an uncanny ability to impersonate one of the biggest celebrities of all time. He has everything down: the voice, laugh, mannerisms, and hand gestures. It's uncanny.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

SNAKE EYES

I wish I cared more about the big-budget GI JOE movie that's coming out next summer. Directed by Stephen Sommers (THE MUMMY, VAN HELSING), the film has a script that's been credited to Stuart Beattie (COLLATERAL) and Skip Woods (SWORDFISH). God only knows how many uncredited re-writes have been taking place. The ensemble cast includes Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienne Miller, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Arnold Vosloo, Christopher Eccleston, Marlon Wayans, and Jonathan Price. Based on the 80's cartoon, the film is being produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, who last summer teamed up with Michael Bay on the mega-blockbuster TRANSFORMERS. If Bay were directing GI JOE, I'd already have my ticket purchased. I want this film to be fun and action packed but with Sommers at the helm, I am not holding my breath; I fear a heavy reliance on CGI. I'm really hoping that they stay practical and blow real shit up. The first MUMMY was a lot of fun; an old school action-adventure romp. The sequel was beyond bloated. And VAN HELSING was pretty pitiful except for a few moments of inspired lunacy. The picture above is of one of the baddies, Snake Eyes, played by Ray Park. The costume looks slick and it looks like they might be keeping faithful to the cartoon/comics. From what I have read, the film will be more in line with the comics than the cartoon. Of course I will be seeing it when it hits theaters; I just wish I was primed for it's release, much like I was for last summers TRANSFORMERS, which if you haven't seen it yet (are you living under a rock?), is the greatest special effects movie ever created. We'll have to wait and see when GI JOE comes out...it could be cool...or it could be a stool sample...

Monday, March 24, 2008

I LOVE THIS

Quick...what movie is this from? I'll give you a hint:

"Did you say you were on mescaline?"

"I did indeed. Very much so."

MINI REVIEW: THE BRAVE ONE (**1/2)

Neil Jordan's THE BRAVE ONE (**1/2) is the first real let down I've experienced from this excellent writer/director. This eclectic Irish filmmaker has had a remarkable career; his highlights include MONA LISA, THE CRYING GAME, INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, THE BUTCHER BOY, MICHAEL COLLINS, IN DREAMS, THE END OF THE AFFAIR, THE GOOD THIEF, and BREAKFAST ON PLUTO. Those are just the ones that I have seen. A few have been solid, a few have been great, and he's made a couple of masterpieces I think (THE BUTCHER BOY, THE GOOD THIEF, and BREAKFAST ON PLUTO are pretty much perfect). Always stylish with his visuals and always thematically interesting, Jordan is a filmmaker usually concerned with his style just as much as his story. With THE BRAVE ONE, last year's thriller with Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard, he's made the most overtly commerical film of his career, and one of his least interesting. The seen-it-before set-up has Foster's character, Erica Bain, a NYC radio show host, getting viciously attacked along with her soon-to-be-husband (Naveen Andrews from LOST) by a couple of gang members. He's killed; she's left in a coma. Once out of the hospital, Erica has troubles readjusting to regular life; every footstep she hears behind her is threatening and every time she leaves her house she's afraid something will happen. All of this is realized wonderfully by the masterful cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, BIG FISH, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT), whose prowling camera glides along with dutch-angled grace as Erica tries to regain her emotional and pyschological footing. All of that stuff is very well done in a creepy, sad way. Erica then illegally buys a gun and becomes a city-wide vigilante, taking justice and the law into her own hands. Howard turns in another classy performance as a homicide detective trying to put together the pieces of all the murders, while simultaneously getting to know Erica after she reaches out to him for help. The film has a potent, if cliche, narrative drive; how do you recover after a traumatic event and how do you exact revenge on the ones that have wronged you? Those elements have to remain truthful and become cathartic for the characters, and the audience, by the ending. Sadly, THE BRAVE ONE, which feels oddly truncated in some spots, doesn't get deep enough with its ideas. We get a bunch of ridiculously plotted sequences of Erica being in the wrong place at the wrong time (how many violent incidents can one woman randomly witness?!) and her violently contending with New York City scum. And the predictable ending negates one of the main characters' central, moral codes; what should have been a tough, challenging ending is made pat and easy to swallow. Boooring. Unlike superior revenge fantasies like MAN ON FIRE or even KILL BILL, you don't ever really care about what's at stake, and the conventional ways that Jordan directs from Roderick Taylor and Cynthia Mort's script feels uninspired at almost every turn. Sure, the action scenes have the requisite visceral jolts and Foster and Howard turn in reliably solid work. But in today's movie climate, for a revenge movie to stand out from the pack, you need to transcend the genre via the screenplay (ala NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) or do something extremely exciting from a style point of view (MAN ON FIRE, KILL BILL). I must add that Nicky Katt, recently seen stealing scenes in SNOW ANGELS, steals a few from Howard playing his detective-partner. His character is wasted overall but when he appears on screen listen for a few great one-liners; this guy needs to be the second string guy, not the third or fourth! So, if you're a fan of Foster, or revenge movies in general, THE BRAVE ONE isn't a total disaster. But it's no great shakes either.

