Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
And considering the frequency with which actors in his movies score Oscar nominations (and wins), who wouldn't want to jump on Allen's next project? This is one good looking and phenomenally talented cast:
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
I'm not really sure what to make of the picture, but it sure as hell is intriguing.
Starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the English language pic is set in nature and based on the theory that it was Satan, not God, who created the world. In the psychological thriller that evolves into a horror film, Dafoe and Gainsbourg will play a couple who retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods following the death of their child. The first official image was posted online (albeit a bit cropped) and can be viewed inside.
"Sunshine Cleaning" is a classic example of a movie that is good, yet ultimately falls short of the sum of its parts. The difference here, though, are the strong performances from its two leading ladies, and their work is actually enough to make you forgive some of the faults for a few hours after leaving the theater. It's also a movie that suffers from a case of misleading marketing. Promoted as a "dark adult comedy" a la "Little Miss Sunshine", it's actually a quieter, more poignant story with very few laughs. Yet while the marketing may have its priorities wrong, "Sunshine Cleaning" thankfully does not. Set in Albuquerque, the film centers on the Lorkowski family. Rose (Amy Adams) is a former star-cheerleader with real estate aspirations who now spends her time taking care of her gifted-yet-awkward son Oscar, and working for a professional house-keeping business. She's also having an affair with former high school quarterback Mac (Steve Zahn), who is now married with two kids. Norah (Emily Blunt) is struggling to sort her life out, especially after she loses yet another waitressing job at a local restaurant. Unlike Rose, Norah can't afford her own house, and lives with the girls' dad (Alan Arkin), who is constantly thinking up new items to sell to earn fast money. After a fling with Mac one night, Rose learns (to her initial disgust) that people who clean up areas where people have died make surprisingly good money. At first responding with a girlish "that's gross!", Rose quickly warms up to the idea, particularly after she discovers that a recent client of hers is a former classmate, and a successful one at that. Where the film goes right is in its pacing; it's never dull, and the main plot thread kicks into gear almost immediately. In the four or five houses that we see the girls clean, there's a pleasant lack of gross-out gags (the "vomit scene" is only heard, and never seen). And despite the story's focus on death, the script classily avoids cheaply tugging at our heartstrings; there's a delicacy to the way the deaths and their aftershocks are handled both in words and emotions. Also worth a brief mention is Clifton Collins Jr., who plays the owner of a small supply store where the girls find everything they need to make themselves seem legitimate. The character is somewhat one-note, but Collins Jr.'s understated performance makes him wholly likeable. However, after a few hours, those nagging little flaws start to creep into your head, and they become undeniable. First, there's the plot issue of Rose's son. He's taken out of school quite early in the film, yet even after roughly a month or two (the course of the story), there's never any mention of a truant officer showing up. The small subplot involving grandpa's cash schemes is underdeveloped and feels unneccesary, and Arkin himself seems to realize it; several lines are uttered in a tone that suggests "take-the-check-and-run" syndrome. Luckily, this one flaw is redeemed by the strong editing, so that half baked sub plot soon becomes a distant memory. That last flaw is the most curious. It's the way that the script seems to undercut Adams' performance. It isn't because her character is one dimensional (she's not), but rather because she has almost no secrets. All of her problems and situations are laid out for us within the first half hour. Blunt on the other hand, has her character's problems/situation revealed gradually, resulting in what looks like a part with more range. The truth is, both parts have equal range, but after the first half hour, Adams has simply run out of emotions to use. Still, these flaws (and they are significant) are more than countered by the script's strengths, and the fact that the majority of the movie rests on Adams and Blunt's more-than-capable shoulders. It won't be the next big "indie sensation", but "Sunshine Cleaning" is certainly worth a look, and inspite of the tragedy involved, may just brighten your day a little once the credits roll.
Number of 2009 films seen: 7
The Playlist is reporting about having spoken to a source in Austin during SXSW about Terrence Malick's Tree of Life undergoing additional shooting and that the film "is about a year away from completion and maybe a year and half away total." Which means, if this turns out to be valid information, that we're looking at a mid-2010 release.
Malick's parallel IMAX project is said to be titled Voyage of Time. An anonymous Awards Daily commenter who claimed to be posting from Malick's home town of Austin but who could in fact be the great Ahmed Khan posting from Kabul or Mumbai wrote earlier this month that Time will run in the vicinity of 45 minutes, that some Time footage may be used for Tree of Life, and that it'll be released simultaneously with Tree of Life.
