I’m looking out my window this morning, and it’s the best promotional gimmick any studio has dreamt up in a while, though surely someone owes Sean Connery‘s Sir August de Wynter a boatload of cash. Yep, The Mist is out today, along with Timothy Olyphant‘s Hitman and Enchanted, starring the beatific Amy Adams. Oh, and August Rush and This Christmas do the wide release thing, too. I haven’t seen the former, but I have to question its seasonal release and/or title. I’ve already had confused emails from two potential moviegoers in its demographic wheelhouse… not a good sign.
Amy Adams announces herself as a viable new commercial
leading lady in Enchanted, a genial family
film which finds animated fairytale characters thrust into the real world. The
ironic tweaking of film conventions hit the fairytale subgenre in 2001 with Shrek, and has continued since in
animated fare Hoodwinked and Happily N’Ever After. Enchanted, however, extends the practice
into live action, and while the story at its core is essentially a familiar one,
it’s told with such pleasant aplomb, mixing in a few spry musical numbers, that
it leaves a smile on one’s face. The Disney brand, combined with warm word-of-mouth and
positive-leaning critical support, should give the film a leg up with family
audiences on 20th Century Fox’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.
with an eight-minute animated sequence in which the fetching, innocent Giselle
(Adams, above) wistfully sings of waiting for “True Love’s Kiss,” an appeal that is answered
by Prince Edward (James Marsden), an enthusiastic and amorous if somewhat dim
adventurer. In storybook fashion, the pair’s marriage is immediately set for
the next day. This worries Edward’s evil stepmother, Queen Narissa (Susan
Sarandon), who wants to keep all the power of the throne for herself, so she
dumps Giselle into a wishing well, which promptly deposits her in New York
There Giselle meets single father Robert (Patrick Dempsey)
and his six-year-old daughter Morgan (Rachel Covey). They offer Giselle a place
to stay while she waits for Edward to come rescue her, an act of kindness that
complicates matters with Robert’s girlfriend Nancy (Idina Menzel). As Giselle’s
unflaggingly sunny optimism wears off on Robert and their friendship deepens,
he teaches her about quaint real-world courtship like “dating.” The queen, meanwhile, sends her smitten lackey, Nathaniel
(Timothy Spall), after the blithely unaware Edward, to prevent any rescue of his
bride-to-be. She provides Nathaniel with three poisoned apples and tasks him
with finishing off Giselle before eventually deciding to take matters into her
for the wide-eyed Giselle, and her performance is both radiant and engaging.
With her hair piled high, she appropriates animated fairy tale posture and body
movements, deploying the same sort of charismatic naivety that was at the core
of her Oscar-nominated performance in 2005’s indie flick Junebug. In an industry always on the lookout for leading ladies
innately likeable and yet still comedically adroit enough to topline romantic
promotion to the front of the line.
Written by Bill Kelly (Premonition),
the movie has just enough parallel adult grounding to serve the story (Robert
is a divorce attorney), and its oblique references give Enchanted an extra, winking dimension and shading without making it
seem at all bawdy. (Passing mention is made of “what boys want,” and after a
misunderstanding that ends with her on top of Robert, Giselle charmingly thinks
she and Robert… kissed.) There are a few plot holes, and certain conveniences
are leaned on hard, particularly in the movie’s finale, but Kelly also finds a
few amusing ways to contrast the two worlds, as when Giselle’s morning aria (“The
Working Song”) is answered by rats, roaches and other big city vermin, as
opposed to the woodland critters of the movie’s opening animated segment.
Kevin Lima’s background in animation serves him well, as he helps the cast
remain true to the earnest theatricality characteristic of such films. He also
oversees, with seamless precision, a park-set sequence that evolves into a
full-fledged musical routine.
provides some instantly hummable tunes that already have the familiar ring of
classics by the time of their end credits reprisal. For the full original review, from Screen International, click here.
NBC Universal announced today that it has completed its
acquisition of Oxygen Media, one of the nation’s leading female-focused cable
television networks. The transaction is valued at approximately $875 million
net of financial assets.
