God, we wish Judd Apatow and co. would just go for it with his upcoming dramedy, "Funny People," but every time anyone of the cast members describes the film they always sound hesitant to make it sound too serious and well, dramatic.
“I wouldn’t describe it as dark,” Seth Rogen told the New York Times who got their hands on two new pictures from the film. “I would say it’s more ambitious in what it’s attempting to make light of.”
Things we may or may not see in "Funny People" – which is rumored to be running around 2 ½ hours right now and apparently potentially Oscar-worthy – depending on the way the editing goes include:
-Adam Sandler ad-libbing on a piano singing, “How would you people live without me?/Who will bring you joy when I go?” When the crowd laughs and applauds, he responds: “Leave me alone. Don’t visit my grave”
- a grainy video segment of Sandler at 20-years-old making prank calls shot by Apatow when they were real-life roommates, that might open up the film
- snippets of Leslie Mann’s early television commercials might appear in the film
- video of their daughter Maude singing “Memory” at a recital.
Apatow says that Sander's selfish, asshole character in the film is "what me and Adam would become if we didn’t get sane and get married and have children. This character is our ego run amok.”
We want darkness, blood and tears within a comedy! Even most James L. Brooks – one of Apatow's heroes and a model he's used for his work – films are darker and dramatic than most Apatow films so far. We do have high hopes though. "Funny People" opens up in theaters July 31.
God, we wish Judd Apatow and co. would just go for it with his upcoming dramedy, "Funny People," but every time anyone of the cast members describes the film they always sound hesitant to make it sound too serious and well, dramatic.
The estimable Hot Docs Festival in Toronto kicked off last night. The festival runs April 30-May 10. The Toronto Star got their hands on the new trailer for the documentary, "Best Worst Movie," which some of us saw at SXSW, thought was pretty great and called it a "warm bear hug to the entertaining power of bad-but-fun cinema."
It's basically about Michael Stephenson, a then-11-year-old who starred in one of the most bizarre and reviled films ever, the inimitable "Troll 2," and this documentary is an exploration of its subsequent cult status. Here's the official synopsis and the new trailer is below.
When 11-year-old Michael Stephenson and dentist George Hardy were cast in Troll 2, they were surely destined for stardom. Unfortunately, combining low-budget production with an amateur cast, an Italian director no one could understand, and a script about vegetarian goblins resulted in a train wreck of a film that became widely regarded as the "worst movie ever." Twenty years later, thanks to a new generation of viewers who value a "so bad it's good" aesthetic, Troll 2 has become a cult phenomenon. In Best Worst Movie, Stephenson follows Hardy and the rest of the cast as they reunite to greet adoring fans at Troll 2 screenings in major cities across North America. Can Hardy return to dentistry after signing autographs in packed movie houses and receiving hundreds of hits a day on MySpace? Discover the heart and soul behind one of the most beloved straight-to-video flops ever. Lynne Crocker.We're kicking ourselves a little, because some of us know Toronto very well yet we failed to call upon our homeboys in advance to check some stuff out and deliver some review love. Maybe one of them will see this. Some of us have yet to see "Best Worst Movie" (namely me), but are dying to do so. It looks entertaining.
After yesterday's post about a new Brad Pitt image from Quentin Tarantino's WWII film, "Inglourious Basterds" -- where we did a great job at regurgitatve sssssstreeeeetccccch editorial -- there's not really a lot more than we can say without just flapping out gums (which we do well, but...).
The film makes its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in France May 13-24, which believe it or not, we're actually going to (not the entire thing of course, but about a week).
It also makes its U.S. debut on August 21 via Universal and the Weinstein Company.
Is the film going to be as good as the pretty excellent script or will be over-the-top camp that happens to be set in WWII? Well, we're hoping for the former and praying against the later, but who knows. All we do know is that we're pleased as punch that this Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine poster is less Eli Roth, torture-porn-y than the baseball-bat bearing posters that looked straight out of Dimension/Lionsgate schlock, which if you're Tarantinto, you shouldnt want to be.
