Stephanie Daley, opens in limited release today, is also a published author. Her first book of collected poems, Free Stallion, was released in 2005, and she’s already hard at work on another, more mature compendium.
“I’ve been writing a lot recently,” says Tamblyn. “It’s a lot of inside-Hollywood
anger. I’m telling a lot of dirty stories in a lot of different formats that I
think need to be told, and I hope that young girls really enjoy the hell out of
it. I think they will, and I think they’ll know exactly who I’m talking
about. But it’s a mixture of that, and it’s a mixture of bad relationships.
This is much more of a flushing-out than my first book, which was clearly just for me
to say, ‘Hey, let me represent myself to you, and here’re the poems I’ve been
writing since I was 14 to 21.’ There are some good things in there, I feel
like. But there are also a lot of pieces that had a lot of juvenilia, were very young,
sophomoric a little bit, which I like, because I wrote them when I was 13. War
Here Tamblyn pauses, and offers a self-effacing shrug. “What do I know? So this [book], I think should be interesting. I’ve been doing a pretty deep workshop with a couple
of really great poets. One of them is named Derrick Brown and another one named
Mindy Nettifee out of
Assassins, and I think it’s one of the best books of poetry I have ever
read from any era. So, we’ve been work-shopping, which has been such a great exercise for me. …Jeffrey McDaniel, who is
my favorite poet ever, has a thing where he says, ‘You’ve got to imagine your
ass off,’ and I feel like that’s what we’ve been experimenting with in this
writing group — really deepening imagery and metaphor and finding things that
Another cool thing? Tamblyn already has a great title in the chamber. “I’m thinking of naming it It’s Hard to Face Your Problems when the Problem is Your Face,” she says, with, ironically, a completely straight face. “But,
there are a couple names, like Laughs Look
Like Upside Down Cries. I don’t even know. It’s in progress.“
In support of the Fox Searchlight film Waitress, the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, a non-profit organization
dedicated to the memory of multi-hyphenate Adrienne Shelly, has partnered with CharityFolks.com to auction off one-of-a-kind aprons decorated, designed and
autographed by stars such as Keri Russell, Cheryl Hines, Jordana Brewster,
Lisa Kudrow, Amy Smart and more. Waitress
was Shelly’s final film before her untimely death in November of last year, and
her first writing and directing effort since 1999’s I’ll Take You There, starring Ally Sheedy.
The proceeds of the online auction will benefit the organization’s
mission to support the artistic achievements of female actors, writers and
directors through a series of grants to help finance student films and
independent film projects. Money will also supplement film school scholarships and awards, and
fund staged readings of deserving scripts. Bidding starts on Sunday evening, April 29 and closes on
Monday, May 14 at Eastern
time. For more information, click here.
An absolute monster hit from last holiday season — at $570 million
worldwide, with $250 million of that coming domestically — Night at the Museum dutifully continues the trend of Ben Stiller’s
physical abuse and debasement, which dates back to some of the comedian’s earliest
sketch work, and includes Dodgeball,
both Meet the Parents flicks, Along Came Polly and, of course, the
1998 smash There’s Something About Mary.
Stiller stars as Larry Daley, a divorced dad and inveterate
dreamer who, needing to quickly get a normal job to keep from getting evicted,
and wanting to stay close to his son Nick (Jake Cherry), takes a position as a
night guard at the New York City Natural History Museum. The three downsized,
outgoing watchmen (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs) give Larry a
quick tour and toss him a tattered instruction manual, but fail to tell him
that due to a mysterious, golden Egyptian tablet that was brought to the museum
years before, everything actually comes alive at night.
This includes animals galore; a marauding Attila the Hun
(Patrick Gallagher); a Tyrannosaurus Rex that wants to play fetch with his
detachable rib bone; former president Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), astride
a horse; and thousands of Lilliputians — like Roman general Octavius (Steve
Coogan) and his bickering rival, Wild West cowboy Jedediah (Owen Wilson) — who
make up the museum’s miniature models and dioramas.
