A full review of the film will soon follow, but the poster for this weekend’s College is an effective, less-is-more thing, a great selling of a movie without a lot (read: any… sorry, Drake Bell) name stars. I’d make sure to tone down that wispy hint of potential back hair, and also work up a companion piece of two gals in a similar pose, one holding the other’s hair back. Or at the very least throw a bra into the frame on this one-sheet, just to further underscore the sex and nudity. Otherwise, though, no complaints. Well sold, marketing guys.
As the originator of the beloved Chicken Soup for the Soul
series of books, author and professional speaker Jack Canfield has personally taught millions of individuals his
unique and modernized formulas for success, and The Secret Law of Attraction, a direct-address lecture in front of an engaged, all-walks-of-life audience, gives viewers an enlightening new look at how to achieve happier and healthier personal and professional lives. At a time when uncertainty and unhappiness are bubbling up and threatening to boil over in the world, it’s a welcome, streamlined piece of positive visualization and goal-oriented self-betterment.
recognized leader in peak performance strategies, Canfield’s solutions are less rah-rah motivational coaching of uplift than source- and process-based advice. For him, it doesn’t matter if your goal is to be the top sales person in your company, become a leading architect, lose weight, become a better parent, increase confidence and self-esteem, buy your dream home or just make more money — Canfield aims to help you develop a clear, personal plan of action that will shatter stasis and transform your life into exactly what you want it to be.
For more than 30 years, Canfield
has been coaching individuals, entrepreneurs, educators and corporate
leaders to accelerate the achievement of their personal and
professional goals, live their dreams and create more joy in their
life every day. These decades of experience show. Canfield is a solid speaker, and communicates clearly — in concise and understandable language that also manages to avoid cornball platitudes. Peddling affirmation through vision boards and the like, he makes a compelling case for order and clarity of purpose as part of the foundation for happiness. Canfield explains how people without goals get used by people with them, but is also a big believer that if one is merely clear about what they’re pursuing, the how will “show up,” in his words, or reveal itself. Hence his behavioral advice to focus on a “vibrational match,” which is sort of the emotional equivalent of dressing for the job you want instead of the job you have.
There are anecdotes galore here, but the title’s greatest strength lies in Canfield’s pleasant, easygoing manner, which lends him believability as a potential guide to help you get from where you are to where you want to
be. The only time that The Secret Law of Attraction really slips up is in dealing with a question about the issue of bad things (like cancer, and the like) happening to inherently decent people, which Canfield has trouble filtering through his prism of belief that in our lives we attract everything to ourselves. Here, an awful lot of fog gets dispensed, when you just really want him to stop talking and chalk it up to something beyond any human control.
Housed in a regular Amray case, the DVD comes presented in 1.33:1 full screen, and includes as supplemental features a 14-minute audience Q&A with Canfield and an 18-minute “Life Purposes” bonus video in which Canfield talks more about locating and focusing on one’s chief goal in life. To order this, or any DVD or VHS release from WGBH Boston Video, call (800) 949-8670 or click here to visit their web site. B- (Movie) C+ (Disc)
Wall▪E, the latest hit animated collaboration from
Pixar/Disney, is set to hit DVD and Blu-ray on November 18. The former format will offer a streamlined single-disc version, as well as a three-disc special edition. The single-disc release will include these bonus features: an audio commentary track with director Andrew Stanton; Burn▪E, an all-new animated short featuring a little robot shown briefly in the film; deleted scenes; Presto, the animated short shown prior to Wall▪E in theaters; a sneak peek of Wall▪E’s Tour of the Universe; and a special featurette with sound designer/voice of Wall▪E Ben Burtt.
The triple-disc DVD will include all the above items, plus: The Pixar Story, Leslie Iwerks’ documentary history of Pixar’s beginnings; a look at Wall▪E’s treasures and trinkets; a look inside the Buy ‘N’ Large corporation featured in the movie; even more deleted scenes; an interactive storybook and games; several making-of featurettes, and much more. The film will release in Blu-ray in both two-disc and three-disc versions; both will include BD Live capabilities.
It’s a happy birthday to ’30s-era B-movie babe Joan Blondell, who would have been 102 today had she not passed away on Christmas Day, 1979. Blondell perhaps most memorably paired with James Cagney in two 1931 features, The Public Enemy and Blonde Crazy (below).
Other work of note includes Three and a Match and William Wellman’s Night Nurses, with Barbara Stanwyck, which is a (somewhat unintentional) hoot.
After a protracted rights hang-up that saw its release delayed more
than a year from its Sundance 2007 bow — until after the recent Rambo sequel — the canted coming-of-age comedy Son of Rambow finally saw release earlier this spring. While it didn’t at all hook on with Stateside audiences in theaters — pulling in only $1.8 million of its $10.1 million cumulative haul — its DVD release gives fans of whimsical coming-of-age tales a chance to rediscover the movie.
