So I’ve expressed my rage at big screen architects before, and now it seems that Adam Sandler didn’t get enough of the ultimate hot-shit, white-collar, oh-I’m-so-stressed occupation in Click. He’ll be headlining director Adam Shankman’s Bedtime Stories, a fantasy-comedy project which centers around how the life of a busy architect takes a crazy turn when the nighttime tales he tells his niece and nephew start to come true. Vomit. Just… vomit.
It’s been a while since Rattle
and Hum stoked ridiculous criticisms that U2 were messianic rock fabulists
out to somehow co-opt the heritage of American music. Those for whatever reason
still invested in such convoluted detestation will get an extra dimension of
ammunition with the release of this fall’s concert flick U2
The feature-length film, shot during the band’s visit to
additional direction from Mark Pellington (
The Mothman Prophecies). Produced by
in specialist 3-D cinemas in the autumn, exact date(s) to be determined.
Owens, a longtime collaborator with U2 on live-show visuals dating back to the groundbreaking Zoo TV Tour, predicts
U2 3D will startle audiences. “There
is no comparison with a traditional concert film seen in 2-D,” she says. “One
minute you are on stage with the band and the next you are at the back of the
stadium. …The best way I can describe it for the viewer, is that it’s like
being on the wings of a bird flying around the concert stadium — it’s really
The 3-D shoot took place over the course of seven shows in
in February of last year, with Tom Krueger serving as the “conventional” director
of photography and Peter Anderson scoring the title of director of three-dimensional
photography. A wow-za! theatrical trailer has just begun airing alongside 3-D presentations of
Walt Disney’s Meet the Robinsons, but
for a two-dimensional glimpse, click here.
The kick off for this one — an interview with Shia LaBeouf from The Onion’s
A.V. Club on occasion of his starring role in this week’s Disturbia — isn’t mine, but it reminded me of a chat I had with LaBeouf
back when he was making the press rounds for Bobby last fall.
A ways into the Q&A, the interviewer points out LaBeouf’s
candidness and asks if he gets shit from his handlers; LaBeouf responds in the
affirmative, in breezily loquacious style: “Sure, picture this whole room full
of reiner-inners. That’s what their job is, and of course I understand that.
And there’s an aspect to me that sort of wants to do the same. Because if you
don’t rein it in, you start losing mystery and sometimes perception is almost
more important than the skill level of an actor. And if you give too much away,
you have nothing to take for yourself and put onscreen. If people feel like
they know you too well, they won’t be able to identify with the character you’re
trying to portray. Or they’ll feel that you’re just playing yourself, and then
you just become a personality actor. And that’s the death of any actor. So this
[gestures at himself] is a representative. This is far too important a conversation,
it’s far too important, for me to be real with you. It’s just too important to
my career, too important to the things that I love. So this right here is just
this representative I’ve created. And I can talk all day in this character, this
is just another form of acting. It’s closer to what I am, but what I am is too
much for any kind of selling of a project. There’s too much money riding on
this interview going well for me to be completely candid. So it’s just a
LaBeouf is a mile-a-minute talker who has a way with shorthand
that seems flippant but really isn’t (on being cast in Bobby: “You’re 20 years old — do you wanna go play for the all-star
team? Sure…”), and he can segue between rat-tat-tat promotion (again on Bobby: “This
is not a liberal movie, it’s not specifically about politics, it’s about
ordinary people following extraordinary man. Here was a man with vision who was
a voice for those who were silenced. This was a great person, and that’s the
gist of what the film is about. It’s about relighting that fire in people that
they can have faith in other people — it’s not politic, it’s about hope”) and blunt
biographical distillation, as during one point in a roundtable chat when he described his dad, a
former roadie with the Doobie Brothers, as “a real-deal hippie who still lives
in a teepee in Montana — still.”
He’s a good interview, in other words — obviously preternaturally
bright, but still bristling with the restless discomfort of youth. The most interesting
moment that I had with him was riding up an elevator, on the way to a hotel
hospitality suite. Making a bit of small talk after our scheduled interview, I finally
asked LaBeouf, with a lolling smile, if he could get quite as excited selling a
movie that he didn’t care about as he was about Bobby. From a savvier veteran, one might expect a pithy parry, or
from a more automaton-like newcomer a wide-eyed exclamation along the lines of,
“I hope I never have to!”
LaBeouf’s immediate response, though, was telling, in that,
as in the above Onion piece, he copped to slipping into character for such interviews
— not a lesser representation of himself, or a totally insincere one, but one
tinged with boosterism, undeniably. He had to play-act as his own advocate. It’s the admission that a lot of actors won’t
(or can’t) make. Think what you will of his on-screen talent, but this acknowledgement
(which helps make him a good, always engaged talk show guest, for one) and LaBeouf’s
overall perspective confirm a pretty astonishing grasp, for someone of his age,
of the difficulties inherent in nurturing and maintaining a film career — and the
privilege of such an endeavor.
Did Hilary Swank, above, just smell the movie she’s in? Yes, the $12 million, extended holiday weekend haul for The Reaping is already more than the entire domestic receipts garnered by Swank’s “artistic” leading lady debut, Boys Don’t Cry (we won’t count The Next Karate Kid).