Clearly, Malick has an attachment to secrecy. He seems to live for it almost. To be able to work within such an utterly secret vacuum that no one is able to learn any substantive-sounding information is perhaps (who knows?) the bottom-line electric lightning-bolt element in Terrence Malick's life and head. Secrecy! Such that no one seems to have stopped to consider the absolute lunacy of attempting to blend a story about an anxious 20th Century man (Sean Penn) and recollections of his distant father (Brad Pitt) with prehistoric pre-time elements, including a prehistoric creature sleeping in a sea of magma. Good God!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Tony Gilroy's second major film has quite a few things in common with "Michael Clayton", his debut. Like "Michael Clayton", it's a complex story, with more than a few names to keep track of. Where it diverges, is in its chronology. Everything seems to be moving purely forward, before it jumps back, and then forward, then back (but not as far), and then a little more forward, and then back, and then forward, but not as forward as before. Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts) are ex MI6 and CIA agents respectively, who after a bad start in Dubai, end up working to try and con one of a pair of pharmaceutical companies. Ray works for Equikrom, run by Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti), and Claire works for Burkett-Randall, run by Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). These two CEO's absolutely loathe each other, and Tony Gilroy hilarious sets this up in the film's opening credits sequence, which shows the two CEO's meeting each other on a private runway, yelling and spitting, and wrestling each other to the ground, all in silent slow motion. To say much more about the complicated plot would be criminal, and it's best that you go in with as little knowledge of what's going on as possible. And while "Duplicity" may not be quite the "Oscar bait" that "Michael Clayton" was, it's actually a more enjoyable film, that benefits from the blend of heist antics and smart romantic comedy. Roberts and Owen have terrific chemistry, and Giamatti and Wilkinson provide thouroughly entertaining supporting characters. And unlike many heist thrillers, the pay-off is well worth it, delivering twist, after twist, after twist, up until the final reveal/s. In the middle portion, it borders on being overwritten, and there will be points where you're left almost clueless, but in the end, you'll understand almost everything, without the movie beating you over the head. Just like "Michael Clayton", it's also a movie that requires you to be awake, because if you aren't, you'll be extremely lost. Special mention goes to the mostly tight editing, camera work, and James Newton Howard's lively score, which fits the mood perfectly. At times there is intrigue, and even high tension, but you're never scared that someone's going to die, or that a bomb is going to go off. Basically, "Duplicity" is the super smart older cousin of the Ocean's 11 franchise, and proof that it is still possible to make a smart, funny, AND complicated thriller; finally, some good news from Hollywood.
Number of 2009 films seen: 6
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Source: Associated Press
PARIS - There will be an animated opening for this year's Cannes Film Festival .
Organizers say the festival's opening-night film will be "Up," a 3-D animated feature from hitmaking studio Pixar.
The film is a comedy adventure about a 78-year-old man, voiced by Ed Asner , who rigs helium balloons to his house and flies to South America.
It marks Cannes' return to a populist curtain raiser after last year's bleak opener, "Blindness," and is the first animated film to open the world's most prestigious film festival .
The festival said Thursday that "Up" would have its world premiere at the festival on May 13 and open in the United States on May 29.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 13 to 24.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Partly a film about films and partly a film about love, Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" can't quite decide where its allegiances lie. A restless, rangy and frankly enjoyable genre-juggler that combines melodrama, comedy and more noir-hued darkness than ever before, the pic is held together by the extraordinary force of Almodovar's cinematic personality. But while its four-way in extremis love story dazzles, it never really catches fire. The Spanish helmer's biggest-budgeted and longest movie to date will get warm hugs from local auds on release March 18; headed for Cannes in May, it goes out Stateside via Sony Pictures Classics later this year.
There's a sense here that Almodovar, who's now a stylistic law unto himself, may be more interested in stretching himself technically than in engaging with issues of the wider world. Card-carrying fans can prepare themselves for a rare treat. But those who hoped the pic would extend the quieter, more personal mood shown in "Volver," as the 59-year-old helmer moves into the late phase of his career, will be disappointed to find that "Embraces" is made not of flesh and blood, but of celluloid.
Harry Caine (Lluis Homar, "Bad Education") is a blind screenwriter and former director whose real name, which he abandoned after losing his sight in a car crash, is Mateo Blanco. News arrives of the death of corrupt stockbroker Ernesto Martel (Jose Luis Gomez), who once produced a movie Blanco directed, "Girls and Suitcases."