Set in small town Great Britain
in the 1980s, the movie centers on floppy-armed, pint-sized, fatherless pre-teen
Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner, above right), who lives with his mother and sister as members of a puritanical
religious sect in which recorded entertainment is strictly forbidden.
When Will sees a pirated copy of First Blood, though, his imagination explodes in sugar-rush fashion.
At first blackmailed by rascally ne’er-do-well Lee Carter (Will
Poulter, above left) into helping him out on a stunt reel, Will
convinces his unlikely new pal, a wrong-side-of-the-tracks troublemaker, that they should make their own action epic. When
disenchanted French exchange student Didier (Jules Sitruk) catches wind
and demands a part in the production, suddenly everyone wants in on Will and Lee Carter’s
Written and directed by Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the
Galaxy), Son of Rambow exudes a handcrafted feel, and is at its best
when seducing us with its
madcap, visually inventive style.
Will and Lee Carter are “types,” though, and their relationship runs a
bit hot-cold; I wished the movie showed more of them actually bickering
and working things out. I was also really intrigued and amused by
Didier, and the notion — introduced in a throwaway bit late in the
movie — that he
was a bit of a poseur, which is to say alien-cool to the Brits, but a
dork to all the rest of the French kids. Jennings unfortunately wastes
the rich comic potential of this premise. Finally, the movie too is
more than a a bit unrealistic with regards to Will’s mother’s sudden slide away from the hermetic existence which they’ve been leading; that just doesn’t pass the smell test. In fact, less is more; Son of Rambow
doesn’t earn or need the tearful scene of familial reconciliation,
centering around the return of a watch belonging to Will’s late father.
This is a extra-familial story, about finding acceptance and
brotherhood outside of conventional structures.
Still, the two lead performances here — one salty, one sweet — give this movie lift. In particular the gangly Milner is unforcedly charming, and physically
sort of a live-action version of Fievel Mouskewitz, from 1986’s An American Tail. Tonally, Son of Rambow has an undeniable pinch of that same comic-tinged nostalgia that makes 1983’s A Christmas Story the de rigueur
holiday viewing for all the alt-cool Christian families out there.
Housed in a regular plastic Amray case, Son of Rambow comes presented in widescreen, enhanced for 16×9 televisions, with English and Spanish language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio tracks, and optional French, English and Spanish subtitles. Jennings and producing partner Nick Goldsmith anchor a nice audio commentary track, with Milner and Poulter sitting in as well. Two DIY supplemental shorts are also included; the first is a five-minute film that was the winner of a film-sponsored web site contest, the other is Aron, Jennings’ 10-minute 1986 short that was the inspiration for Son of Rambow. Wrapping things up is a great 26-minute making-of featurette, which includes rehearsal footage and laid-back group interview bits, and also showcases the Hammer & Tongs production offices, which consists of two barge boats on Regents Canal. (“Thus we’re an armada,” says Goldsmith, cheekily.) Previews for Shine a Light, Drillbit Taylor and American Teen are also featured. B (Movie) B+ (Disc)
There’s a special shame that any truly thinking, feeling person feels when one contributes to the theatrical gross of an utterly brain-dead movie, I mean a true piece of crap — even if it’s for purely professional reasons, with a reimbursement eventually coming. Some films go so far beyond the pall of mere uninspired, lowest-common-denominator entertainment that they feel like an affront to humankind, an insult to all creative types everywhere, all the way down to rural Kentucky public access talk show hosts.
So David Duchovny has entered rehabilitation facility for sex addiction, which re-contextualizes this story about sauna sex, shared by wife Téa Leoni, in a very interesting way. The 48-year-old actor, who appeared in The X Files: I Want to Believe earlier this summer, also plays a sex-obsessed character on the Showtime series Californication, which recently earned Emmy nominations for casting and cinematography, and begins its second season in just under a month.
Just about two weeks prior to its DVD bow, director Jon Favreau will be providing live audio commentary at a special screening of Iron Man, on Saturday, September 6 at 7:30 p.m. The Aero Theatre
is located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica
information on directions and the Aero’s upcoming schedule,
phone (323) 466-FILM.
It’s apparent if you follow national politics a decent bit and have a bit of an analytical memory or filter, but of course a lot of people don’t. Still, this interview with Time‘s James Carney and Michael Scherer underscores just how dramatic of a shift John McCain‘s campaign has undergone, with respect to tone and style.
Beginning in July, the campaign decided to clamp down on McCain; open-ended question time was reduced to almost nothing, and the famously unscripted statesman began adhering to talking points, albeit through an obviously clenched jaw. Queried about this shift in strategy, McCain played the huh? card a few times, but has now gotten pissy and abrasive. To wit, an excerpt from the interview:
Question: There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define “honor” for us?
Answer: Read it in my books.
Q: I’ve read your books.
A: No, I’m not going to define it.
Q: But honor in politics?