Friday, March 21, 2008

THE BEST CINEMATOGRAPHERS

Martin Scorsese's upcoming feature doc on the Rolling Stones, SHINE A LIGHT, will be featuring camerawork from some of the world's best cinematographers. The line-up includes: Robert Richardson (JFK, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, CASINO), Emmanuel Lubezeki (CHILDREN OF MEN, THE NEW WORLD), Robert Elswit (THERE WILL BE BLOOD), John Toll (THE THIN RED LINE, BRAVEHEART), Mitchell Amundsen (TRANSFORMERS), Declan Quinn (IN AMERICA), Stuart Dryburgh (THE PIANO), Ellen Kuras (SUMMER OF SAM), Albert Maysles (GIMMIE SHELTER), Anastas Michos (MAN ON THE MOON), and Tony Janelli (LAW & ORDER).

Anne Thompson @ Variety posted this great piece about some of the exciting visual moments that are on display during SHINE A LIGHT. The film is released April 4, and will be also shown on IMAX screens. Here's the link to Thompson's article:





Thursday, March 20, 2008

REVIEW: SNOW ANGELS (****)

David Gordon Green has made four feature films, each of which have been excellent and rather perfect in their own ways. GEORGE WASHINGTON, his startling, award-winning debut, announced a new, major voice in independent cinema. His second outing, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, won a special jury prize at Sundance, and stands as one of the very best depictions of young love ever captured on film; it also displayed a Terrence Malick-esque fascination with incorporating nature into his narrative. His third film, the extremely underrated UNDERTOW, was a deep-South, gothic thriller that was essentially a riff on NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, and was nothing like his first two pictures; it’s a riveting, nasty piece of work. Now, with SNOW ANGELS, which represents his finest film so far, Green has crafted a devastating, draining, and often touching portrait of small town malaise in the dead of winter. Like its gloomy skies and snowy landscape, the emotionally conflicted characters caught in the middle of SNOW ANGELS represent life at its most random, natural, and tragic. Working from his first adaptation (the film is based on Stewart O’Nan’s novel), Green is able to capture the small, subtle moments that his work has always excelled at depicting. Yet he’s also able to get “big” for the first time, with bravura, Oscar-worthy performances from Sam Rockwell (someone give this guy the credit he deserves please) and Kate Beckinsale (who I never thought could make me cry). And by the time the powerful yet inevitable ending sweeps over the screen, you’ll be speechless from tension and expectation.