Blanco's former production manager, Judit (Blanca Portillo), who holds a candle for him, seems nervous at the news. And then a pretentious young man calling himself Ray X (Ruben Ochandiano), who turns out to be Martel's son, asks Blanco to help write a script that's intended as an act of vengeance against his neglectful father.
The film now flashes back to 1992, when Martel fell for his secretary, a wannabe actress-cum-part-time call girl, Lena (Penelope Cruz). By 1994, he and Lena are an item. However, when Lena auditions for "Girls and Suitcases," Blanco also falls for her.
Chagrined, Martel gets his son (also Ochandiano, here as a wildly gauche, camp teenager) to spy on Blanco and Lena under the guise of making a docu about the shoot. Watching Martel's life fall apart, as a lip reader (Lola Duenas) decodes Lena and Blanco's conversations in the boy's footage, is hilarious. But any compassion for Martel evaporates in the laughter -- one of several moments when the film deliberately undermines a particular mood.
Following a disastrous trip to Ibiza, Martel and Lena break up, and Martel initiates a slow, costly revenge designed to destroy Blanco. Hereon, much of the action takes place amid the volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, opening things visually even as the drama becomes more and more claustrophobic.
Script moves fluidly back and forth in time, with superb editing by regular Jose Salcedo, and some of the witty, pointed dialogue is among Almodovar's best. The labyrinthine plot is thick with twists, turns and resonances. But a couple of questions linger -- especially that the revelations in the final reel would hardly have remained under wraps for 14 years, given Blanco's suspicions.
Cruz delivers a compelling, subtle perf as a woman continually aware that the shadow of tragedy hovers over her. But because her character is effectively split into three -- Magdalena the grieving daughter, Lena the actress and lover, and Pina in "Girls and Suitcases" -- auds will struggle to locate an emotional center behind the thesp's dizzying range of costumes and wigs.
Homar, who literally wears Almodovar's own '90s wardrobe, makes a commanding screen presence as Caine/Blanco, but the character's reactions to his multiple tragedies (including being blinded) seem stoical to the point of catatonia. Gomez and Portillo are solid in theslightly smaller roles of Martel and Judit, respectively. Multiple cameos -- including one by the helmer's producer brother, Agustin -- are enjoyable, though none help move the story forward.
Visually, the pic is an exquisite treat. Every richly hued wall is covered with eye-candy artwork, every doorway reps a second level of framing, and there is beauty even in the scattered contents of a drawer or in a pile of torn-up photos. Closeups are regularly used, particularly of Cruz's hypnotically photogenic features.
Cinematic references abound. Several scenes featuring dangerous staircases recall Henry Hathaway's '40s noir "Kiss of Death." Pic's title alludes to the Pompeii scene in Roberto Rossellini's 1954 classic, "Voyage to Italy," which Lena and Blanco watch in Lanzarote. And the entertaining "Girls and Suitcases" is a clear homage to Almodovar's 1988 hit, "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown." Score by longtime collaborator Alberto Iglesias superbly evokes the moods and movies "Embraces" is so in thrall to.
Monday, March 16, 2009
IMDB gives the following plot details: A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack. Kurlyenko plays a leader of the Pictish tribe that attacks the Romans.
Call me skeptical, but it reminds me a little too much of Keira Knightley from that bizarre "King Arthur" movie from a few years ago....
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Source: Awards Daily/Entertainment Weekly Online
The picture shows Daniel Day-Lewis' Guido at some sort of party with Hudson's character Stephanie, a reporter for Variety. The character doesn't exist in either Fellini's original "8 1/2" or the Broadway version of "Nine", so I'm curious to see how integral Hudson's role will be. "Nine" arrives in theaters this November.