Still, the fact remains that audiences don’t seem particularly drawn to
Swank in anything other than asexualized roles, and thus their mandate on her as a leading lady could
best be described as neither-here-nor-there. Swank, it seems, is both pigeonholed and not heartily loved. If
audiences are predisposed to the genre or material, they might give it
a look; otherwise, they’re looking past Swank, not at her.
In The Reaping, that would be with good reason. Directed by
Stephen Hopkins, the movie is a religious-tinged supernatural thriller
that feels absolutely dutiful in all its included and (loudly) sounded
beats. It’s a given that the project was green-lit as both a reflective
sign of these troubled, uncertain times and an attempt to tap into the
evangelical market via genre product. The somewhat crass manner in which The Reaping ties together
haunted personal experience with its main story of quasi-apocalyptic
mayhem, though, feels like some studio note passed down a secular
executive who heard from his assistant, or maybe his teenage daughter, about a piece on Slate that described the “mysterious” but deeply held faith-based beliefs of those in flyover country. For the full review, from FilmStew, click here.
Has Ridley Scott left Morocco in the past few years? Actually, that’s not fair. Of course he has — he’s done A Good Year and American Gangster recently. Still, 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven and 2000’s Gladiator both shot there, as well as portions of 2001’s Black Hawk Down, if I’m not mistaken.
Now comes word from Daily Variety that Scott has already started scouting venues in, yes, Morocco for an adaptation of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ globe-trotting novel Body of Lies, to be written for the screen by The Departed screenwriter William Monahan. The book is about a journalist turned CIA agent who starts tracking down an Al Qaeda leader who may be planning a new attack on the United States. Also reportedly on board? Leonardo DiCaprio.
The actor’s final deal has to be negotiated, but DiCaprio has already worked the
picture, to be produced by Warner Bros. and tentatively slated for release in four-quarter 2008, into his busy schedule — slotting it for this fall, after first
reteaming with Titanic co-star Kate Winslet on Revolutionary Road,
Sam Mendes’ now-shooting, very chamber drama-sounding film about a 1950s suburban Connecticut couple coping with personal problems.
Maybe it’s a tax shelter thing, or maybe Scott just has some sort of time-share in Morocco…
While, as written, it’s a fairly straightforward if
undeniably heartwarming rags-to-riches story, Will Smith is what you might easily
call the biggest “four-quadrant” star in Hollywood today, and so it’s no
surprise that The Pursuit of Happyness
netted the erstwhile rapper and sitcom star an Academy Award nomination for
Best Actor, the second of his career. And, truth be told, the impressive physical
transformation of Ali
notwithstanding, it definitely ranks up there with Smith’s best work in years. (And, yes, the purposefully misspelled title is explained along the way, too.)
Based on the true story of Chris Gardner, the movie is set
the story of a hospital equipment salesman who’s struggling to make ends meet. When
his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) walks out, Chris is left to raise their five-year-old
son Christopher (Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, the actor’s real-life boy) on
his own. Chris’ determination finally pays off then he lands a prestigious internship
in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program at Dean Witter, where
only one of the 20 interns will eventually be offered a job. But it’s an unpaid,
months-long position, and without any sort of financial cushion, Chris and his
son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep in homeless
shelters and even behind the locked doors of a bus station bathroom. With
self-confidence and the love and trust of his son, though, Chris rises above all
of these obstacles to eventually become a Wall Street legend.
Some of the early detail is crunched, I never believed or got a firm grasp on the character of Linda, and the interstitial bits of tugged heartstrings (parents watching
their kids sleep) are typical, yes, but what Smith and helmer Gabriele Muccino —
who directed Remember Me, My Love and
the absolutely fantastic original Italian film, L’Ultimo Bacio, upon which Zach Braff’s The Last Kiss was based — tap into and locate with unerring clarity
and an utter lack of condescension is the desperation of the American working
class, for whom each paycheck means a respite of only a few days or weeks, and,
indeed, the quiet nobility of their pursuit.
Available in both widescreen and full-screen formats, the
DVD release comes with a nice slate of bonus materials, including an audio commentary track
with director Muccino and an array of featurettes. The lengthiest and one of
the most substantive of these, a 17-minute making-of entitled An Italian Take on the American Dream, includes
interviews with crew, cast (including, nicely, bit players like Brian Howe and
Dan Castellanetta) and a gaggle of producers on the project, and breaks down in
fantastic fashion Muccino’s eye for detail. There’s all his wild gesticulation,
to be sure (the filmmaker is Italian, after all), but Muccino and Smith also talk
about being truthful to the physicality
of someone moving so frequently in pure desperation — hence all the movie’s wide-angle
Father and Son: On
Screen and Off runs seven-and-a-half minutes, and provides a sweet look at
Will Smith and his real life son and co-star; it was apparently Muccino’s idea
to first audition young Jaden, and Smith talks candidly about there being some studio
anxiety about whether he could concentrate on his own performance with his son
around, and counsels Jaden, in trickle-down fashion, that there’s no need “to
put any sauce on it.”