The acquisition by NBC Universal is part of the company’s stated
strategy to “transform its portfolio and focus on assets with potential for
rapid growth” (read: make money?). Oxygen will become part of the NBC Universal
Cable group, led by Jeff Gaspin, President and Chief Operating Officer,
Universal Television Group. “We are thrilled to add Oxygen Media to our roster
of high-growth cable networks,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO, NBC
Universal. “We look forward to having Oxygen play a key role in the ongoing growth
of our cable entertainment business.”
Oxygen strengthens NBC Universal’s position of leadership in
upscale, female-focused media. Its audience complements the viewers of Bravo
and The Today Show, and visitors to
iVillage, the leading online site for women. These assets across multiple
platforms give NBCU an even more attractive go-to-market position in the
fast-growing women’s entertainment and lifestyle market.
Lauren Zalaznick, President of Bravo Media, has been
appointed by Gaspin to oversee Oxygen Media, adding the network to her current
responsibilities; she will continue to report to Gaspin.
Additionally, she will continue her service as Chair of NBC Universal’s Green
Council. “We believe we can bring great value to the Oxygen brand, with our cross-promotion
opportunities, programming expertise and distribution team,” said Gaspin. “Lauren
has had tremendous success growing Bravo and we know, with her talent and
passion, she will do the same with Oxygen.” Under Zalaznick’s watch, Bravo has
achieved record ratings and critical acclaim, and recently completed the
highest-rated quarter in its history among both adults 18-49 and total viewers.
In honor and anticipation of the forthcoming release of Enchanted, I’m reposting this in-depth DVD review of Amy Adams’ breakthrough flick, Junebug, which I don’t believe IGN ever got around to actually running, perhaps because my use of the words meritorious and milieu don’t jibe with their editorial mission. At any rate…
That a single revelatory performance is enough to mask
narrative familiarities or flaws is a point not open to debate. See last year’s
Ray and, more recently, Walk the Line and (most egregiously) Duncan
Tucker’s Transamerica if you doubt.
Still, Junebug is an interesting
case, in that its memorable turn comes within the framework of an ensemble.
The performance of Amy Adams (above), who won a Special Dramatic
Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Festival for her robust, memorable supporting
work, is a prime example of a performance in search of a movie that deserves
its efforts. Scripted by playwright Angus MacLachlan and helmed in a languorous
fashion by commercial and music video director Phil Morrison (a bushy-moustache
ringer for Charles Manson, as the supplemental material reveals), Junebug is the rare movie that achieves
complete authenticity of atypical setting yet still comes across as unrealistic
in almost all of its interactions. It’s a willfully stilted and pandering
cinematic indulgence — original but not meritorious.
Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) is a British-born,
museum curator specializing in “outsider art,” quirky work from unheralded and
undiscovered regional talents. When she gets the chance to investigate a North
Carolina artist specializing in bizarre, Civil War-themed panel painting, she
and her younger husband George (Alessandro Nivola) extend the visit to include
a trip to see his semi-estranged family, which is comprised of prickly mother
Peg (Celia Weston), withdrawn but kindly father Eugene (Scott Wilson), surly
younger brother Johnny (The O.C.’s
Benjamin McKenzie, reaching for indie cred relevance with a performance running
second in petulance only to Jon Heder’s Napoleon Dynamite — except that that
was for laughs), and Johnny’s pregnant and innocently garrulous live-in
girlfriend Ashley (a pitch-perfect Adams, her wide eyes and
tongue-pressed-to-teeth smile a perfect representation of unblinking naïveté).
While George — ever his father’s son — withdraws into a cocoon of reticence
during the trip (perhaps the result of neither MacLachan nor Morrison knowing
what to do with his character), Madeleine endears herself to the extremely
friendly Ashley, and she deeply to her.