The film is structured in an interesting way. Over the dryly humorous opening scenes of a high school band practicing marching formation, two gun shots can be heard, somewhere in the distance. Nobody knows what’s happened but it’s obvious something bad has occurred. We then cut back “a few weeks earlier,” which results in a hanging sense of dread that permeates the entire picture; the audience knows that something terrible is on the horizon, yet, there is a story to be told first. This dramatic framing device, while manipulative, serves SNOW ANGELS quite well, as it creates an extra level of unease that is upped even further by the unpredictability of the story’s characters. You definitely get the sense that this material was a novel, as the tone of the film jumps around (never sloppily, however), and the point-of-view changes a few times. By turns touching, oddly humorous, and deeply sad, SNOW ANGELS is a film that’s tough to classify.

SNOW ANGELS has a layered, detailed plot, with one major element coming as a total surprise, which I will allow you to discover for yourself as it’s been shied away from in the trailers and not discussed in any other reviews I have read. Annie (Beckinsale) has separated from her unstable husband Glenn (Rockwell) after a rocky marriage; they have a cute but needy four-year-old daughter, Tara (Grace Hudson), who lives with Annie. Annie is a waitress at a local Chinese restaurant; her close friend Barb (a surprisingly dramatically effective Amy Sedaris) works with her but doesn’t know that Annie is sleeping with her buffoonish husband Nate, perfectly played by Nicky Katt, who is becoming a master scene-stealer. Another employee of the restaurant is Arthur (Michael Angarano), a slightly awkward teenager who has had a crush on Annie ever since she babysat for him when he was a little kid. Arthur’s parents are going through a divorce; he’s also just met a new girl (the wonderful Olivia Thirlby, recently seen in JUNO) in school who quickly becomes his girlfriend. The lives and fates of all of these people intersect over the course of the film, which is built upon the knowledge that a tragic event is going to occur by the finale.

The performances are all terrific, with Rockwell delivering yet another measured, detailed performance. In films as diverse as CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, QALAXY QUEST, MATCHSTICK MEN and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, Rockwell has shown an uncanny ability to slip into his role with a devilish charm and a unique brand of wit. Here, in his most dramatic piece of acting yet, he explodes on screen with intense anger, frustration, and sense of failure; he’s a father and husband on his last legs, both emotionally, and spiritually (he clings to his born-again Christian stature as a way of excusing himself from the terrible things he’s done). Beckinsale, who up till this point has registered solely as “the hot chick in black leather pants from the UNDERWORLD movies” in my book, was unbelievably effective in a role that’s not necessarily up her alley. Looking as plain and as every-day as possible (she’ll still be beautiful no matter how much make-up artists try to make her ugly), Beckinsale comfortably slides into her role of an anguished woman pushed to her limits. The scenes between Annie and Glenn have an intensity that recalls some of moments of character interplay in last year’s film LITTLE CHILDREN. And Angarano, an actor new to me, stuck a wonderful balance between clumsy high-school kid and suave outsider; it’s easy to see why someone like Lila might take a shine to him. And it must be noted that their tender love scene is yet another prime example of how Green understands, as a writer and director, how young people react to one another in romantic situations.

SNOW ANGELS is certainly a bleak, dark film, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re easily upset by cinematic tragedy and tough stories about familial dysfunction. Working again with his regular cinematographer Tim Orr, Green gives his film a snowy, cold atmosphere, which works in perfect tandem with the story’s themes of anxiety and desperation. But I just want to note that for all of the unpleasant things that pop up in the narrative of SNOW ANGELS, the film does brim with a sense of honest humor and genuine insight into the characters at hand. When the film starts, you feel like you already know these characters; that’s a filmmaking quality that all of Green’s films share. He’s a naturalist, a storyteller interested in real emotions and honest situations. His next film, this summer’s stoner-comedy THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (coming from the Judd Apatow comedy factory), promises to be a real departure for Green in many ways. I just hope that his interest in complex themes carries over into his first studio project. If not, the independent world will surely have him back whenever he’s ready. SNOW ANGELS, so far, is the best film of 2008.





MONAHAN IS THE WRITER OF THE MOMENT

Screenwriter William Monahan (THE DEPARTED, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN), probably known as "Bill" amongst his close friends, has a new kick-ass project lined up.