Also narrated in syrupy tones, just like the main behind-the-scenes
making, is a 13-minute look at the real Chris Gardner, which kicks off with
on-set footage of Smith singling out his subject for praise during a birthday
celebration with the Glide Memorial Choir.
is a great interview, and talks about the difficulties in revisiting what he
cops to as “the most difficult and depressing years of my life.” He also notes all
the surrounding on-set detail with awe, leading to a brief but appreciated word
from set decorator Lauri Gaffin.
The light, upbeat featurette Inside Rubik’s Cube, meanwhile, clocks in at seven minutes, but is
a fascinating little shorthand documentary on the titular gadget featured in
the film. Fun trivia: between 1980 and ’82, there were 100 million sold worldwide, making it one of the staples of the entire
Hungarian economy, and its inventor a national hero; there are also 43
quintillion (yes, a real word) possible color combinations to the cube. A music
video for the song “I Can” rounds things out, which is puzzling only insofar as
it was Seal’s song, “A Father’s Way,” that garnered a Golden Globe nomination
for Best Original song. B (Movie) B+ (Disc)
High School Musical comes the Disney Channel’s highest-rated ever original
movie, Jump In!, starring that aforementioned
film’s Corbin Bleu and Akeelah and the
As the exclamatory title might suggest, Jump In! is definitely pitched at kids and tweens, and within this
context the project succeeds fabulously. The movie premiered on the Disney Channel earlier
this January, to the highest ever ratings in total viewers (8.2 million), and finished
as TV’s most-watched program of that entire day (both broadcast and basic cable)
in target demos for kids both 6-11 and 9-14 years of age.
Penned by Doreen Spicer (The
Proud Family), and the team of Regina Hicks and Karin Gist (Girlfriends), Jump In! is a coming-of-age story about
teenager Izzy Daniels (Bleu) whose father dreams of him becoming a champion
boxer. When his neighbor Mary (Palmer) asks him to substitute for a jumper on
her double-dutch team in time for the city championship, Izzy hops right in. As
he acclimates with surprising quickness, Izzy discovers an unanticipated passion
for the world of competitive jump-roping.
Despite its premise, the movie doesn’t so much mess around
with gender roles to the degree that, say, Billy
Elliott did, as merely present a comfortable, sunny environment where boy-girl
playground divisions are knocked down and overcome. Older audiences will stare
right through or past the rather flimsy conceit on which this movie hangs, but
perhaps feel a pang of nostalgia for the jump-rope action. Speaking of which, director
Paul Hoen (South of Nowhere) does a nice
job of capturing that material, as well as keeping the tone light and agreeable,
and putting his young charges through the paces in brisk fashion. Bleu conveys
a certain likeability, and Palmer again proves herself a young actress of natural,
unaffected appeal. Rounding out the cast are David Reivers (Poseidon)
and Hannah Montana’s Shanica Knowles.
The movie’s so-called “freestyle edition” DVD is housed in a
regular Amray case with cardboard O-ring slipcover, and presented in 1.33:1
full frame, with a Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. Exclusive bonus materials
consist of a “Learning the Moves” featurette with Bleu, in which he hosts an
instructional double-dutch jump rope routine that showcases steps both simple and advanced for
at-home fans. Palmer, meanwhile, is featured in a pop-hop music video from the
movie’s soundtrack entitled, appropriately enough, “Jumpin’.” Rounding out the supplemental
features is a cursory seven-minute making-of featurette entitled “Inside the
Ropes,” and a second music video, from rising pop sensation T-Squad, for their song
“Vertical.” To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) C (Disc)
Richard Gere just had to do it, didn’t he? After my review of the roguish and spry, rooted-in-murky-truth caper flick The Hoax, in which I praise a nimble Gere that we haven’t seen in a long time, if at all, that old shamanistic earnestness kicked in during a Thursday appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Gere had to make sure that potential ticket buyers knew of the very serious underpinnings and parallels in the film, which tells the story of novelist Clifford Irving, who fakes an autobiography of billionaire Howard Hughes.
“This small lie connects to a much larger lie,” says Gere, slowly and pointedly, at the end of a long-ish monologue of narrative explication. “Which was the Vietnam War, Nixon, the Supreme Court, money laundering — it was all kinds of crazy stuff. To me what was interesting was the resonance between that time and that war and that president who lies, and this time and this president who lies and this war that didn’t have to happen.” At this point DeGeneres replies, blankly, “Yeah.”
However much one might agree with Gere about our current president being a serial molester of facts who led us into an awful and entirely unnecessary morass, the fact is that The Hoax, even in its more fanciful flights of speculative inclusion, has nothing to do with, and makes no claim on, the Vietnam War, and Gere’s attempt at linkage was pompous and maladroit — perfectly illustrative of why almost everybody outside of Hollywood looks at this guy as their buzzkill uncle.
Give credit where credit is due, however. Though her show was undeniably hijacked, and had the potential to plunge dourly and in headlong fashion into the next commercial break, DeGeneres showed why sunny aplomb is her greatest weapon of comedic return, gracing Gere with a TiVo, which was apparently part of some earlier referenced joke, inclusive of previous visit(s) to the show. And it was a 40-hour TiVo, just for those wondering…
For those on the West Coast and in the
May 3 with director Hal Hartley’s Fay
Grim and runs through the following weekend, May 12, will present a day-long
Family Fest on Saturday, May 5.