A: I defined it in five books. Read my books.
Q: [Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
A: I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.
Q: But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of —
A: I think we’re running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.
Q: Do you miss the old way of doing it?
A: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
One needn’t editorialize to see that “The Happy Warrior” is dead — perhaps bludgeoned to death by Republican strategists. McCain’s trademark halting half-wave (as pictured above, the result of being unable to raise his arms above his head from having them broken so many times while in captivity during the Vietnam War) now might as well just read as: “Stop — don’t ask me anything.” For the full read, click here.
Fresh off the crazy success of The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan will appear at a special Los Angeles screening of his first feature, Following, on September 5. Screening at 8 p.m. at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater, Following is a rare insight to the earliest sparks of his directorial talent, and its 1999 Slamdance screening put Nolan on the map. Tickets for the event are $20, and available only through Slamdance’s web site, or by clicking here; no tickets will be available for purchase at the door. A hosted reception for ticket holders and a Q&A with Nolan, moderated by the Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan, will follow the screening.
In what amounts to an unprecedented giveaway and show of public-interest goodwill, Charles Ferguson’s No End in Sight, an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Documentary Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, will be the first widely released feature film to screen in its
entirety on YouTube, starting on September 1 and continuing through the
2008 presidential election on Tuesday, November 4.
A clear-eyed, devastating, non-partisan look at the American policies and decision-making blunders that followed the launch of the Iraq War, No End in Sight is being made available free to the public, according to a statement from Ferguson and Representational Pictures, “to reveal the facts about the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq to voters concerned with the issues of national security and the adverse economic impact of the war when making decisions in this crucial election.” The film will be featured on its own YouTube channel
and available to anyone with a computer and high-speed internet
connection, as well as via the YouTube service on broadband-connected
TiVo Series3 or TiVo HD DVRs, which enables subscribers to watch the
myriad content of YouTube on their televisions. For more information, click here.
Beginning today, DreamWorks and Paramount are offering up Rain of Madness for exclusive download at iTunes. A companion piece to the hit comedy Tropic Thunder, the movie — shot on location in Hawaii during principal production — serves as a documentary of the making of the feature film… sort of. “We wanted to do a fake documentary about the making of the movie within the movie — which is called Tropic Thunder, not the actual movie Tropic Thunder. The fake documentary focuses on the real movie’s fake director, and what happens to the fake cast before they go into the real jungle. It’s pretty straightforward,” explains Ben Stiller.
The golden age of the Three Stooges continues with this exceptional third
release in Sony’s chronologically ordered collection. These 23 shorts, spanning from 1940-1942, are all
digitally remastered for the highest quality in sight and sound, and
this collection is even more special than its predecessors, as it features an historical
first: Moe Howard playing Hitler, in
1940’s You Nazty Spy! The film marked Howard as the first American to portray the German dictator, and it was for this reason, among others, that the short remained one of his personal favorites from the entire Stooges canon.
I’ve written before about the sort of direct-line connection between base-level slapstick and the the things that first tickle our funny bones,
and few acts embody that synergistic relationship with more commitment,
fervor and longevity than the Three Stooges. To that end, The Three Stooges Collection: Volume Three gathers more slap-happy
hijinks from the lovable Larry, Curly and Moe, in the form of 23 chronologically
arranged, digitally re-mastered short films. This
latest volume follows the success of the first two sets of Stooges film shorts, released over the last 11 months by Sony, and comes in advance of more like-minded releases.
The debut releases covered 1934-36 and 1937-39, respectively, and this set picks up in 1940, with the aforementioned Spy! and Rocking Thru the Rockies kicking things off. Moe is also cast as a vicious dictator in the 1941 “sequel” I’ll Never Heil Again, powered by crackerjack visual gags. A Plumbing We Will Go is touted as being Curly’s favorite, and it’s easy to understand the “wow” factor of something like the brilliant sight gag of a burst of water popping forth from a new
television set just as it’s broadcasting a live report from Niagara
Falls when filtered through the rubric of the still-nascent medium.
A couple of the shorts here — Cuckoo Cavaliers, Dutiful But Dumb — are, comparatively speaking, big-time misfires, dashed-off japes that seem like they were conceived in one morning and shot later the same afternoon, but most are surprisingly smart and satisfying marriages of concept and set piece tomfoolery. While some of the more historically-flavored entries stumble a bit overall (speaking generally, not with respect to only this set), the wildly disparate settings and the license the Stooges take with them often help breathe invigorating life into their routines. Examples of these include the slapstick-perfect “All the World’s a Stooge,” with its well-timed visual gags; “Cactus Makes Perfect,” a desert-set prospecting spoof; and “Boobs in Arms,” in which the Stooges join the Army and run into a fellow they’ve crossed. With merciless wit, a strong sense of satire and of course impeccable timing, the Three Stooges made folks of different generations laugh together and, as this set shows, gave the world
a brave new perspective on the absurdity of evil and the world powers
of the time.