There are times in actors' lives when their personal lives sometimes skew criticism of their performances (it certainly happened to Lindsay Lohan a few years ago). The performer most recently in danger of this unfortunate occurrence is the versatile yet increasingly bizarre Joaquin Phoenix, who made headlines with his awkward interview on Letterman a few weeks ago (the messy hair and scraggly beard didn't help matters at all). I hope, though, that this doesn't turn people away from seeing James Gray's "Two Lovers", a quiet, slow-burning chamber piece that's light on direct action but heavy on character study and good acting. Phoenix plays Leonard, a slightly goofy yet charismatic man who lives with his parents and works at his father's dry-cleaning business. As the movie opens we see Leonard trying to drown himself. When he returns home he tells his worried mother (Isabella Rossellini) that he just "accidentally" fell into the bay, but she obviously knows better; he's tried to do this before. In a not-so-secret attempt to give Leonard some emotional stability, Leonard is introduced to Sandra Cohen (Vinessa Shaw), a soft spoken, gentle brunette who seems to take a liking to Leonard. Only a few weeks later however, Leonard has a run in with upstairs neighbor Michele (Gwyneth Paltrow), a slightly livlier-yet-also-troubled blonde, who becomes friends with Leonard instantly and soon begins to take him out dancing, proclaiming him to be her new best friend. The introduction of the "two lovers" doesn't take up too much time, and the remainder of the 100 minute film is spent simply exploring Leonard's relationship with gentle Sandra and exciting-yet-flighty Michele, with a balance of quiet drama and a surprising amount of light humor. Phoenix excels as Leonard, even when his diction occaisionally makes him hard to fully understand, while Shaw and Paltrow work well as the wildly different love interests. And while it unfolds languidly, it never drags, thanks to the strength of the understated performances. It's a delicate little film that deserves to be seen, especially if you're having trouble getting that Letterman interview out of your head....
Number of 2009 films seen: 5
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Source: Deadline Hollywood
I've already posted my scoop that Mickey Rourke will play the Russian villain in Iron Man 2 in a Marvel Studios deal that started out lowball and went up a lot. Now I'm told that Emily Blunt won't be in the sequel and Black Widow will now be played by Scarlett Johannson. (Interesting because Scarlett actually screen-tested for the role and didn't get it.) But I hear that, unlike Mickey's money, the deal for her is "just the opposite, a terrible deal made by CAA," one of my insiders says. "It's as bad as any deal that I've heard. It's lowball money. And it ties her to countless movies, including that ensemble The Avengers, which is what makes this brutal for a lot of actors." As for Blunt, I'm told she fell out not by choice but only because Fox exercised an option that the studio had from The Devil Wears Prada to make her do the upcoming film starring Jack Black, Gullivers Travels.
That's really a shame; Blunt would've been a much better choice for the role, and I think she'd have better chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. And besides, after "The Spirit" fiasco, you'd think that Scarlett Johansson would know to stay away from comic book movies. *Sigh* We'll miss you Emily...
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
After struggling to find a US release date (it was supposed to come out in 2008), Maybury's film will finally open state side on March 13th in limited release, before gradually expanding in select cities across the country. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait...it certainly looks gorgeous...
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Apparently so. The picture is from her probably-to-be-released-in 2009 film "Last Night", which also stars Evan Mendes and Sam Worthington. IMDB gives this brief plot synopsis:
"The story follows a married couple, apart for a night while the husband takes a business trip with a colleague to whom he's attracted. While he's resisting temptation, his wife encounters her past love."
Saturday, March 7, 2009
It can't be easy to adapt a graphic novel that has repeatedly been described as "unfilmable", especially when that graphic novel is "Watchmen". With its constantly shifting narrative, intricate plot lines, and characters with an hour's worth of back story each, there are going to be sacrifices and/or changes. That said, director Zack Snyder (300) surprisingly makes enough of the right choices to ensure that his adaptation is a success. Just like the graphic novel, Snyder's film opens with the murder of ex-masked vigilante Edward Blake aka The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The news reaches the last "active" vigilante, the borderline psychopath Rorshach (Jackie Earle Hayley). Convinced that a plot has been unhatched to kill off former masked heroes, Rorshach alerts those ex-masks who he still knows: Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson), Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), and Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), an ex-nuclear physicist who was transformed into a blue, god-like figure after an accident. In the background, it's 1985, America has won the Vietnam War (thanks entirely to Manhattan), Nixon is in his 5th term in office, and the metaphorical Doomsday Clock has just been set to 4 minutes until Midnight. It's a dark, twisted, and strange world that, in spite of its wild differences, still captures (albeit in a less forward way) the paranoia of the Cold War tensions between America and Russia, and it makes for a stellar backdrop for a story like the one in "Watchmen" (on page and screen). So, where exactly does Snyder go right with his adaptation? Quite