Despite being home to the world’s major motion picture
its Eastside communities in particular have been historically underserved by
venues that present motion pictures created outside of the
commercial template. Thus was the inspiration born, half a dozen years ago, for
the Silver Lake Film Festival. Conceived as a multi-cultural, multi-arts event
with cinema as its unifying catalyst, the festival’s primary goal was and
remains to showcase the new work of the
independent film community as well as efforts of like-minded filmmakers around
Family Day will unfold at the new Rudolpho’s restaurant in
of all ages in a warm, friendly environment. Live music from local group the Flypaper
Cartel, a DJ, dance, an art display, a recycled music workshop and free trees
all accompany a day of experimental and thought-provoking films selected from
countries around the world.
Highlighting a series of short, experimental, animated features
will be the British classic fairytale retelling Prince Cinders, Swedish film Linnea
in Monet’s Garden and the affecting, pained but lyrical Hiroshima No Pika,
narrated by Susan Sarandan, about a young girl and her family who live through
the horrific atomic bombing of Japan. Local filmmakers will be represented with
all sorts of “tween” tales, and fifth-graders from nearby
premiere the short movies they’ve been working on as part of the AFI’s student-outreach
filmmaking program. For a full schedule of events and more information in
general, visit the festival’s eponymous web site by clicking here.
Grindhouse’s classification. And yep, that description of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s cinematic experiment — a lovely, bloody “fuck you” of a pop diorama valentine in a very precious liberal arts school fine art class — just about covers all the
major bases. Yet the movie is also notable for the manner in which it coyly sidesteps (its faux trailers notably excepted) a certain staple of the grindhouse and exploitation genre: namely, leading lady nudity.
A love scene between McGowan and Freddy Rodriguez in Planet Terror is trimmed down and interrupted by a feigned missing reel, and a much discussed lap dance in Tarantino’s Death Proof is given the same treatment. One can call this subversion, certainly, but it also feels
like a bit of a cop-out, given that the same “joke” is effectively deployed
twice. Toss in the fact that Rodriguez allegedly had an indiscretion with McGowan on the set of Planet
Terror — an affair that resulted in the implosion of his marriage with wife
Elizabeth Avellán, also Grindhouse‘s producer — and it feels additionally
suspicious. And a bit disingenuous. Just a bit…
It’ll be interesting to see how the leering fanboy crowd reacts to this — if they’re too caught up in the respective stories to care, or it becomes wordlessly emblematic of a greater frustration with the movie(s). For what it’s worth, in my opinion the bit works much better in Planet Terror, not merely because that segment comes first, but also because it occurs later within that movie, and “at least” happens mid-coitus; Rodriguez sustains the grindhouse touchstones and blemishes better, and it thus feels like less of a gyp. In Death Proof, you can almost hear Tarantino’s stuttering, self-satisfied laugh, though there are rumors that the missing scene will pop up in longer international (and, by extension, DVD) cuts of the film. Meanwhile, for a full review pass at the movie, this time from FilmStew, click here.
A fantastic about-face for both director Lasse Hallström and star Richard Gere — representing the best work in years for each — The Hoax tells the story of Clifford Irving, a novelist who, in 1971, faked an autobiography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. A roguish, spry and
darkly comedic caper, The Hoax is a movie that milks high drama out of low-key
stakes before then folding the secrets and lies at the core of its
story into an even grander speculative conspiracy than its blithely egotistical
protagonist could have initially imagined — one tied to burgeoning paranoia in the Nixon White House.
What William Wheeler’s superb script smartly taps into is not just the
outlandish and colorful surface intrigue of its story — the nuts and
bolts of the faking of the biography — but the secret, unexplainable
thrill that all of this gives Irving. Even if it’s heretofore been
dormant, it’s hardwired to his soul, this need for attention and
respect. What we’re actually watching, then, is the magnificent implosion of an addictive
personality, and the adrenaline rush that piling lie on top of lie
gives Irving. Knowing that only the most bizarre and outlandish ones
will work (to match Hughes’ eccentric and impulsive personality), the
author’s spiraling deception is the fuel on which The Hoax
runs. So potent is its force, too, that by the end of the movie, one is
improbably siding alongside Irving, waiting on a rooftop for a
helicopter visit from Hughes that one knows can’t possibly be coming. For the full review, from FilmStew, click here.
It’s a happy birthday to single mom Krista Allen, who turns 35 today. Krista, the third season of Project Greenlight totally busted you for being a bit of a diva on the set of Feast, and showing up late one day with what might most charitably be described as a hangover, but I’ll give you props for the final product — you kicked ass and had some fun. Are you a great actress? No. Have you made out with George Clooney more times than I have? Yes, almost certainly.
Also, for all the Jenna Fischer fans out there, she’s on the cover of this month’s Wired magazine, which means you get this photo, covered by a transparency, I gather, as well as this pursed-lips interior pic. No slouch management, hers. It seems they’re aware of the same melancholic image problems I mentioned, and so “the sexification of Jenna” is in full swing.