Alright, is that enough filler for this post?
Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera, Alden Penner (Ex-Unicorns) & Beirut's Zach Condon Contributing To 'Paper Heart' Soundtrack
Have we been a little testy, perhaps impatient with the genre of preciousness and twee?
Probably. Sometimes the idea of Sufjan Stevens blaring in a room with "Little Miss Sunshine" playing on a loop and the FOX SEARCHLIGHT banner flashing at you repeatedly is enough to make you want to induce instant suicide. Kidding! (sort of)
However one film that we're actually looking forward to believe it or not (hey, it can't be as obnoxious as "Napoleon Dynamite," amIrite?) is the Charlyne Yi and Michael Cera film, "Paper Heart."
Part documentary, part fictional feature directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, the film follows Yi on her whimsical quest to document her skepticism on the concept of love. The film seems to transition between the documentary and a fictionalized love story between her and Cera (who's also her real life boyfriend) that interplays with her journey (here's the poster and recent trailer).
The good news in the music department, coming from Jasenovec himself, is that Charlyne and Michael -- both accomplished musicians -- are doing the score (Cera has a silly joke band with "Clark And Michael" actor Clark Duke called, The Long Goodbye, Yi and comedian Paul Rust are in the band, The Glass Beef).
Also helping out are Alden Penner (ex member of Montreal indie-rockers the Unicorns and Clues) and Zach Condon from Beirut. Alden produced the score and contributed two original songs, while Condon wrote one original song for the film.
Not bad, right? Hopefully that's the first wave of positive music details from the film. More are sure to follow, but that's definitely a good sign. The Unicorns were great, but burned a little too brightly and then fanned out on their own after an auspicious start. Condon might collaborate with Cary Fukunaga (director of the recently released indie drama "Sin Nombre") on an upcoming musical with Arcade Fire-related member, Final Fantasy.
"Paper Heart" hits theaters in limited release via Overture pictures on August 7.
Remember Martin Starr's recent "announcement" (random talk in an interview) that he was writing a script with Charlyne Yi based on uncomfortable party experiences in L.A.?
In an interview with this guy, Starr says the film will have a familiar Hal Ashby vibe.
"We still haven’t worked out a lot of the details, but it’s basically a story about platonic love, the friendship between a young man and an old, decrepit woman…It definitely has a familiar [Harold and Maude-Like] tone to it, and well, oddly enough, it’s set in the ‘70s. Who knows what might change? The idea began because Charlyne had a revelation when she was with her boyfriend [Michael Cera] that she didn’t want to keep going to these events that she had no interest in. She had no interest in the people at them."
If you've never seen "Harold & Maude" you should just quit now, but for further reference, it's about a spoiled, bored and over-privileged teenager named Harold obsessed with death who falls in love with a '70-year-old Maude after meeting her at a funeral. It's bizarre and awesome as most of Ashby's films are (here's the trailer if you've never seen it).
Will the story ever get made in this economic climate? Seems too early to tell, as it doesn't even sound like they've started working on it yet. Starr makes an appearance in "Paper Heart" in August, a quasi-documentary directed by Nicholas Jasenovec, and written by he and Yi about her relationship to Michael Cera.
We caught the Animated Shorts program at IFFBoston film fest last weekend and our faith in strong, simple storytelling was renewed by these 6 brilliant animators. There wasn't one we didn't like; each is aesthetically unique and offer entertaining, often thought-provoking themes not frequently seen in films.
"Kanizsa Hill" by Evelyn Lee
After being shot, a man's head lives independently from his body. As the headless body wanders in search of itself, the lost head suffers a series of illusions. Using a unique drawing style of line work, crayon sketches and collage techniques, this was one of two of the shorts in the animated competition that dealt with self-separation. Kudos to the voice of the body, who effectively guides the story with a confused, dream-like narration.