Per Variety:

"William Monahan will pen a fact-based thriller for Paramount based on an article that will appear in Playboy later this year. It's the story of a drug dealer who traded a prison sentence to go undercover at a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane, where he tried to get a serial killer to divulge the whereabouts of his victims. Graham King will produce with Alexandra Milchan, and the Par project kicks off a first-look deal that King's GK Films has made with Monahan, who will take an office in King's new Santa Monica HQ. Joel Gotler will be exec producer. "We really connected on 'The Departed,' and it'll be fantastic to have a writer of Bill's caliber in the office every day, not just to write, but to bounce ideas off," King said. "When I told Bill this incredible story I'd bought, he said, 'I've already got the movie in my head.'" Monahan followed "The Departed" by scripting the Ridley Scott-directed Warner Brothers thriller "Body of Lies," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. He just wrote the thriller "Nothing in the World" and recently signed to adapt the remake of hit Korean film "The Chaser" for WB."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

IS GRAN TORINO A NEW DIRTY HARRY MOVIE?!


That's what Aint-it-cool is saying: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/36068

BENICIO AS WOLFMAN


Here are the first full-on werewolf images from Joe Johnston's upcoming WOLFMAN, which was created by legendary creature designer Rick Baker. The phenomenal Benicio Del Toro will be the actor underneath all of the make-up/prosthetics.

ALTERNATE POSTER: JUMPER

I didn't bother seeing Doug Liman's latest film, JUMPER, after it was killed by pretty much every single critic. I will check it out on dvd. However, this rejected poster, which I glimpsed at http://www.joblo.com/, is quite cool, and is certainly sexier than any of the traditional posters that Fox ended up using.

BITS & PIECES

Sam Raimi is in negotiations with Paramount to re-do the Jack Ryan franchise. Very interesting idea to have someone like Raimi, who is best know for fantastical action pictures, tackle a realistic spy film series. I have enoyed all of the previous Jack Ryan adventures, my favorite being CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER. I also think the last installment, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, is an underrated action flick.

Clint Eastwood is now set to direct and star in GRAND TORINO for Warner Brothers. The fast production already has a December 2008 release planned. Clint is also behind this November's THE CHANGELING, a child abduction drama, for Universal. He's directing that film with Angelina Jolie toplining. No plot details have surfaced about GRAND TORINO, but one would assume it has to do something with cars...and we also have to assume that both of these films will be award contenders...

Peter Berg (THE KINGDOM, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) is now officially attached to direct a big-budget re-make of DUNE for Paramount. I am a huge fan of Berg and his filmmaking aesthetic so the chance to see him tackle a crazy, cerebral sci-fi films is quite exciting. Although someone like Ridley Scott might, on paper, be a better choice for an epic like DUNE, Berg hasn't disappointed yet so I am willing to bet on him at the moment.

Anthony Minghella (54) and Arthur C. Clarke (90) passed away yesterday; very sad. Condolences to their families.

My favorite movie blogger, Jeffrey Wells @ www.hollywood-elsewhere.com , lost his sister to cancer yesterday as well. Losing a family member is never easy; my thoughts and prayers go out to him.

Director James Mangold (3:10 TO YUMA, WALK THE LINE) is set to make his first action film -- CYCLOPS -- which is based on a graphic novel, for Warner Brothers. The story is trippy, with this description from Variety really grabbing my interest: set in the near future, the actioner concerns mercenary forces whose soldiers wear Cyclops-like cameras in their helmets and broadcast in real time to both central command and living rooms. One mercenary chosen to lead an elite squad begins to realize he isn't fighting for freedom and justice as much for commerce. Sounds very cool to me. Very cool.

DEPP AS DILLINGER FOR MANN
















I. Can't. Wait. For. This. Film.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

THIS WILL BE THE FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Benjamin Stiller's TROPIC THUNDER

Holy Shit. This looks brilliant. Rated R. Robert Downey Jr. looks too good to be true.