Which, come to think of it, would be a great title for an exploitation flick. I need to get on that, so I can escape having to write about movies like Premonition…
In what I’m not sure is an opportunity or a dare, Geffen
Records is calling on all musicians for the chance to have their music be placed in the upcoming live-action comedy adventure Bratz. MGA
Entertainment, Avi Arad Productions and Crystal Sky Pictures have teamed up on
the feature film, which Lionsgate will distribute nationwide on August 10. The
soundtrack will be available through Geffen Records on July 31.
I have a friend who’s labored on several Bratz videogame titles, and he’s generally
sounded like he’s wanted to pluck out his eyeballs, so inane is the work. But
the franchise, spun off from what began as a line of 10-inch dolls with
oversized heads and huge eyes — a sort of hipper, sluttier alternative to
Barbie — is highly lucrative. And since movies today are driven by and apparently
green-lit solely by name recognition, we’ll now get a live action flick to go
alongside all the animated product clogging the imaginative arteries of prepubescent
and tween-age girls. Given that it’s directed by 45-year-old white dude Sean
McNamara, the artisan behind 3 Ninjas:
High Noon at
movie of nuanced social commentary.
At any rate… what were we talking about? Oh, right: your roommate’s
band. Musical submissions will be reviewed by top A&R executives at Geffen
Records up until the deadline of May 15. If you’ve always wanted to get
your music in front of a major record label, or you have a song about 10-inch dolls
and how totally awesome and outrageous they are, this is your chance to be
discovered. For rules, regulations and more information click here,
and enter all pertinent contact information.
I caught a portion of David Lynch’s The Straight Story on television very late one night recently, and was struck again by not only how naturalistic and charming the late Richard Farnsworth (above left) is in the title role of Alvin Straight, an ailing Midwesterner who sets off on a 500-mile trek on a riding mower to visit his estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton) after the latter has suffered a stroke, but also just how completely devastating is the scene he shares with a fellow World War II veteran.
It’s a time-whiling sequence between two strangers. Sharing the scene with Wiley Harker (above right), Farnsworth’s character opts for a glass of milk instead of a beer, and glancingly relates, in a single line of dialogue, how a pastor, after many years, finally helped lead him away from the bottle. The duo start talking about their war experiences, and Straight tells how he can still read and translate the unique pain from battle in a man’s face, decades on. “That’s one thing I can’t shake loose — all my buddies’ faces are still young,” he says. “And the thing is, the more years I have, the more they’ve lost.”
The scene culminates in a long monologue about Straight’s training as a sniper and his experiences in Germany, and it’s perhaps the most low-key but emotionally overwhelming passage of personal combat experience I’ve ever seen put to film. You already have sympathy for Straight, a decent and honest guy. But in this span of just a few minutes — which ostensibly has nothing to do with the main narrative of reconciliation with his brother — this story paints a detailed portrait of a man gripped by despair and loss. And it absolutely wrecks you.
This reminds me of my grandfather, a Marine during WW II and a quiet, honorable and unassuming man back home, who speaks of his time overseas reluctantly, and only in the broadest terms. And it makes you realize what in your heart of hearts you already know — that war doesn’t really end with air-quote victory, whether fully realized or courtesy of cooked-book historical re-framing. And that there’s now another generation of scarred young men and women, waiting to take their place — in pained, swallowed silence — on barstools and in easychairs across America.
I caught Paramount’s Disturbia last week, and for all those huffing and puffing about its similarities to Rear Window, you can rest easy: despite some good-ish performances, the movie marginally fails on its own terms, as a thriller.
Shia LaBeouf stars as Kale, a decent but wayward kid who gets sentenced to house arrest for punching out his Spanish teacher. (Why he does that is another story…) Bored out of his mind after his mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) snips the cord on his television and otherwise severs his connections to outside entertainment, Kale takes to scoping out the rituals of his neighbors, including new girl next door Ashley (Sarah Roemer, of The Grudge 2). Soon Kale comes to believe that another neighbor, Robert Turner (David Morse), is responsible for the disappearance of several young women. With Ashley and friend Ronnie (Aaron Yoo) as his lifelines to the outside world, Kale investigates, and confirms that Turner has dark secrets worth hiding.
I was a fan of director DJ Caruso’s The Salton Sea and, to a much lesser extent, Taking Lives, and he’s got an undeniably solid visual style. The problem here, though, is a sense of space, and all the technology deployed in surveillance, which is never really clearly laid out. LaBoeuf gives Disturbia its own chatterbox personality, and there’s some interest to be found in the manner in which the movie charts Kale’s path of initial insouciance to a more proactive nature. But the big problem is the script, by Christopher Landon and Carl Ellsworth (Red Eye). There are gaping holes in motivation and behavior — even adjusting for the necessity of personalizing the conflict — and by the second act it becomes apparent that the movie and its makers don’t have anything interesting to say, with the finale tipping over into siege film shenanigans. Disturbia releases wide on April 13. For more information, click here.
As previously mentioned, those in the Los Angeles area are in for a treat with the long-awaited, 30th anniversary theatrical presentation of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, which bows in preserved form in a new 35mm print at the Nuart Theatre this Friday, April 6, and runs for a week.
Things get even better, though. Actors Henry Sander and Charles Bracy will appear along with UCLA Film and Television Archive preservationist Ross Lipman for Q&As following Friday’s screenings. Tickets are $9.50, and are available at the theater box office, and through Moviefone. For information, phone (310) 281-8223. For more information on the film, click here.