"Undone" by Hayley Morris
A somber old man fishes in turbulent waters and struggles to keep the objects he catches from slipping away. Director Hayley Morris created this touching stop motion cartoon as a visual metaphor for Alzheimer's.
"Incident at Tower 37" by Chris Perry
Set in a seemingly futuristic dry landscape, an attendant of a mysterious water tower soon discovers the real purpose of the tower a little too late. Helmed by a teacher at Hampshire College in Amherst, this computer animated film was produced with contributions from students from the Five College Consortium (Hampshire, UMass-Amherst, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Amherst College).
"I Am So Proud of You" by Don Hertzfeldt
Numerous award-winning animator, Don Hertzfeldt's new short offers Chapter 2 of a three part story of the life of Bill, continuing with his troubled family history, a bizarre, and, at times, incoherent study of the simultaneous pain and hilarity's of life. Hertzfeldt's signature stick figure style, dark philosophical humor and incredible story-telling tenacity won him the Special Jury Prize at IFFB 2009.
A wildly original 3D animated tale about a young Frenchman who is hit by a meteorite and after showing no visible repercussions, realizes he is exactly 91 cm removed from himself. Despite the tragic situation, humor abounds when the young man attempts simple tasks like sitting in a chair or answering the phone. But with or without the futile assistance of a shrink, the optimistic young man reflects and explores the possibility living life beside himself. One of our favorites for its austere aesthetic and poetic resolve.
"Western Spaghetti" by PES
A delightfully imaginative stop motion cartoon that uses everyday objects to create a spaghetti dinner.
- Becca Rodriguez
All Time Low Added To 'Jennifer's Body Soundtrack; Could They Be Writing The Music Of Soft Shoulder?
There's two ways you can go with the music of the sardonic Diablo Cody teen-horror comedy made in the vein of "Heathers," you can make some interesting choices like Ellen Page and Jason Reitman did in "Juno" (yes, indie-rock is mainstream, but the Peaches are still relatively unknown in the scope of things), or you can do a "10 Things I Hate About You" where you include whatever punk-pop flavor of the week (Save Ferris? God the music in that was dreadful).
So far the jury is out on the direction the Karyn Kusama picture will go. We know that that Texas rockers The Sword have been negotiating to have one of their songs in the film and that would be awesome, but then comes news from Absolute Punk that emo, radio-ready alt-punk favorites All Time Low will also be featured in the film (they're typical, bad credit soundtrack music from terrible teen comdies).
Then again, someone has to write the music for the cheesy and emo-goth anthemic band Soft Shoulder in the film whose Satanic proclivities get characters Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried into the demonic trouble they're in, in the first place (Adam Brody fronts the Soft Shoulder band in the movie, but we assume he's not going to be writing the music). Could they be the ones? Might not be a bad guess.
At least that would be more fitting than simply having their banal power-punk in the movie with a straight face. Hopefully the rest of the soundtrack won't pander to teen comedies cliches as most do, but reports so far don't sound like the film's exactly heading in the right direction. But we still hold up hope cause the script was a deliciously fun read.
"Jennifer's Body" is due in theaters September 18.
Box Office Options May 1st-3rd: 'Wolverine' (Don't Do It), The Limits Of Control,' 'Revanche' & More...
Hooray! Box office Friday is here again! And not just any box office Friday--this weekend signals the opening of the summer blockbuster season. Somehow (probably Beyonce' related), "Obsessed" took the crown for last weekend but there's little question as to what will pull down the big bucks this time around. So let's take a look at the pictures!
Of course, the heavy hitter this weekend is the Fox tentpole "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which is expected to totally clean up. The pic stars Hugh Jackman as the legendarily maverick X-Man and tells of his rise to prominence and, no doubt, his battles with various evil doers. Helmed by the (soon to be former) semi-respected Gavin Hood, Danny Huston ("The Proposition"), Liev Schreiber ("The Manchurian Candidate"), and Ryan Reynolds ("Adventureland") co-star as various mutants of varying degrees of heroism. We thought this thing was a massive disaster and most critics seem to agree as the film has a flagging 37% rating. We can't recommend this movie under any circumstances but that probably won't make much difference in its ability to rake in the dough.