Thrown into the middle of this havoc, Larry tries to at
first merely survive and prevent the complete destruction of the museum. After
sunrise, he’s ready to walk, but the dangled admiration of his son gets the
better of him, and Larry returns. He subsequently tries to impose some order on
all the creatures and icons indoors — if anything gets outside and isn’t back
in its place by sun-up, it turns to dust — and then grapples with some bad guys
out to steal the aforementioned supernatural plate. Along the way he bonds with
his son, and tries to win over docent Rebecca (Carla Gugino), who’s been long
laboring on her thesis on Sacajawea (Mizuo Peck), who just happens to be one of
the wax figures on display in the museum.
Night at the Museum downshifts just a bit in its
efforts to include and play up the more fantastical elements of its premise,
but there are still a few of these overly boisterous, capital-P performance
moments designed to goosingly remind you what a wild time you’re having. The
movie is fleshed out from its roots in Croatian illustrator Milan Trenc’s
children’s book by co-screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (both
of Reno 911!), who together have no doubt made some nice loot tapping
out mid-budget studio comedies like The Pacifier, Herbie Fully Loaded, Taxi and Let’s Go to
Prison. They provide a loose but sound structure here, and Stiller trots
out his characteristic flustered underdog bit, which offers up a few bright and sly moments
for older audiences.
The mixing of wild special effects with more chatty comedy
of awkward social interplay embodied by Wilson, Coogan and Ricky Gervais (above left, as
the museum’s curator), though, feels like a halting mixture. Director Shawn
Levy, too, brings no galvanizing, unifying vision to the fore; he’s the
definition of a point-and-shoot lenser, and there are several sequences that
open up a few crafty visual joke possibilities only to have them fall by the
wayside. It’s a fine enough time-whiling slice of family entertainment, certainly,
and it plays better on the small screen, where it seems like an effects-laden, ramshackle
inversion of the much more cleverly sketched Home Alone. That said, there’s little that feels lasting about Night
at the Museum. Of course, you’ll likely want to see it some point, if only
to prepare yourself for the inevitable sequel.
The double-disc special edition DVD of Night at the Museum comes with a presto-chango lenticular slipcover,
and is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (full-screen is available
separately) with robust, if somewhat front-heavy English language 5.1 DTS and
5.1 Dolby surround audio tracks. Bonus material attached to the feature presentation
includes two audio commentary tracks — one from director Levy, and the other
from writers Garant and Lennon, which is much more entertaining.
Seventeen minutes of deleted scenes kick off the second
disc, a considerable amount for a movie that already clocks in at an hour and
50 minutes. Levy contributes optional commentary to most of these bits, explaining
where they fell in the story and the reasons for their cuts, which is mostly
just a matter of pacing. Some of these are just vintage Stiller riffs, but there
are also a few other odds and ends. Meanwhile, a clutch of a half dozen brief featurettes
on everything from the movie’s costumes and special effects work to its little capuchin
costar provide a nice overview of the production. Of a pair of Fox Movie
Channel pieces, the one with Levy recent film school grads is most interesting,
if also a bit chilling. A 10-minute storyboard-to-screen comparison, a
six-minute blooper reel, a 21-minute Comedy Central clip-fest show and a
DVD-ROM game round things out. To purchase the movie from Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B+ (Disc)
In The Queen, director Stephen Frears and writer Peter
Morgan pull back the curtain on the private chambers of the royal
family in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s 1997 death, where the very
ordered, self-contained world of Queen Elizabeth of England (Helen Mirren)
is brought into conflict with newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair
(Michael Sheen) and a nation looking to its leaders for guidance in
dark times. Along with its spate of Academy Award nominations, the
awards for the film poured in from all the country’s notable critics’
organizations, and deservedly included multiple honors for Mirren
and Sheen, as well as Morgan’s screenplay, the film’s superlative
costume and production design and Alexandre Desplat’s score.