As with the other releases, this third volume comes presented on two discs in slimline cases that are in turn stored in a cardboard slipcover; the unifying color scheme this time is green. The shorts themselves are shot in black-and-white and presented in 1.33:1 full screen, with Dolby digital 1.0 mono audio track. Apart from a small handful of unrelated preview trailers for other Sony releases, there is unfortunately no supplemental material, a fact established by the first two releases in the series.
This cuts two ways; the six-hour-plus running time of the celebrated material — certainly anyone’s chief measuring stick for value — makes for plenty of entertainment, and
its straightforward cataloging is invaluable. Still, and to register the same complaint again, just a brief
talking-head retrospective or two would help contextually root the
material for a lot of younger viewers for whom the term “classic
comedy” perhaps only means Eddie Murphy, circa Raw. To purchase the set via Amazon, click here. A- (Movies) B- (Disc)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment invites you to dive deep into the secrets of the early years of one of Disney’s most beloved princesses when The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning comes exclusively to DVD today. A music-filled prequel to one of the most beloved Disney Classics of all time, the film reveals an all-new, spellbinding
chapter of the fun-loving and mischievous mermaid’s amazing oceanic
adventures. More of the dazzling animation and memorable music that
made The Little Mermaid one of the most celebrated films of its kind
will transport viewers into the magical kingdom of Atlantica at the
start of “the greatest undersea story ever told.”
Imagine a time long before Ariel met Prince Eric and walked on land — a time when music was banned from the underwater kingdom of Atlantica. Torn between family duty and her love of music, Ariel must make the most difficult choice of her life. With the help of her friends Sebastian and Flounder, as well as her six amusing sisters, will the young mermaid be able to restore music, friendship and love to the kingdom? The
film pits a wonderfully wicked new villainess, Marina Del Rey, against
Ariel and her plucky pals, and again features the voice talents of Jodi Benson and Samuel E.
Wright, reprising their legendary roles as Ariel and Sebastian, respectively.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and packed with a treasure trove
of never-before-scene bonus features — including two deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, quick links to four of the movie’s musical scenes, a 10-minute look at the original film’s Broadway adaptation and more — The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s
Beginning continues the legacy of the film that launched an
extraordinary new era in animation, and won over multiple generations of
filmgoers with grace, charm and catchy choruses.
An underground, DIY-type horror flick, Home Sick angles to blend the surreal, gore-drenched and terrifying, and it achieves this left-field commingling to middling effect. There’s a lot to admire about the atmosphere and mood created on a shoestring budget, if ultimately Home Sick collapses under the weight of a thin premise and too much forced quirkiness.
Recently, if unhappily, back from Hollywood, Claire (Lindley Evans) submits to a small town homecoming get-together with Robert (Will Akers), Mark (Forrest Pitts), Candice (Nightmare Man‘s Tiffany Shepis) and others. The social awkwardness is back-burnered when a grinning idiot who calls himself “Mr. Suitcase” (Bill Moseley) crashes the party with a briefcase full of razorblades, and starts passive-aggressively forcing the partygoers to identify people they hate, all while slashing his own arms. Soon, a black-hooded supernatural killer is loose, killing each person identified by the teens. The terrified friends realize they may also be viciously murdered because Tim (Matt Lero) awkwardly joked that he hated everyone at the party, too. As the corpses pile up and the body parts fly, the surviving kids enlist the help of Uncle Johnny (Tom Towles, of Grindhouse and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), a crazed, chili-loving militiaman who has a stockpile of weapons that might help them stay alive.
While the slasher-gore quotient is straight out of an early Peter Jackson playbook, writer Evan Katz tries to fold in some of the off-kilter tonal quirks of David Lynch, which mainly seems to mean oddball, stilted dialogue and set-ups which lend themselves to artificially long pauses. As directed by Adam Wingard, though, some of this emphasis on atmospheric tension gets traded in for excessively bloody effects, which admittedly are fairly nicely rendered, except for too-red blood. The acting on display here runs the gamut, too. Moseley (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, The Devil’s Rejects) has a certain unhinged, manic energy, and his brief appearance is jolting and effective. Evans, in her debut, is also fairly engaging. Unfortunately, other actors seem to be very consciously channeling better known performers (Steve Buscemi is an influence), which gets irksome after a while. While we’re nitpicking, there’s a lot of willfully pallid, over-exagerrated eye make-up, too — a couple actors look like zombies pulling exam season all-nighters.
Attractively packaged in a regular Amray case with gold foil title lettering, Home Sick is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo surround audio track. Director Wingard and writer Katz, longtime collaborators, sit for a nervous, chatty audio commentary track, and a menu screen with a background full of razor blades gives way to a slate of special features that include a deleted opening sequence and a trio of short film projects from the aforementioned pair — the seven-minute 1,000 Year Sleep, the 32-minute The Girlfriend and the three-minute Laura Panic, a nice, evocatively photographed mood piece in which a girl muses, via voiceover narration, that her murder of her boyfriend is but a “bump in the road” in their relationship.