A movie of much meandering indulgence (it is the South,
after all, so everything must move slowly), Junebug
grates far more than it illuminates; it’s an indistinct tone poem that falsely wears
its down-dressed rhythms as profundity. Morrison and editor Joe Klotz cut
between scenes in a completely arbitrary fashion, and the various relationships
run so hot and cold — with George disappearing for a vast stretch of the movie
— that we’re never quite sure why anyone is acting the way they are. That George is the made-good brother who
“escaped” is never in doubt (a beautiful church social scene where he’s
recruited to sing a hymnal confirms this), but there’s a marked difference
between discord or strained familial relationships and the extremely sullen and
uncommunicative ones on display here, wherein each character at least once
pauses, turns around and walks away when directly addressed with a “thank you”
or other words of gratitude. Rarely have I seen a milieu so painstakingly
established at the same time ring so inherently false.
Southern compatriots Morrison and MacLachlan seem to be reaching for ephemeral
grace notes more than overarching clarity, but the mesmerizing performance of
isn’t transcendental — it seems to exist in a vacuum independent of the rest of
the film. I liked this movie a bit more the second time around than the first,
and it plays better on the small screen, but honestly, Junebug feels like the filmmakers watched the work of David Gordon
Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls) and tried to
willfully inject it with aloofness and empty quirk.
The film’s indie heartthrob status is further elucidated Junebug
over the course of a nice array of bonus material on this single disc, housed
in a regular Amray case.
is superb, with director of photography Peter Donahue’s uncluttered frames
achieving crystal clarity. There are no problems with artifact or grain, and
while the movie’s overall color palette is relatively subdued, its greys and blues are nicely
differentiated. The film’s use of natural lighting is nice, too, as in the
scene of Madeleine and George’s initial arrival. Presented in an English Dolby digital 5.0 soundtrack, Junebug’s audio is nicely balanced and
for the most part clear and straightforward. Original music by Yo La Tengo is
nicely married to the narrative in a fairly non-intrusive manner, but my only
complaint is that there’s not a lot done with the audio mix in terms of ambient
effects and background noise. While the film visually captures the South, it
eschews much aural effort. The aforementioned church scene is an example of
where this native silence works quite well, racking focus clearly on the sweet,
heart-rending vocals, but for a movie ostensibly about alienation and
disconnect, there are many scenes — Johnny sitting in the kitchen when the rest
of the family rushes out to meet George and Madeleine, for instance, or a
late-act scene between Ashley and George at the hospital — where the audio is
Junebug’s 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen video presentation
A billed five-part, behind-the-scenes featurette is actually merely
a collection of actor interviews broken down by character. These are
interesting, but not necessarily material you will revisit, though it does
include outtake footage of Nivola practicing for his hymnal. More intriguing
are two casting session tapes, which provide seven minutes of McKenzie and 13
the achievement of her performance, it’s interesting to see both how quickly
she dialed in on the character and the minor tweaks and revisions that further
shaded her portrayal of Ashley.
snippets, but there’s one that lends even more credence to Johnny’s swallowed
rage. I wouldn’t say it makes McKenzie’s performance markedly better, but it does add a bit more
shading, similar to the scene in which he tries to record a TV show about
meerkats (Ashley’s favorite animal) and flies off the handle when he cannot set
up the VCR in time.
The disc’s piece de
resistance, though, is a joint audio commentary track from Adams and
Davidtz. Recorded together, the two share production anecdotes, recount
Davidtz’s eleventh-hour casting (she’s a friend of Nivola and his wife, Emily
Mortimer) and have fun with pop-up trivia-type tidbits (self-confesses Adams at
one point, “That’s me actually itching a mosquito bite”). Both analytical and
funny (since the film opened opposite The
Dukes of Hazzard, Adams suggests that Ashley’s pregnancy shorts should have
been more prominently featured in the advertising campaign), this offering
dispels the frequently deserved stereotype of boring actor commentary tracks.
Bottom line: Again, Amy Adams is what’s most to love here, though the
degree to which she influences the final judgment between bearable treat and
interesting failure will depend heartily on your threshold for empty quirk.
That Junebug has been hailed by most
critics is only further evidence of the growing culture gap in this country,
and between those that produce and comment on entertainment and those that live
in the interstices of its occasional settings. Again, merely being different
doesn’t always equal good, and unfolding in a place rarely visited doesn’t make
Junebug wise or bittersweet. C (Movie) B+ (Disc)