On the surface, The Queen is about how the royal family dealt with Princess Diana’s death, and the frustrated advisory capacity in which a new prime minister served during those troubled times. But on a much larger scale it’s also a movie about values, about a moment in British culture where concepts like duty and tradition — as represented by the institution of the monarchy — clashed with more modern concepts like flexibility and, horror of horrors, informality. We see, though a very personal grappling with these issues, just how difficult and messy change can be — how we, as societies, can often go through long periods of stasis, only to then be snapped into dizzied-up outrage by a single, seemingly small event.
Frears (Dangerous Liaisons, Mrs. Henderson Presents, The Grifters) is a director who is able to smartly plumb comedy from drama, and vice versa, and The Queen radiates an intelligence and pulses with a multi-layered humanity rare in movies today. Morgan, meanwhile, crafted the narrative spine of The Queen from extensive interviews, research, discreet sources and informed imagination, and the result is revealing, satisfyingly dramatic and also just a lot of fun. Impeccably crafted, The Queen is indeed one of the best movies of last year.
Housed in a regular Amray case in turn stored in a cardboard slipcase that replicates its half-faced cover close-up shot of Mirren, The Queen is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. It’s easy to latch onto elements of graininess and edge enhancement early on, as well as in some darker scenes, but this is a result of varying film stocks, it turns out — 16mm for many of the scenes involving Blair scenes, compared to 35mm stock for the bulk of the movie. It rankles a bit at times, but actually feeds a sense of the contrast between Queen Elizabeth’s pristine, privileged world (she and her family pay no taxes, and live in a wonderland of luxurious, perpetual vacation) and that of the real world, in which Blair deals and his staff slaves.
The DVD’s audio comes in the form of an English language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound track and a Spanish language Dolby surround track, with close-captioning and optional Spanish subtitles. Dialogue is clear and free from hiss or distortion, but overall seems mixed a bit on the low side compared to other recent
The DVD’s chief bonus extra is a somewhat perfunctory 19-minute making-of featurette which is split into three sections. Featuring interviews with Frears, Morgan, Mirren, Sheen, costar James Cromwell and others, the first segment focuses on the actors’ challenges of tackling real people as characters.The other segments concentrate on the design of the film and the real-life events of that week, a sort of historical primer that seems a bit redundant coming on the heels of the movie, which collapses this material just fine.
There are also a pair of feature-length audio commentary tracks — one from helmer Frears and writer Peter Morgan, and the other from author and British historian Robert Lacey. The filmmakers’ commentary showcases a nice, drolly chiding rapport between Frears and Morgan, but its loose-limbed nature also feels a bit at odds with the movie. In assaying which jokes worked best, they talk a bit about the gulf between intent and expectation, and their frequent surprise with the same. By contrast, Lacey’s track is a much more serious and streamlined chat, and includes an abundance of biographical information and shading detail, as well as Lacey’s opinion about what the filmmakers got spot-on right and what might have been a bit off, or benefited from dramatic license. It’s a fascinating listen, but in way one wishes you could have had Lacey sit with Frears, or at least Morgan, to dissect the scripting and research processes a bit more. One senses a more tricked-out edition of the film — perhaps with some feature-length inclusions on the royal family — somewhere further down the line, but for general audiences and less exacting DVD collectors, this edition works just fine. A (Movie) B- (Disc)
Jack Valenti has passed away at the age of 85, after suffering a stroke in March that hospitalized him for several weeks. A special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson when he
was lured to Hollywood in 1966 by movie moguls Lew Wasserman and Arthur
Krim, Valenti instituted
the modern movie ratings system and guided Hollywood from the
censorship era to the digital age. As the president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Valenti raised the ire of documentarian Kirby Dick and others, who took exception with what they saw as the MPAA’s Neapolitan swirl of secrecy and hypocrisy with regards to classification issues.
Still, throughout it all, Valenti remained enormously popular with industry colleagues, and respected for his measured advice. “I’ve known Jack for more than 25 years as a colleague,
friend and mentor,” said Jean Prewitt, President and CEO of the Independent Film & Television Alliance. “He was the absolute consummate gentleman who loved
every facet of our industry and its people — no matter what their role in the
business. We’ll never forget Jack and his legacy. There will never
be anyone like him.”