Monday, March 17, 2008

REVIEW: THE BANK JOB (****)

The less you know about Roger Donaldson’s enormously entertaining heist thriller THE BANK JOB, the better off you will be when you get around to seeing it. And get around to seeing it you should. Despite its weak title, THE BANK JOB is total crowd-pleaser from start to finish, a smart, adult-oriented thriller that really thrills. Donaldson, who has had a checkered directorial career, has crafted a very polished piece of genre filmmaking with THE BANK JOB; it might be his best effort to date. The heist movie can be a tricky beast at times; the audience expects surprises from stories such as this and in that respect, THE BANK JOB doesn’t disappoint. The smart yet complicated script courtesy of veteran screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais (THE COMMITMENTS, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE) is sassy, tough, and cerebral. It’s also very funny, and when necessary, pretty mean. Anchored by a sturdy, Steve McQueen-esque performance from big-screen tough-guy Jason Statham (CRANK, THE TRANSPORTER), THE BANK JOB moves at a fast pace, never slowing down for a moment during it’s extremely tight two hour run time. No bathroom breaks during this one; check your bladder at the door or you’ll miss something key.

Again, I don’t want to spoil too much of the fun to be had with THE BANK JOB. One of the reasons why I had such a blast with this flick was that I didn’t know all of the particulars. The film starts off in sexy, 70’s fashion, with a couple of topless women frolicking in crystal clear ocean water, at some unnamed resort area. The ladies, and their male friend, move to a nearby bungalow, for a more private encounter. What the three of them don’t realize is that there is someone snapping some incriminating photographs from outside their window. What the audience doesn’t initially realize is that one of the women enjoying the tryst happens to be British royalty. And it doesn’t help matters that the individual taking those photographs happens to be connected to the ruthless Black power mover-and-shaker Michael X (a sneering, vicious Peter De Jersey). The photos will serve as leverage if he ever gets into trouble with the British government.
Cut to London. Terry Leather (Statham) runs an auto-body shop with a couple of ex-goons. Leather is no stranger to trouble and local harassment from an assortment of petty gangsters and crooked cops. It’s clear that he may have had some run-ins with the law earlier in life. Before long, his gorgeous old-flame/friend Martine, a part-time model, shows up at his shop with a proposition. She’s met some people who want to rob a bank in downtown London She asks Terry to put together a team in order to take the bank. There are some specifics to the case that I will allow you to discover on your own, but I will concede that Martine may or may not be being 100% truthful with all of the facts. And the way a porn kingpin, the British secret intelligence, local cops, a high-class brothel, dirty politicians, and a variety of naked women figure into the plot are also developments that should be left for your discovery. Let’s just say that in recent memory, I can’t remember a film that juggled so many plot lines yet so coherently, and so excitingly, while never losing sight of the tight story at its core. Also, in reference to the on-screen nudity, I must say how refreshing it was to actually see an adult-minded picture that wasn’t shy about sexuality and had some fun in this realm. It was also rather nice to see a heist film where I actually believed the heist that was going on! How many times have we seen over-the-top scenarios with an impossible heist in the middle of a ridiculous plot? As much as I enjoyed the OCEANS movies, the heists in the middle of them have been patently absurd. The fact that THE BANK JOB is based on real events makes it even juicier.