There’s also an affected, experimental, very slickly (over-)produced 13-minute making-of featurette, starring Wingard, in which the director hyperactively recounts and acts out certain anecdotes from pre-production and production. Finally, Moseley sits for a six-minute interview in which he rather charmingly cops to the insecurities of an actor when, just prior to filming, a (supposed) friend asks him while running some lines if he’s going to give a performance based on such clichés. To purchase the movie via Amazon, click here. For further information on Home Sick, as well as other Synapse titles, visit their website by clicking here. C+ (Movie) B+ (Disc)
Watching Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert 3-D, and looking into the faces of thousands of screaming pre-teens, I feel a strange kinship with the citizenry of sacked civilizations throughout time and the world. Seeing something at once so foreign to your being and day-to-day existence, and so full of force, vigor and furious noise — oh, the noise! — is partly how I imagine the Romans felt in 410, when the Visigoths came a-knockin’.
I don’t necessarily want to give the impression that Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds, a nice, three-dimensional concert film stunt spun off from a road tour from the hit Disney Channel series that stars the daughter of former mulleted, “Achy Breaky Heart” country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus, is bad, per se. Or that it will rape, pillage and plunder. It’s actually quite impressive. It’s just that it’s also such a fiercely indefatigable, in-your-face thing that it kind of takes one’s breath away.
Well staged by director Bruce Hendricks, the briskly paced concert features Cyrus belting out a bunch of tunes, and frequently waving her arm in triumphant declaration. I’m not super-familiar with her as a performer, but Cyrus certainly knows how to pull all the strings of an audience. She throws in plenty of friendly winks and waves to all the kids, works both sides of the stage, and, from the outset, says “I just have one rule — no sitting down!” Cue approving tween shrieks.
Performing for the first time ever as her pop star alter ego, Hannah Montana, Cyrus kicks off the show in high-energy fashion with “Rock Star,” and the production continues to pulls out all the stops, with solid sets, production design and dancing choreographed by Kenny Ortega, of the High School Musical franchise. There’s lots of colorful, cute, accessorized outfits that are a bit glammed-up (like this one), but not too slutty, a la Britney Spears’ cringe-inducing cock-tease years. Segueing into her own persona, Cyrus lets loose with “Start All Over,” the Jonas brothers also come out for a few tunes — “We Got the Party With Us” and “Year 3,000.” Little anecdotal behind-the-scenes bits and crowd interviews from the road tour are also interspersed throughout.
A to-scale smash at the box office this February, where it opened to over $30 million and went on to gross $65 million domestically, this is sunny, feel-good family entertainment… basically a Twinkie. But adults often forget that most tweens and teenagers have the metabolism to handle such artificially processed sugary delights, and in massive quantities too. Ergo, no harm, no foul — for its base constituency, at least. Others may be rightfully a bit bewildered.
The DVD benefits from superlative packaging and message control, too. Spread out on two discs — one of which contains the movie in regular form, and the other of which features the concert in 3-D, which can be enjoyed with the four pairs of 3-D glasses that accompany the release — the DVD is housed in a regular Amray case with a snap-in tray, and it comes with sturdy cardboard, holographic slipcover that, well, underscores the title, showing Cyrus in both brunette and blonde, in-character form.
A solid slate of bonus features includes a sing-along mode, additional songs not seen in the theatrical cut of the concert film (“Good and Broken,” “SOS”), and an 11-minute personal backstage tour from the very personable Cyrus that gives viewers a look at her costume-change area and the trap door she uses to pop up on the stage. I place the over/under on the number of times Cyrus playfully sticks out her tongue somewhere in the mid-40s, but she still seems a pretty grounded, friendly, reasonably normal young woman in her interview tidbits. The best chats come from supporting players and audience members. “It’s like standing behind a jet engine when it revs up, actually worse” says a sound tech of when Cyrus first appears on stage. Then there’s a weary, bewigged father, standing between his two beaming girls, decked out in Hannah Montana merchandise: “You know, I didn’t expect so much screaming.” You’re telling me! To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B (Movie) B+ (Disc)
A general first impression of the Democratic National Convention: I’d forgotten just how much political conventions really are a collection of a people coming together to wear pins and ill-fitting hats, and dance poorly. Movies always get that right, even if they don’t mean to.
After a winding, checkered career, the pseudonymous novels of Jack Ketchum have provided the blueprint for a couple solid screen adaptations in recent years, including The Lost and The Girl Next Door. The latest, and best, is Red, a layered, well acted tale of escalating revenge, a Walking Tall-type scenario filtered through the rubric of quiet atonement and reparation.