Shockingly, the rest of the weekend's wide releases are even less appealing. There's "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," the "Christmas Carol" update that stars Matthew McConaughey as a womanizer forced to confront his past crimes against the fairer sex in hopes of reuniting with the woman he truly loves. Take the 14% rating at face value and do anything else at all with your time. There's also the animated space adventure "Battle for Terra" (53%) about humanity's battle to conquer a peaceful planet. If you have children or you want to see something mildly engaging and you're in a smaller market, here's your best bet. Evan Rachel Wood and Justin Long star.
In Limited Release
As usual, this weekend does offer several smaller films that are well worth your time. Far and away the best bet is "Revanche," one of the nominees for last year's foreign film Oscar and one of our favorite films of the year so far. Directed by the Austrian Gotz Spielmann, the film is a prostitution drama that becomes a revenge tale that becomes something transcendent. Take our word and the critics (88%) and run, don't walk for this one.
We also really dug "The Limits of Control," the latest from the mad scientist Jim Jarmusch ("Broken Flowers"). The film is a sort of existential thriller about a mysterious loner (Isaach de Bankole, "Casino Royale") who is dispatched on an odd mission that brings him into contact with a cast of intriguing characters (Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal) in the course of his journey. The reviews have been unkind--the film currently has a 22%--but don't let that turn you off right away. This might be the most Jarmusch-esque of the director's pictures yet, so if you tend to like his films, you could do much worse than to give this one a shot.
The remainder of the weekend's limited releases are less inspiring. If you're in the mood for a documentary, there's three opening this weekend: the well-received Antarctic exploration film "Ice People" (80%), the Beat-lit focused "Ferlinghetti" (N/A) and "Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry" (N/A) whose title speaks for itself.
Elsewhere, there's the Michael Keaton's comeback in "Merry Gentleman," with Kelly Macdonald that looks pretty decent and has a strong 75% rating despite the fact that it sports the incredibly tired premise of the morally-awakened and suicidal hit-man trying to go straight (jesus, no more, please!) and the homoerotic road comedy "Eldorado" (40%) about two friends on a very strange highway trip. There's also the as-yet-unrated "Home," a domestic drama starring Marcia Gay Harden and her daughter. Speaking of no reviews, this weekend sees two boring-ish looking thrillers, one called "I Can See You" focusing on a wife's disappearance and the other a lawyer drama starring Tim Daly called "The Skeptic." Finally, in movies yet to have been reviewed, there's an Irish horror film called "Plague Town."
So that's it. We stand behind "Revanche" and 'Control,' but perhaps you're a maverick. Regardless, good luck!