Statham gets a chance to actually prove that he can act in this film. While I have loved seeing him kick continuous bad-guy ass in movies like CRANK and THE TRANSPORTER series, it was great to see him play a real character, one with a back-story, vulnerabilities, and some level of stress. But never fear; Statham gets to flex his muscles at the end of THE BANK JOB, and because the ass-whooping that he throws is completely warranted by the plot, it felt all the more cathartic and exciting. My fear is that the relative disappointment in terms of box office that THE BANK JOB has pulled in thus far will discourage producers from giving Statham a chance to appear in more serious dramas. The deep ensemble cast, made up of lots of British character actors, seal the deal as well; there isn’t one wasted performance or actor in the entire bunch. Lines of dialogue crackle with authority all throughout the film. Burrows, who has more to do in the film than you might think considering her “hot-chick” character archetype, is mysterious, gorgeous, and dangerous; exactly what a femme fatale should be.
But to be honest, I can’t help but feel that the real star of THE BANK JOB is its director. Donaldson, a journeyman gun-for-hire if there ever was one, had a couple of big hits in the 80’s (NO WAY OUT and COCKTAIL, though the latter film was pretty lame as I recall). The 90’s weren’t as good for him. CADILLAC MAN, WHITE SANDS, and the unnecessary remake of Sam Peckinpah’s masterwork THE GETAWAY were all critical and commercial disappointments. Then came the sci-fi hit SPECIES, which while derivative beyond all belief, was a fun, effective B-movie that did some solid business, spawned a franchise, and introduced the world to Natasha Henstridge. Next came DANTE’S PEAK, the first of the two big-budget volcano movies; what a piece of stool that was (though I remember the special effects being terrific). Then in 2000, Donaldson busted out with the excellent political thriller 13 DAYS, which was a riveting look at the Cuban missile crisis. Rent the film on DVD if you’ve never seen it; I fear that not enough people have seen this terrific film. He followed up 13 DAYS with the more conventional spy film THE RECRUIT, which was passable entertainment, and then in 2005, he made the delightful Anthony Hopkins starrer THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN. Donaldson, always a solid technician who brings an unfussy style to his all of his films, seems to have been reinvigorated by the material in THE BANK JOB. He directs with an icy grip, never letting the busy plot spin out of control. And in tandem with his talented cinematographer Michael Coulter (LOVE ACTUALLY, NOTTING HILL), he brings a gritty, 70’s-style realism to the London surroundings and his muted color palette in general. The film is very evocative of its period, despite the limited budget.
If you’re looking for smart entertainment, a film that is sexy, dangerous, funny, and satisfying, you could do a lot worse than check out THE BANK JOB. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel and it’s not going to win awards. But for what it is, it’s just about perfect. And sometimes, all we need is a classy, unpretentious piece of entertainment like THE BANK JOB to remind us that there is life left in one of our more put-up genres. Donaldson has crafted a nifty film and I absolutely recommend that you check it out.




Sunday, March 16, 2008

TWO REVIEWS ON DECK

Just got back from seeing SNOW ANGELS, which is probably the best film of 2008 thus far. Devastating film, with two tremendous performances from Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale. I was not prepared for the emotional destruction that this film gave its characters, and while it's a dark, tough film to watch at times, it's utterly magnificent, and deeply affecting. David Gordon Green is four for four now. Rockwell and Beckinsale have never been better. Look for my full review this week.

I was very pleased to see that THE BANK JOB held really well at the box office this weekend. Granted, it will only be a modest success in it's theatrical life, but the fact that it only fell 20% or so in it's second weekend means that the people who have seen it have loved it (it's terrific, the most entertaining film of the year so far) and they've told their friends to make an effort to see it in the theaters. It's a great genre film, with strong writing and juicy characters. It's a sexy piece of entertainment desgined for thinking-cap adults who respond to complicated plots that yields explosive divedends. If THE BANK JOB had a better title, I really think it would have done even better. Still, if it's able to gross $25-30 million in the theaters, that'll be sweet. It'll do a bundle on dvd, a market where films like this tend to do really well.

MINI REVIEW: THE KING OF CALIFORNIA (*1/2)