Li’l Romeo, Percy Miller, Jr., Romeo Miller… it’s hard
keeping up with the names of rap impresario Master P’s oldest offspring (above right). After
all, this kid has bounced around all over the aspirant mini-celeb map, from
ankle-biting rap moneymaker to actor to hoopster. With regards to the latter, he’s accepted a basketball
scholarship to USC, where he’ll matriculate beginning in the fall of 2008. One
thing is for certain — with Crush on U,
Miller has given opposing fans plenty of new, shameful heckling material in an
already estimable canon of jokes.
He stars here as
(what a shock), a popular 16-year-old high school sophomore who has everything
going his way.
Matt asks him to watch his younger sister while he goes out on a date.
agrees, but quickly finds out that he’s bitten off more than he can chew; to
his surprise, Matt’s
(Forrest Lipton, above left) has a big crush on him, and wants to take him to the school
dance. Instead, Romeo sends his younger brother, and “romantic miscomplications,”
as Master P might say, ensue.
I’ll be honest, the critical filter wasn’t really set on
high for this flick. I threw it on while making dinner one night, expecting a
stupid, doofy comedy somewhat on par with that stupid Saturday morning kids’
series starring the two kids from Big
Daddy… what’re their names — ahh, right, Dylan and Cole Sprouse. After all,
it’s hard to take seriously a movie that doesn’t feature a listed writer (that
would be Britt O’Wynn, doubtfully a real name) on its back cover credit
listing, and is executive produced solely by someone recognized as “Bossman.”
I had no idea, really. Crush
on U is atrocious, and completely, mind-numbingly inane (which in and of
itself isn’t shocking), but it’s also awfully filmed and staged, and just
awkward and incompetent all around. It’s directed by Master P himself, and,
fitting for a man who once concocted the stirring anthem “Make ’Em Say Uhh!,” marrying
prefab beats to a bowel movement exhortation, he mucks it up but good. I didn’t
finish watching this, a professional rarity, but I also must report that
substituting “couldn’t” for “didn’t” wouldn’t be much of a stretch. It’s that
wretched, even on its own terms as a piece of promotional sidebar product feeding
the gaping maw of Master P’s sprawling entertainment empire.
Housed in a regular Amray case with a snap-hinge tray, Crush on U is presented in 1.78:1
widescreen, and actually comes with a CD soundtrack featuring more than 20
tunes. Well, that’s somewhat misleading. There’s actually five songs, you see — “Madame
Prezz,” “Step by Step,” “Girly Girl,” the title track and “Dancing.” Club
mixes, radio edits, instrumental versions and the like pad out the CD’s running
time… hey, just like the feature! Tedious outtakes, a Lipton music video (she’s
also a young singer in Master P’s stable, you see) and other predictably cheery
and back-slapping behind-the-scenes material comprise the slate of bonus
material, and a two-sided mini poster, featuring both Romeo and Lipton, is also
included. If, for some reason, you feel the urge to still purchase this movie, via Amazon, click here. If I’m Being Kind: I, For Incomplete; If I’m Being Honest: F (Movie) C-
Volver and Penelope Cruz gets re-spun on FilmStew today, courtesy of the DVD release of Pedro Almodóvar’s film. The basic gist of it is that Cruz is much more at home and in her skin in native-language releases. Though part of it is surely a quality-of-parts issue, there’s also just a comfort factor that’s readily apparent. For the full feature piece, click here.
I’m hearing good things from a friend in the know about American Gangster, director Ridley Scott’s latest effort — a ’70s-set period piece about a drug lord who smuggles heroin into Harlem by hiding stashes inside the coffins of American soldiers returning from Vietnam, and the cop who attempts to thwart him. It’s a re-pairing of Virtuosity stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe (and you know that’s gotta get a DVD double-dip special edition the week of this flick’s theatrical release), and the positive buzz shouldn’t be all that surprising, given the solid reputation of Steven Zaillian’s script, based on an article, “The Return of Superfly,” by Mark Jacobson, who also provided the source material for Ryan Gosling’s searing 2001 leading man debut, The Believer.
The interesting thing I’m hearing, though, is that Scott’s first cut is two hours and 25 minutes, the same length of less-than-well-received Kingdom of Heaven (nevermind the 194-minute director’s cut of that film, said to be much more cohesive, interesting and historically accurate). Universal brass is said to be keen for Scott to trim the film down a bit more, but producer Brian Grazer and others are planning to fight such requests. To view the movie’s trailer, click here.
UPDATE 9/25: According to a studio source, the film is two hours and 38 minutes, even a bit longer than previously rumored.
Blades of Glory centers on toothy golden-boy Jimmy MacElroy (Jon
Heder, above center), a technically proficient but socially sheltered champion figure skater rigorously
groomed for success since childhood. Boozy bad boy Chazz Michael Michaels
(Will Ferrell) is his polar opposite — a self-described “ice-devouring sex tornado”
who relies on instinct and on-ice improvisation. When a tie at the World
Championships erupts into an embarrassing, medal-stand brawl in front of a
horrified crowd, both Jimmy and Chazz are stripped of their awards and barred
from their sport. Years later, Jimmy’s coach encourages them to exploit a loophole and compete together as the first male/male pair in the history of figure skating. Hungry for laurels, the duo agrees.