A new poster for Lynn Shelton's sorta-gay bromance flick, "Humpday" has been unveiled. [Vulture]
PBS has picked up Spike Lee's film adaptation of rock musical "Passing Strange" from the Tribeca Film Festival with plans to air the film in 2010. The film follows the story of a young black man from L.A. in the mid-70's who finds he can exploit his 'South Central' persona on a trip to Europe. [Variety]
Jim Carrey is in talks to replace Steve Carrell in the much-hyped Kyle Killen's "The Beaver." The script, which was on 2008's Black List, follows the relationship of a man and a beaver puppet which he wears on his arm, communicates with and treats as a companion. Jay Roach had previously been linked to the director's chair. [THR]
Don Johnson is set to join the Adam Sandler-produced porn-based comedy "Born To Be A Star." Johnson will play a down-on-his-luck director who discovers the nerdy protagonist turned porn star and gives him a shot. Starring in the film will be Nick Swardson, Christina Ricci and Stephen Dorff. [THR]
Barry Levinson will adapt his own novel "Sixty-Six" to the silver screen. The novel chronicles the story a group of characters coming of age in 1966 Baltimore on the eve of significant historical events. The protagonist in "Sixty-Six" is a local television station staff member who is suspected to be based on Levinson himself. "Sixty-Six" will also feature a diner as the center of social activity like Levinson's other works. [THR]
Amanda Peet has joined the Jack Black led "Gulliver's Travels," also starring Jason Segel and Emily Blunt. Peet will play Black's romantic interest in the film which is begin helmed by Rob Letterman and was written by Nicholas Stoller and Joe Stillman. Filming is currently taking place in London. [THR]
Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan and Sebastian Stan have joined the upcoming "The Hot Tub Time Machine." Also starring John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry, the film follows a group of friends who accidentally travel back in time after returning to a ski lodge where they partied as teens. That's a fantastic cast, so it almost sounds impossible to screw up despite the absurd-sounding premise. [THR]
Correction! This morning when we reported on Drew Barrymore's indie, roller-derby film finding a home in Fox Searchlight and a release date in October 9, we had mentioned that Mark Mothersbaugh was composing the score.
Well, he was, but apparently he got the axe from Barrymore as they appeared to not have been seeing eye to eye.
"She hired me and fired me in all of like two weeks," Mothersbaugh said, laughing about it to OMG Yahoo. "I got snippy with her. She cancelled out on showing up at the studio three times and I kicked Devo out every single time and had an engineer come in and set up the studio and the third time I got pissy with her on the phone. And she said she just doesn't think our styles work together. So I got fired."
Interesting. We've heard some vague rumors about some tentative distancing between Wes Anderson and he, and it's now going on two pictures ('Darjeeling' and "Fantastic Mr. Fox") that Mothersbaugh won't be scoring for his frequent collaborator (or at least it seems that way). But who knows, you can't read into that too much and it's all just speculation (Interestingly enough, Another Wes Anderson alum is also working on the "Whip It!," music- soundtrack supervisor Randall Poster).
Scoring jobs up next for the Devo star include Bret Ratner's segment in "New York, I Love You" (when the hell is that thing coming out?) "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and a film called, "Johnny Appleseed" that we know nothing about.
The "Whip It!" soundtrack so far is set to feature work by Peaches, Turbo Fruits, Landon Pigg (also an actor and Ellen Page's love interest in the film), Jim Diamond and Har Mar Superstar who has a cameo in the film as well. As aforementioned, it's due in theaters now October 9 thanks to Fox Searchlight.
Apparently, Hugh Jackman is hopeful that his abysmal "X-Men Origins:Wolverine" will do so well that the studio will soon greenlight a sequel. He even has an idea for where it should be set.
“I won’t lie to you, I have been talking to writers,” Jackman told MTV News. “I’m a big fan of the Japanese saga in the comic book.”
Ah. So that explains that stupid post-credits ending that we saw last night, which featured a grizzled Logan in a bar in Japan. Then he says he’s “drinking to remember.” But maybe Wolverine should have instead remarked, “I’m thinking about a sequel.”
Jackman went on, saying that, “…we’ll find out beginning of May if there’s still an audience for it, if people still like the character. There’s no point in telling the story if no one wants to hear it.”
Well, we don’t want to hear it. Wolverine was a dramatically inert, visually muddled mess that felt like the longest movie ever made and essentially ruined a pretty great character. Still, the studio is optimistic (reports are expected at least $80 million this weekend, Jesus). If everyone else does in fact lap up this crap, Jackman will be ready.
“There are so many areas of that Japanese story,” Jackman explained. “I love the idea of this kind of anarchic character, the outsider, being in this world — I can see it aesthetically, too — full of honor and tradition and customs and someone who’s really anti-all of that, and trying to negotiate his way. The idea of the samurai, too — and the tradition there. It’s really great. In the comic book he gets his ass kicked by a couple of samurai — not even mutants. He’s shocked by that at first."