Like a stinking turd that just won't flush completely down the toilet, Mike Cahill's rancid "comedy" THE KING OF CALIFORNIA (*1/2) flopped around my television set last night, stinking up my living room. A massive disappointment on pretty much every creative level, this is a film that should have worked. The premise is rife with possibility. But it's all squandared by inept directing, shitting editing, and a chaotic tone that never fully focuses on one particular idea or stream of emotion. The idea is this: a whack-job, certifiable nut of a father played by Michael Douglas is let out of the loony bin for...well...I'm not exactly sure...good behavior? He's a treasure-hunter of sorts, or at least, someone who is crazy enough to believe the idea that there is buried treasure from the 1700's resting under a Costco somewhere in a non-descript, corporate America-style nothern California city (the supposedly satirical elements of the script fall completely flat). He enlists the help of his reluctant teenage daughter (Evan Rachel Wood, in yet another performance where I don't believe her, don't like her, and want to see her slapped around a bit) who has been living on her own(!) since her father's commital, supposedly due to loopholes in the child welfare/social services system (the witty reason for all of this that Wood delivers via voiceover is an eye roller if there ever was one). She's been working at McDonalds rather than going to school, so she can afford to pay the bills at her house. Um, yeah. So, the two of these idiots break into the Costco and start digging. I won't spoil the ending. Well...yes, I think I will spoil it. Because I don't want you to waste your time with this piece of cinematic fecal matter. Douglas digs a hole in the floor of the Costco and ends up reaching an underground river. He jumps in with scuba gear, swims a bit, locates something that might be the treasure, and then is trapped underground, and dies. There are visual cues given to the audience that he's found something extraordinary, and there is a cheap, beyond silly "twist" happy ending that made no sense. Nothing about this film was funny, touching, or exciting. The directing was flaccid, the writing and plotting totally second rate, and the music was grating. So, if after destroying this film why am I even giving it one and a half stars? The answer to that is Michael Douglas. The performance, for all of it's craziness, was the sort of live-wire piece of acting that I didn't think Douglas was apable of at this point in his career. However, someone in the costume department should have been fired; Douglas comes off like a leering pedophile in some scenes, due in large part to his haggard, scraggly beard, the long gray trench coat, and his baggy pants. Weird shit. However, his acting never faltered. In past years, in movies like WALL STREET, THE GAME, A PERFECT MURDER, and FALLING DOWN, Douglas has been a master of icy, mean-spirited power mongers, always in control, even in insane situations. Watching him run amok through the ridiculous surroundings of THE KING OF CALIFORNIA reminded me of how much I enjoy seeing Douglas on screen. Too bad the everything else in the film was complete dreck. I rented this film primarily because I thought Douglas looked great in the trailer, and that SIDEWAYS writer/director Alexander Payne produced it. Even talented people can collaborate on poo-poo sometimes.
What makes matters even worse is that there were a fair amount of critics who were enamored with this dung. Here are few quotes from some of the positive notices THE KING OF CALIFORNIA received:
"The most remarkable thing about King of California is how the characters grow on you, and how their quixotic quest becomes ours." -- Ummm.....no.
"...Cahill wins me over with this poignant depiction of a tender father-daughter relationship." -- Relationship? What relationship? She's calling him Charlie throughout the film rather than dad, and there isn't one single moment of genuine father-daughter material in the entire script.
"A strange, funny and sad story." -- Strange - yes. Funny - no. Sad - definitley. Especially when thinking about all the film that was wasted shooting this pile of feces.
"The treasure of the film is the unearthing of the family bond, magically played by Douglas and Wood." -- Only if your idea of the family bond is breaking into a Costco, defacing public property, and not sending your father back to get the mental help he truly deserves. Sounds like a family I want to be a part of.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I LOVE THIS POSTER

Chris Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT. July 18th, 2008. Can't get here soon enough. After Ledger's death, this poster is now fetching up to $100 on-line (at least the last time I checked...)

MOVIE FOR THE WEEKEND

This Sunday I plan on catching David Gordon Green's latest film SNOW ANGELS, which stars Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, and Nicky Katt. Green, the brilliant, Malick-esque director of GEORGE WASHINGTON, ALL THE REAL GIRLS, and UNDERTOW, is one of my favorite up and coming filmmakers. SNOW ANGELS is a dark drama about a group of people living in a small town and how a violent incident changes their lives. Green will also have a film coming out this August--the Judd Apatow (40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP) collaboration THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, a stoner action-comedy which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco. Quite the change of pace for Green right there. SNOW ANGELS has been met with generally great reviews, with a 71% overall at Rottentomatoes, and 83% from the "cream of the crop."