Fitfully amusing but indefatigable, Blades of Glory doesn’t touch the anarchic highs of the inspired Talladega Nights, but there’s some pleasantly inspired riffing from Ferrell, and the movie’s early story-beat, sitcom-style repartee is actually pretty solid, before it descends into only half-sketched macro arcs. Relying on Ferrell’s trademark mock intensity and
man-child ignorance, the movie wraps its plot around comfortable clichés
of warped competition found most recently in fellow insistently silly sports flicks
like Dodgeball, Heder’s The Benchwarmers and Ferrell’s
Kicking and Screaming.
Oh, and for the record, while Blades of Glory does wring plenty of laughs from the tension of its male-male pairing, it doesn’t really succumb to the tag of “New Homophobia” comedy that’s being bandied about by some writers. (That sentiment is actually much more prevalent in this spring’s Wild Hogs.) For the full, albeit somewhat canted and analytical review, from FilmStew, click here.
In recent years, films like Traffic, Syriana and
others have tried to meld narrative ensemble conventions with the burgeoning
sense and social consciousness of activist filmmaking most robustly found in a
new wave of documentaries from liberal filmmakers like Robert Greenwald,
Michael Moore and the like. Heartening
in effort if not fully successful in implementation, then, is The Hanging Garden writer-director Thom Fitzgerald’s sprawling
anthology 3 Needles. A trio of discrete stories that span
on the AIDS crisis, and ask why mankind has not bonded together more
tenaciously and durably against this common scourge.
pregnant Jin Ping (Lucy Liu, above) sets up a mobile, black market blood collection
service in a tiny fishing village, paying residents $5 for their donations.
When rice farmer Tong Sam (Tanabadee Chokpikultong), resentful of his neighbor’s
financial gains yet barred from selling his own blood because he has the flu,
lies about his daughter’s age in order that she can sell blood and fund
improvements to their family’s humble farm, it sets off a chain reaction of
Denys (X-Men‘s Shawn Ashmore) is a
porn actor hiding his HIV positive status in order to continue working and
supporting his ailing, terminally ill father and mother Olive (Stockard Channing).
When his father dies and Denys’ secret comes out of the closet, Olive herself
goes to extreme lengths to provide for the family’s future.
(indie mainstay Chloë Sevigny) is a young Catholic nun driven, along with
Sister Hilda (Olympia Dukakis) and Sister Mary John (Sandra Oh), to prevent the
spread of HIV in the region and convert as many of the rapidly dying African
population as she can. In doing so, Clara makes a desperate sexual bargain with
corrupt plantation owner Hallyday (Ian Roberts) to help more immediately secure
all sorts of necessary improvements in equipment, facility and sanitation.
Restoring 20 minutes
of footage and reinstating a triptych structure to the film from its 2005
Toronto Film Festival cut, 3
Needles probably tops out with its initial entry, which features an
impressively subdued and nuanced performance from Liu. The segment also best
evidences Fitzgerald’s keen eye for detail and exhaustive sense of research. The Canadian offering, on the other hand, surprisingly
dips a bit into darkly comedic terrain, occasionally with nice effect, scene to
scene. In the end, though, when a former partner spits at Denys, “You killed me
for $800,” it doesn’t comfortably tonally jibe with much of what we’ve seen.
African segment, meanwhile, is at times a bit staid, but delves into the
interesting custom of virginal rape as a “folk cure” for HIV and AIDS, which is
apparently quite a problem in some cultures. If this inquiry were married to a
bit more natural and noteworthy narrative strand — and just off the top of my
head, I can think of a few — it would be better and more inherently compelling.
As is, reach exceeds grasp, and the symbolic intertwining of sex and disease,
power and powerlessness, comes across as one metaphor too many. More ludicrously
closed minds might also potentially misread this as a condemnation of Catholic church
Quite nicely shot by
Thomas Harting, who has a real touch with the film’s wide-open exteriors, each portion
of 3 Needles opens with a narration that’s equal parts Desperate Housewives and sermonizing
middle school scholastic filmstrip, which is perhaps appropriate. A variety of
far-flung and long-lasting travels informed Fitzgerald’s crafting of the
screenplay (obviously quite well), and his characters are nicely sketched. Still,
while characters are given wide berth and scenes plenty of room to breathe, much
material feels extraneous. With more clearly delineated motivations and streamlined
stories, this project would work much better. As is, it’s a psalm, to be sure,
but it doesn’t truly sing.
3 Needles is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo audio track, and optional English subtitles. DVD special features
include the theatrical trailer and TV advertising for the film, a photo gallery
and a collection of deleted scenes. Informative mini-documentaries China AIDS Initiative (with Magic Johnson and Yao Ming) and House on Fire: AIDS in America,
meanwhile, rightly point up the global nature of this crisis, but in
calm-headed, even-keeled fashion. Each aims to inform, not inflame, and they
succeed. One point of quiet contention, though: a more global offering of subtitles. C (Movie) B+ (Disc)
Grindhouse delivers an uneven mixture of patchwork, sugar-rush thrills.
of two discrete features strung together by a series of fake trailers
shot by Edgar Wright, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie, the movie benefits mostly from
the recombinant pop of Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (above), a strikingly well designed and tackily atmospheric zombie action flick, before the twin-bill’s finale, Tarantino’s muddled Death Proof, fumbles its way through a pointless set-up to an invigorating car chase climax.