There’s also a great, very intricate story there with Mariko,” hinted Jackman in reference to one of Wolverine’s lost loves. “And so many cool ways we could go.”
Ah, yes there would be many cool ways you could if the dark and moody "Wolverine" wasn't just painfully compromised, ruined and rendered into a cartoony joke by Gavin Hood, 20th Century Fox and the obvious story-by committee team that worked on it. - Drew Taylor.
Summer's upon us any moment now, which means temperatures rise, IQ levels drop and the worst of the worst (ok, admittedly not as bad as the January-Feb season), or at least the halfwit mainstream bullshit rises to the top. However, there's always something to be enjoyed amongst the clutter and hell, maybe even an enjoyable tentpole film with a brain. Hey, don't laugh, "Iron Man" and "The Dark Knight" pulled it off last year. Can Gavin Hood (no), Michael Bay, McG or J.J. Abrams make your popcorn munching season slightly more tolerable? If not, there's still tons of smart, off-season counter programming for those that don't equate art with explosions or being mildly erect anytime Hugh Jackman
snikt!'s his claws out takes his shirt off.
"The Limits Of Control"
Exuding more style and a headier story than many summer film seasons have seen in years, "Control" has been highly anticipated and thoroughly approved by us. Isaach De Bankole plays a loner who has set out to complete a job outside of the law. According the film's synopsis, "his journey, paradoxically both intently focused and dreamlike, takes him not only across Spain but also through his own consciousness." The film may be hard to describe without seeing it or being Jarmusch himself, but that only makes the allure of 'Control' even greater. The film co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Tilda Swinton, and Bill Murray, and boasts an impressive soundtrack courtesy of Boris, Sunn O))), Earth, and Bad Rabbit (Jarmusch's own moody soundscape band).
"The Merry Gentleman"
Now located in a moviestar limbo, where you’re a respectable household name but no longer close to being a marquee name, Michael Keaton stars a in his directorial debut with this intimate hitman drama- you know the kind. Here, he gets close and snuggly to adorably-accented Kelly McDonald, all the while keeping her in the dark about his true profession. Also, perfect for May- it’s a Christmas movie!
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
"Wolverine" seems to be another comic book movie besieged by fanboy doubt and internal problems (much like "Watchmen" before it) – a now infamous leaked workprint, the fact that the theatrical version may (not) differ from the leaked version, Fox firing one of its own for reviewing the workprint , multiple post-credit endings, etc., etc. Beyond all that noise, "Wolverine" will still feature the exploits of everyone's favorite mutant, while adding in other mutants for potential spin-offs (Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool, namely) and proceed to label it an origin story. Creative licenses be damned, its either this or reading an exponentially large number of comics to get Logan's origin. Reviews haven't been that great, but if you've been "built-in" to the fanbase in any way thus far, we know you'll go regardless. [ed. though it's easily one of the worst films of the year so far... hey now!]
"Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past"
Good lord, they let Mark Waters work again. After scoring a fluky one-two punch with “Mean Girls” and “Freaky Friday,” Waters has returned to the realm of shit peddlers with dreck like “Just Like Heaven” and now this dung heap of a summer release. Here, the evil brother of Daniel Waters brings us the umpteenth Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, where he plays a lothario who learns the error of his ways when a series of ghosts enter his life to illustrate the emptiness of his bed-hopping and his need for defacto love interest Jennifer Garner. Romantic comedies tend to hit big as counter programming during the summer/boys’ season, but will female audiences finally, FINALLY say no to the most one-dimensional male star in Hollywood?
"Battle for Terra"
Combining the stupid decision to go up against "Wolverine" without any publicity and the inevitable question of "what the hell is this and why isn't it going straight to DVD?", 'Terra' tells the story of an indigenous alien race going to war against humans to save their planet. (Thanks, but we'll stick to nature docs if we want to feel guilty for being human.) Similar to last year's "Delgo", "Terra" features creepily sub-par animated aliens, an interesting mix of actors providing voices (Evan Rachel Wood, Justin Long, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox), and that overbearingly sad pall of a mercy release for an animated film that people stopped caring about long before it wrapped.