A widowed Korean War vet, Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox) lives alone in a dusty rural town, where he runs the local hardware store. Avery’s best friend and faithful companion is a 14-year-old ginger-haired dog. One day, an idyllic fishing trip at a remote spot in the woods is interrupted by three teenagers, and a senseless act of cruelty: at point-blank range, Red is shot and killed. Devastated, Avery sets out to find the boys, and quickly tracks down ringleader Danny (Noel Fisher, resembling a younger version of Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong), a hotheaded punk whose redneck-made-good father, Michael McCormack (Tom Sizemore), has enabled his misbehavior over the years by covering up for him and buying his way out of his mistakes.
Wanting only to extract an apology and some promise of private punishment, Avery is stonewalled. When Michael then uses his influence to block Avery’s legal recourse, Avery responds to each grievance with further legitimate attempts to mete out justice in modulated fashion. Eventually things come to a head, however, with upward-spiraling consequences for all involved.
There’s some awkwardness at blending into the narrative a reporter, Carrie Donnel (Kim Dickens), who wants to use her pulpit to play advocate to Avery’s story, but co-directors Lucky McKee (May) and Trygve Allister Diesen succeed in transposing the authenticity of setting from the novel, which further roots the movie in convincing fashion. Red feels sure-footed, properly scaled and inherently knowable; all its interactions and plot advancements make sense, which is a bit of a rarity in modern thrillers. Its modest budget requires some off-screen concessions for bigger moments in the story (including an act of arson and a car crash), though for the most part this works OK — the notable exception being some climactic gunplay that’s confusingly staged, and shot in the dark woods.
Red is at its best in the slow-building set-up that finds Avery doing the legwork of expiation. The killing of his beloved dog, while it carries its own significant emotional weight, is also a powerful symbol for the injustices and inequities of life, as we’re later reminded by a dark monologue about his tragic past. Brian Cox is just the right sort of quiet, steadying presence for this movie. His Avery Ludlow, who could be a distant cousin of Tommy Lee Jones‘ lawman from No Country For Old Men, is a quintessentially American character — decent, stoic and perhaps privately bewildered by wanton malice, but unbowed in the pursuit of justice. (Magnolia, R, 96 minutes)
Based on the novel by Sarah Waters, Affinity is a tale of power and possession set in the late 19th century — part gothic-tinged doomed romance, part supernatural mystery. For forgiving fans of sapphic-flavored period pieces (perhaps that most niche of niche sub-genres), this film will undeniably delight, but others most have trouble with its disjointed pacing.
The film unfolds in Great Britain in the 1870s, where a London socialite, Margaret Prior (Anna Madeley, an ethereal beauty), finds escape and
purpose in a world in which she is not able to be with her lover, Helen (Ferelith Young), by becoming a mentor who brings hope and comfort to the female inmates
at Millbank Prison. It’s there that Margaret, thwarting the advances of Theophilus (Vincent Leclerc), becomes infatuated with Selina Dawes
(Zoe Tapper), a medium who was incarcerated after a séance gone horribly awry. As the story unfolds, Margaret, who is at first
skeptical of Selina’s gifts, soon discovers a world of secrets and
shadows, heightened passions, and the allure of the supernatural.
The melodramatic plottings here are fairly familiar, but, as with a lot of modestly budgeted, flip-side Victorian tales, there’s a certain indulgence one must embrace — namely a concession for all the dialogue that tells us how things are, rather than showing us. That, and the purely utilitarian nature of many of its supporting characters, mark Affinity as fairly predictable, mood-dipped entertainment. On the other hand, its solid acting and production value help elevate the material, so one certainly doesn’t grow too weary of watching.
Though the movie just recently premiered on the Logo cable channel, this DVD bills itself as featuring an extended version
of the Victorian-era suspense thriller. Housed in a regular Amray case, the DVD is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a Dolby digital 2.0 stereo track. Bonus features consist of a brief making-of featurette, a single deleted scene and candid one-on-one interviews with
award-winning novelist Waters (Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith) as well as Madeley, Tapper and the movie’s screenwriter, Andrew Bate. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B (Disc)
In advance of Warner Bros.’ October 7 DVD release of You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (and other Peanuts titles), this nifty promotional web site asks which Charles Schulz character you’d want for president. So far it’s Snoopy in an electoral and popular vote landslide, of course, but Linus runs unusually strong in Mississippi and Oregon. Big blanket territories, I guess?
On her eponymous blog, right under a click-through ad for her latest album, Ukulele Ditties for Itty Bitty Kiddies, Jackson lets loose a rambling, semi-coherent rant that derides Obama as a relativist and humanist, and cites as evidence the fact that the Bible passages he quotes are too willfully obscure, and thus selected to overtly court Evangelicals. (Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.) In addition to scattering commas like pitched dice, confusing the word “attribute” with “contribute,” and labeling Obama a communist, racist and liar, Jackson asserts that, “Obama bears traits that resemble
the anti-Christ, and I’m scared to death that un-educated [sic] people will
ignorantly vote him into office.” Yes, she actually types those words, acknowledging that, “I know my stance might keep me from L.A. jobs, since (almost) the whole
town is liberal but… [sometimes] one must stand for what they believe in, and put
truth before popularity.”