A charm offensive of cool that will play well to those heartily psychologically invested in the concept of genre homage, the degree to which Grindhouse successfully spreads outside of its chief demographic target
depends on word-of-mouth amongst those for whom referential lionization
for lionization’s sake means very little. For the full review, from Screen International, click here. For more isolated critical thoughts on each separate feature, check back on Shared Darkness throughout the week.
Variety is reporting that Sydney Pollack will direct Recount, a scripted HBO movie about the contested 2000 presidential election that will focus on the five weeks following Election Day, up through the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of George W. Bush. Casting has yet to be finalized, but presumably slightly fictionalized and composited disgruntled voters will rub shoulders with real-life strategists and local politicians (after all, who can forget this face?).
Sorry, but the fact that the project is “aiming for the widest possible audience, and will steer clear of a partisan point of view, according to execs,” doesn’t bode well for its meat-and-potatoes worth as a drama. I totally get this project’s editorial and financial value in the middle of a heated election-year cycle (it will air on the net sometime next spring or summer), and Pollack’s deft touch with the politically-related material makes him an easy and solid, if somewhat too safe choice. But what gives that backdrop its electrical charge is the winning and losing. Anything else might as well be just a documentary offering — the same sort of thing which …So Goes the Nation incidentally did a pretty damn good job of capturing, in Ohio in 2004.
If you’re not showing the anger of people who feel like they’re getting jammed (or, conversely, the celebration of those “getting over”), if you’re too busy tap-dancing around some imaginary line of kumbaya appeasement, if you’re not choosing, in some loose sense, you’re going to end up with just a neutered piece of info-tainment to serve as lead-in fodder for shows like Hardball and Tucker, and the policy wonks that watch them. It will be interesting to see if all the major players and party power brokers are represented in Recount‘s story, whatever its putative dramatic focus. If not, it has the strong potential to be empty theater.
The one person who should be most grateful for this announcement, other than actor-turned-writer Danny Strong? Fran Drescher. I don’t what the hell she’s up to, but if her agent is worth a rat’s ass, they’re booking her for the role of Katherine Harris. Yesterday.
Also, randomly and almost belatedly, some of these April Fool’s day hoaxes/stories, perpetuated by various governments, bureaucratic officials and the media, are pretty great. Yes, if only spaghetti grew on trees…
UPDATE 8/09: A few days old now, but according to Reuters and other outlers, Pollack, 73, has backed out of directing Recount, citing unspecified health concerns. “He’s got some medical issues,” spokeswoman Leslie Dart told Reuters.
“He’s not feeling well right now. It would be unrealistic for him to go
into production right away.” Pollack will stay on board as a producer, and Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meets the Parents) will step in to direct.
When most filmgoers last left James Cameron, he was
proclaiming himself king of the world, having seen his Titanic sweep up 11 Oscars to go alongside its record-setting box
office haul. Apart from the 2005 deep-sea documentary Aliens of the Deep and some other non-fiction work, Cameron
has been conspicuously absent from the feature film world, instead producing a few works and chiefly indulging
his own penchant for intellectual exploration.
All that’s about to change, of course, as Cameron has flung
himself into a pair of ambitious projects that — though they won’t hit screens
until 2009 — are naturally already drawing plenty of attention. The first of
these, Avatar, with Sam Worthington
and Zoe Saldana, is being described as a luxurious, futuristic love story on a verdant
foreign planet, set against a backdrop of cultural alienation.
leading lady, Sigourney Weaver, has a key supporting role, and took some time
recently during an interview session for Jake Kasdan’s The TV Set to discuss Avatar
as well. “I have a very juicy part,” she says. “It’s not the lead but it’s the
second lead. I’m not one of the two young people in love, but I’m the older
person in love.” Just because the movie re-teams her with Cameron, though, don’t
necessarily start drawing comparisons to the character that launched her to superstardom.
“It’s a very different role, I’m not playing anyone remotely like Ripley,” she
Offering up teasing insinuations that only “sometimes” will her
character, a botanist named Grace, look like her, Weaver is high on Avatar’s visual style. “They’re
transforming the way this kind of movie is being made, I’ll tell you that,” she
says. “Jim has invented different cameras to capture this world.”
Responding to Michael Biehn’s assertion at the recent Grindhouse
premiere that Avatar was essentially “Lawrence of Arabia in space,” meanwhile,
Weaver laughs. “Well, I think scope-wise it probably is, but I think Lawrence of Arabia might be slightly nobler
than our (film). Ours is big entertainment — it’s a big, lush, old-fashioned
romantic adventure the likes of which no one has ever seen. I’m reading this
thing just going, ‘How are you going to do that?’ I mean, if anyone can do it,
Jim can. But it’s incredibly ambitious. And at the same time, it’s all these
wonderful characters that you care about, and it’s a very topical script in the
sense that it is about the environment and, you know, the forces of sort of good