For the Hollywood Reporter‘s Risky Business blog, Jay A. Fernandez phones Bono to chat about U2’s sixth Golden Globe nomination — for the song “Winter,” from Jim Sheridan’s Brothers — but things get weird and they end up talking about sex, public utterances of expletives, the Pixies, Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze and Jim Carrey. For the Q&A read, click here.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie offers up a sizably portioned helping of adolescent-friendly supernatural adventure as it tracks the Russos, the family of wizards-in-training at the center of the same-named Disney Channel small screen hit, on a quest full of heart-stopping action and magical mishaps. While on an island vacation, Alex (Selena Gomez) accidentally casts a spell that threatens her family’s existence. Young Max (Jake T. Austin) tries to keep his parents (Maria Canals-Barrera and David DeLuise, son of Dom) together while Alex and older brother Justin (David Henrie) use every trick they know as they try to search out the legendary “Stone of Dreams” in order to reverse the spell and save their family.
Running just over 95 minutes, Wizards of Waverly Place doesn’t put a spin that’s new or particularly interesting — for older, more sophisticated audiences — on the old magic-gone-awry tropes of its narrative conceit. Yet neither does the movie overstay its welcome. Well-timed and warmly acted, its mild slapstick comedy, rib-nudging rejoinders and inoffensive sibling bickering and conflict resoultion are all whipped up into a colorful melange, and the movie has the additional benefit of not trying to reach outside its comfort zone (read: budget) with respect to the special effects. Tween fans of the TV show will certainly spark to this title, and for those unfamiliar but in the same proper demographic who get sucked into watching it, they’ll find it a solid introduction to the characters and same themes explored in the show.
Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie arrives on DVD packaged with a color-changing wish stone keychain clip included on the release, which is in a vacuum-sealed cardboard cover. Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen enhanced for 16×9 televisions, the movie comes with English, Spanish and French language audio tracks in Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound, as well as optional French and Spanish subtitles. Bonus features include a clutch of extended scenes, as well as a wide variety of on-location interview snippets that make up a solid behind-the-scenes featurette, covering the film’s special effects, stunt work, props, animal actors and more. Director Lev Spiro, special effects coordinator Craig Tex Barnett, visual effects supervisor Dan Schmit and other off-camera talent all get face time here, but not too wonkish in their descriptions to bore kids, the more naturally inquisitive of whom will spark to these moviemaking explanations. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) B (Disc)
It was a shock to hear about the sudden, sad passing of Brittany Murphy today, at only 32 years of age. It always is when one of the young ones goes, I guess, no matter how much or little one connected with their work.
As I’d noted several times previously in writing about both Murphy and her films — most recently in the new-to-DVD Deadline, not one of her better vehicles — she undeniably possessed a certain crazy-girl appeal, that sense that you were in the company of someone who could show you immense highs, but also perhaps leave you broken. On a certain level guys like women like that, even if only from afar, because they remind us of the unattainable girls from high school who moved with a deadly, unearned confidence, and seemed to exist on some other social stratum.
How quote-unquote damaged was Murphy, by life, illicit substances or some combination thereof? I’m not sure. There were rumors here and there, and obviously the coming days will provide a clearer picture of her medical history, for those interested in diving into the details. Without getting into specifics, though, it was clear from fairly early on that Murphy was someone who felt deeply, offscreen as much as on. If there are screen personalities who essentially play only slight variations of themselves (and that wasn’t Murphy), there are also actors and actresses whose greatest gift is a direct line to the telepathic — their own private connection to a deep reservoir of swirling, intense emotion, which they are then free to tap into and pour into whatever roles they tackle. They paint in bold, insistent, impulsive strokes, not the mannered accoutrements of accents or other learned pieces of the craft of acting.
That was Murphy, to me. With her large, expressive eyes, she could do manic and fearful with ease (e.g., Don’t Say a Word), but she was a pip with comedy (e.g., Clueless) and also had a gift at slipping into melancholic quiet (e.g., 8 Mile) in a manner that silently telegraphed a character’s unspoken hopes, fears and regrets. I will say this definitively, too: it’s a shame that Murphy’s starring role in a Janis Joplin biopic never went off. That, I believe, would have been a very solid vehicle for her talents, so adept was she — heartbreakingly, it turns out — at channeling doomed and troubled women.