So this is an inarguable truth in her mind? That he is the anti-Christ, or merely “bears traits that resemble” him? I guess I’m confused. I’m all for political expression on all sides, really, but I confess I’m both shocked and depressed by the levels of batshit-crazy present in opinion pieces like this — and the much commented upon op-ed from Jon Voight, whose prose reads like his train of thought skipped the rails and plunged off a cliff. Let me bottom-line it: you sound like ignorant rubes, anyone who peddles the most repugnant of this material.
When I hear/read stuff like this, it always comes off as desperate, needy invective from emotional hoarders — people who so feed on others’ insecurities and reactions that they need to try to exercise reverse mind control. It’s never about an intellectual, reasoned response; it’s always about attacking the strength of a feeling, and how this shouldn’t be trusted. Wasn’t that at the heart of Footloose, too?
Particularly with respect to the anti-Christ stuff, if you’re more invested in finding links between outlying scripture and current events to support your worldview, rather than living in the moment and confronting problems in something at least resembling head-on fashion, you’re not living as a Christian concerned with Christian works, with doing good and making the world a better place. You’re living merely to jump-circle defend the status quo, because any advancement in science, technology, social custom or anything else is another brick in the path toward the Great Reckoning. You might as well be living in a cave, honestly, and guarding the tribal flame.
None of this would matter, I guarantee you, if Barack Obama’s name was Barry Johnson. I’m not saying that all of the whackjob-fringe criticism of him falls purely along racial lines, but this isn’t about Obama, this is about people projecting their own uncertainties about the state of this country onto a man they have never met, because they fear the sea changes — racially, culturally, geographically — that this country will undergo in the next two generations. So the guy with the funny name is the easy, most immediate, front-and-center target. And after eight years of bewildering inarticulateness, “speaking well” becomes elitist, and appealing to a sense of hope and optimism becomes a reason to play the great Revelations card. It’s enough to make one mull the benefits of forced sterilization, really.
Anna Faris is a rarity in young Hollywood — a fairly known
commodity and proven performer to boot, but still an undervalued stock.
Collectively, the four Scary Movie films in which she has starred have taken in over $430 million domestically, and Faris’ supporting turns in movies like The Hot Chick, Waiting, Just Friends, My Super Ex-Girlfriend and, of course, Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation have shown her to be an inspired comic performer, equally adept at blank-faced satire, unhinged farce and physical slapstick.
Thus far true breakout stardom has eluded Faris (consigned to a token, single-theater release, Gregg Araki’s showcase vehicle Smiley Face failed to do the trick), but the new movie The House Bunny, along with costarring roles with Topher Grace and Seth Rogen in forthcoming films, may help finally do the trick.
first film from executive producer Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison
production company to fully give itself over to a mostly female ensemble, The House Bunny
is an utterly predictable and formulaic comedy given a huge kick in the
keester courtesy of its effervescent star. The movie’s
inner-beauty/empowerment arc is consignment-shop thin, and handled with
little élan by Fred Wolf, a former Saturday Night Live writer and Team Sandler veteran who stumbled through his directorial debut in the form of this year’s quietly dumped Strange Wilderness. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter, because every moment Faris is on screen is a moment in which something delightful could happen, and that’s as good a reason as any these days to go to the movies.
(above left, with Emma Stone) stars as Shelley Darlingson, a third-tier
Playboy bunny (she of the “Girls of the Midwest” and “Girls with GEDs”
pictorials) who aspires to print centerfold-dom (“It’s like the highest honor — it says, ‘I’m naked in the middle of a magazine… unfold me’”).
When a misunderstanding facilitated by a conniving housemate leads to
Shelley getting the boot from the Playboy mansion, though, she sets out
on her own, and stumbles across a small college with a sorority house
in need. Unless they can sign a robust new pledge class, the seven
socially clueless women of Zeta Alpha Zeta will lose their house. Needing a place to stay, Shelley talks her way into becoming their new house mother, and a cracked, colorful alliance is formed.
Throw in a few token love interests (including Colin Hanks for Faris’
character) and some scheming counterparts — in the form of the girls
of Phi Iota Mu, led by Sarah Wright — and one doesn’t need their own
GED to figure out where this is all headed.
Owing to the fact that it’s penned by the same screenwriters, Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith, The House Bunny at times feels like a tailor-made companion piece to 2001’s Legally Blonde, both in color (pink, everywhere!) and bouncy tone. Though there are moderately well integrated cameos from Hugh Hefner and his real-life Aryan princesses,
there are also more than a few narrative bumps along the way, and gears
sometimes grind for a scene or two when characters are forced to more
nakedly advance the story. (It’s best, for instance, not to think about
the logistics of Shelley teaching the gals all about what boys like,
when American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee plays a very
pregnant coed.) Speaking generally, though, there’s actually some
amusement to the gender inversion of Greek-clash college flick clichés,
and the value of the ditzy quips (“Eyes are like the nipples of the face,” advises Shelley) and some other banter are certainly above average.