a few places as it turns out. First of all, there's the impeccable casting; Alan Moore and David Gibbons' rich characters are beautifully preserved and generally well acted. Carla Gugino and Morgan perfectly capture the aged bitterness and corruption of their characters respectively, Wilson does a nice job as out-of-shape Dan/Nite Owl, and even scrawny Matthew Goode as hulking Adrian Veidt pulls off the role, even with a faltering American accent. Billy Crudup, who's in the film primarily as a voice, is surprisingly successful as the increasingly detached Dr. Manhattan, and of course there's Hayley's Rorshach, in perhaps the most inspired performance of the whole ensemble. The way Snyder and Co. handle the massive narrative is particularly impressive, and special credit has to go to the segment of the film that reveals Dr. Manhattan's full background (mixed perfectly with Philip Glass' score from Koyaanisqatsi). And despite clocking in at close to 3 hours, there's never a dull moment, even if the moment isn't a great one (we'll get to this later). Production values, costumes, and cinematography are all first class, and Snyder does an impeccable job of preserving exact frames from the graphic novel. Music succeeds thanks to Tyler Bates' ambient score and a brilliant soundtrack. Most surprisingly though, is that Snyder's love of using slow-motion-speed-up tricks in action scenes actually doesn't wear thin like it did in parts of 300. *Whew* That's a lot of good stuff...so where does the film fall short? Well, first of all, I've read the graphic novel...so I can't exactly relate to someone who hasn't, so I have no idea if my enthrallment with the movie was due to the movie, or my foreknowledge of the material. But it's not just that; in just about every area where it succeeds there's always one little piece that doesn't want to work. In the acting, it's Malin Ackerman, who sucks the dramatic heft out of a few scenes with high-school-level line delivery, which is a shame because she looks exactly like the character she's playing. In the story/writing department, it's harder to pin down. Amidst great scenes, there are little narrative hiccups (a scene with Ackerman and Crudup on Mars crosses the line between 'moving' and 'cheesy'; some of the alterations to the ending, and others). In the visual department it's harder to complain save for one obvious screw up: Bubastis, aka Veidt's genetically altered pet linx; when it walks on screen it's distractingly bad. Even the music department isn't faultless. Did Snyder really have to place a truly awful rendition of "Hallelujah" in the middle of an overly thrust-filled sex scene? That scene wasn't exactly supposed to be comedic material. Yet in the end, the flaws don't do nearly enough damage to keep the film from being captivating, complex, and surprisingly faithful. For die hard purists it may be an "abomination", but for those looking for the next best thing to "The Dark Knight", "Watchmen" might just be the movie for you.
Number fo 2009 films seen: 4
Friday, March 6, 2009
Not quite as striking as the poster for Almodovar's previous movie (Volver), but it is intriguing...
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Yup, after the financial underwhelmer that was "Prince Caspian", Fox and Walden Media were smart enough to realize that, snowy landscapes or not, the Narnia films are better off released in winter, where there isn't another potential blockbuster opening every other week. Let's hope that Voyage of the Dawn Treader is better than either of the prequels (even if it won't have Tilda Swinton).
Monday, March 2, 2009
Personally, I hope he's involved with the NASA-shot sequences that will allegedly be included in the IMAX movie.
And when I say "IMAX movie", I mean a whole second movie. That's right, we'll be getting two new Malick movies in the next year or so: the first is THE TREE OF LIFE (which one source tells me is "massive"); the other will be an "IMAX-only" feature depicting the birth and death of the universe. It's important to note that these films are not narratively connected; to the best of my knowledge, they're thematically complementary pieces. Hopefully, I'll be able to elaborate on this by the end of the week (though I'd kinda like to stay a little vague on the details if only to preserve the air of mystery that's surrounding this production).
But Douglas Trumbull, the visual f/x pioneer who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001 and Steven Spielberg on CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, will be receiving his first feature credit since Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER. On a Terrence Malick film. It don't get any cooler than that.
Thanks to "Heywood Floyd" and "John Galt" for getting in touch.
In one version of the screenplay, the story opened with “a sleeping god, underwater, dreaming of the origins of the universe, starting with the big bang and moving forward, as fluorescent fish swam into the deity’s nostrils and out again.” Malick supposedly wanted to create something that has never been seen before, and dispatched cameramen all over the world. They shot micro jellyfish on the Great Barrier Reef volcanic explosions on Mount Edna, and ice shelves breaking off in Antarctica. special effects consultant Richard Taylor describes sections of the script as “pages of poetry, with no dialogue, glorious visual descriptions.
We trace the evolution of an eleven-year-old boy in the Midwest, Jack, one of three brothers. At first all seems marvelous to the child. He sees as his mother does, with the eyes of his soul. She represents the way of love and mercy, where the father tries to teach his son the world’s way, of putting oneself first. Each parent contends for his allegiance, and Jack must reconcile their claims. The picture darkens as he has his first glimpses of sickness, suffering and death. The world, once a thing of glory, becomes a labyrinth.