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/snow_angels/


Also, I should be getting last years quirky Michael Douglas comedy THE KING OF CALIFORNIA from nextflix tomorrow; looking forward to that one.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

MINI REVIEW: HUMAN NATURE (***1/2)

Completely and utterly absurd and often hilarious, HUMAN NATURE was the first collaboration between writer Charlie Kaufman (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION) and director Michel Gondry (ETERNAL SUNSHINE, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP). They went on to make ETERNAL SUNSHINE a few years later. To call HUMAN NATURE bizarre or self-conscious would be an understatement; while it's coherent and certainly adds up by its conclusion, I dare you to find an odder, more surreal R-rated fantasty like this. The film is basically a sex-farce about the animalistic urges that we as humans suppress on a daily basis, as well as a pointed observation on the role of outward beauty in society and how people judge others on superficial levels. Almost beyond description, the film juggles three story major story strands which result in an extremely heady brew. Rhys Ifans (so scary in ENDURING LOVE, so funny in NOTTING HILL) is a feral man, raised as an ape by his father, who has been living as one with nature for almost his entire exsistence. Patricia Arquette (who still can't shake her role as Alabama in TRUE ROMANCE in my eyes) is a woman suffering from abnormal hair growth all over her body; she's never been with a man and has zero self-esteem. Tim Robbins (wish he'd make more films) is a virginal, up-tight behavorial scientist who is trying to teach a pair of mice table manners; eat with a fork, pull out one another's chair, etc. He thinks that if he can teach table manners to mice, he'll be able to teach table manners to humans. In his world, we've all become slobs with no idea of proper etiquette. Hysterical flashbacks show how his 50's era parents drilled order and OCD-styled tendencies into their son. Robbins and Arquette meet through a mutual friend and sparks fly; Arquette conceals her hairy secret from him. One day while walking in the woods, they come across Ifans, who knocks himself out while trying to run away from them. Robbins, ever the intrepid scientist, sees this as a major opportunity. He takes Ifans back to his laboratory and puts him into a large glass-walled box. Forget the mice; now he has a human patient! How a strange love triangle develops between the three characters will be up for you to discover. If all of this sounds mildly mentally retarded to you, well, I'm not surprised. But coming from genuine artists like Gondry and Kaufman, the film is a whimsical endeavor. And while HUMAN NATURE is a challenging film on the formal level of filmmaking, it's also a stunningly unique, and repeatedly hysterical comedy about humans, and, well, nature. The scenes alone of the mice eating with forks are worth the $4 dvd rental price. And one scene, in which Robbins teaches Ifans how to behave at an opera, will have you howling with laughter (at least I was). HUMAN NATURE isn't as accomplished overall as BEING JOHN MALKOVICH or ETERNAL SUNSHINE, and I still think that THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP is an underrated masterwork of lunacy. However, what a film like HUMAN NATURE does provide is a genuinely creative landscape, filled with images, ideas, and moments that can't really be compared to anything else. It's a fun, strange film that I promise you won't forget.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HERZOG IN THE SNOW

Any new Werner Herzog film is reason to jump for joy. Per Variety:

"Werner Herzog's docu about the daily lives of Antarcticans, "Encounters at the End of the World," will be distribbed jointly by ThinkFilm and Image Entertainment in partnership with Discovery Films. "Encounters," which will bow June 11, preemed at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival and marks Herzog's return to the theatrical documentary form after 2005's critically hailed "Grizzly Man." He previously partnered with Discovery Films on that pic, which saw healthy domestic B.O. of about $3 million. Herzog is known for visually stunning and insightful portraits that telescope the starkest of individual experiences into metaphors about the human condition. Here, lensing entirely on location, he explores the existence of people working in literally blinding conditions, as well as natural elements such as a volcano and, yes, penguins.
Herzog begins at the populated research center McMurdo Station, with its yoga studios and ATMs, and journeys deeper into the vast landscape of the South Pole. Docu was written, directed and narrated by Herzog."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008