Faris’ breathy essence, though, is both the engine and the gasoline that makes this movie run.
(She also nabs a producer credit, her first.) With her in the driver’s
seat, the sturdy Oldsmobile-feel of this plot earns its racing stripes.
Faris has the savvy comic timing and inherent appeal of a new millennial Carole Lombard or Lucille Ball,
and the casting dilemmas she presents — clearly too talented and
naturally charismatic for eye-batting girlfriend roles, and such a
force of potential personality that she would eclipse a lot of drippy
rom-com leading men, like Edward Burns or Luke Wilson — summon to mind a similar problem faced by Téa Leoni,
another under-appreciated comedic performer. Whatever its final
commercial haul, one thinks, however, that the skimpy pink bikinis on
display in The House Bunny might finally help Faris get Hollywood’s lasting attention. (Sony/Columbia, PG-13, 98 minutes)
On the heels of the release of Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian, it’s worth noting that my Mom and Dad returned from a trip to the then-Soviet Union with exactly the same sort of Russian nesting dolls that Kate Mara and Eduardo Noriega’s characters use to smuggle heroin in the movie, raising the distinct possibility that my parents were drug mules, and I was an unwitting, in utero accomplice. Though, in their defense, I don’t have any specific recollections of them screaming at me as a toddler not to lick the dolls…
Henry Poole Is Here represents a very personal project for filmmaker Mark Pellington, the visually stylish director behind Arlington Road, The Mothman Prophecies and Pearl Jam’s notorious “Jeremy” music video, among many others. Pellington was deep in pre-production on a Harrison Ford film that would eventually become the much-less-interesting-without-him Firewall when, in late July, 2004, he suddenly lost his wife (a matter addressed in this long-form music video made for Keane, never commercially aired after it was deemed “too depressing”), leaving him as a single father of a three-year-old daughter.
Admittedly devastated, Pellington sank into a depression. He returned to work on the small screen with a few episodes of Cold Case, but began searching for projects that he felt spoke to a deeper emotional and personal truth than his first couple movies. Almost immediately, his mind returned to Henry Poole Is Here. “I first read it in 2003,” recalls Pellington. “My manager brought it to me, I read it, liked it, but I
was engaged in another film at the time. [In late 2004], I was looking at my own films and
thinking that they weren’t feeling right. So I re-read the script and met with
(writer) Albert (Torres) again, and said, ‘This is what I’m drawn to and
interested in,’ since Albert owned the property. For me it was about ideas of image and loss and
memory, and I said there was some other stuff I’d like to shave away. Every
writer and director have to sort of fuse together and ask, fundamentally, ‘Do we see
the same thing?’ in order to venture forth on a path to get it made.”
“It’s about turning the page on the past and being present,” continues Pellington of his film, which details a man (Luke Wilson) in crisis who moves back to his adolescent neighborhood and encounters a woman (Adriana Barraza) who believes she sees the face of Jesus Christ in a stain on the side of his stucco home. “I never felt like we were making a religious picture. The characters are religious, (Adriana) is a Catholic woman who sees this, but that’s the character’s story, not anything outside of that. It’s not like, ‘Oh, let’s make this dogmatic, religious film that pushes faith.'”
The experience proved a cathartic one for Pellington, as a place to channel his feelings. “I can hear a song and feel the loss of my wife, and then put a lot of that into my interests, because of what I do,” he says, of his music video work. But this was a grander scale. “We had 30 days. You have a picture in your head, and when you start everything goes away, and each day is like a jigsaw puzzle — you try to formulate the reality of that picture. Maybe about 10 days in, you start to see connections and relationships, and new shapes emerge. Because what I learned — probably my biggest growth as a filmmaker, and in life — was to be completely planned and then get there on set every day and say, ‘I have no idea.’ Not being chaotic or crazy, but just being free to say, ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’ Not controlling as much, because implied with the control is fear. To say I’m going to trust and love my actors and let them do what they want since everyone is on the same page with the text.”
“Each film is different because I’m at different places in my life — they’re different cars, different engines,” Pellington concludes. “I think The Mothman Prophecies was propping up a very weird narrative with a lot of style. The style and the sound of it kind of was the experience, whereas this was the opposite — kind of get out the characters’ way.”
No, it’s not the latest lightweight advance in Hannibal Lecter face-guard technology. It’s a GoateeSaver™, and the exact minute that this company raises enough money to firm up and finalize a big screen product placement deal with a major Hollywood studio film will represent the fourth sign of the coming apocalypse. It will also force me to kick a puppy.