"Rudo Y Cursi"
Fellow soccer fans will surely agree that one of the major problems with soccer films is poorly executed soccer scenes. Happily, "Rudo Y Cursi", a story about half-brothers trying to make good in Mexican pro soccer, resolves the dilemma by showing very little soccer action at all. The film stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, counts Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Guillermo del Toro as producers, and was written and directed by Carlos Cuaron (Alfonso's brother and writer of "Y Tu Mama Tambien"), so seems worth a look based on the Latin firepower alone. The film apparently largely stays away from sports movie cliches and is more of a funny take on brotherhood. Plus, Bernal sings "I Want You To Want Me" in the movie. [trailer]
Come all ye Tilda fans! Swinton, who was nominated for a Cesar for the role, gets a chance to shine as a boozed-up, scheming, wretch of a woman who finds herself attempting to pull the strings in a multimillion dollar kidnapping. She may be reason alone to buy a ticket to director Erick Zonca's apparently paint-by-numbers thriller. Still, with ransoms, double-crosses, murders, Saul Rubinek, and Swinton expertly careening across the screen, "Julia" may be a movie capable of satisfying most everyone in your group, even if it does run a little long. [trailer]
"Next Day Air"
From noted music video "auteur" Benny Boom comes this seeming four-quadrant urban tale of a misplaced shipment of drugs and the colorful characters in pursuit. Enjoyable performers like Mike Epps, Mos Def, and Wood Harris abound, but why does the trailer’s promise of lower class characters exploiting cocaine and guns in such a lighthearted manner while flanked by eye candy females sound a little socially questionable at best, achingly familiar at worst? Congratulations, focus group audiences- we blame you for bringing onto us what looks like Antoine Fuqua’s “Friday.”
As we pointed out a few months ago, perhaps nothing can test the strength of the "Twilight" army as a film in which their hero, Robert Pattinson, plays Salvador Dali, including a ridiculous mustache and a male lover in Federico Garcia Lorca (played by Javier Beltran). "Little Ashes" takes a look at the early lives of Dali, Garcia Lorca, and Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty) as they learn about themselves, their, ahem, "parts" and their art. While it may be a little surprising they haven't promoted the heck out of Pattinson's role, it is unlikely there will be much audience crossover from that chaste vampire flick to director Paul Morrison's film, which explores eroticism and exhibitionism in 1920s Madrid and Paris. Also, there's that whole absolutely insane mustache obscuring his 100 Most Beautiful People face. [trailer]
We'll give it to J.J. Abrams – he wants to leave his mark on popular culture. Aside from being responsible for the zeitgeist-tapping television series "Felicity," "Alias," and "Lost," his debut feature was a little art house drama called "Mission: Impossible III." But with Trek, he has the opportunity to leave his biggest footprint on the pop culture landscape. By updating the classic franchise (complete with characters from the original Trek series), he has a chance to take what was sliding into dreary, sci-fi diehards-only territory (the most undateable of all sects of nerd) and invigorate with a decidedly post-millennial sensibility (hello "Star Wars" for the aughts). So far the trailers have indicated sex, violence, monster attacks, action galore, and Eric Bana mugging as a tattooed bad guy. Color us more intrigued than The Playlist usually is for these normally popcorn-gobbling exercises in celestial banality.
Character actior Stephen McHattie (“Watchmen,” “A History Of Violence”) stars in this off-kilter zombie film from director Bruce McDonald (“The Tracey Fragments”). In a snowy Canadian town, the residents, including one loquacious radio show host, find themselves facing a horde of soulless flesh-eaters who’ve been infected with the disease of modern language. We were indifferent to this oddball entry in the genre, but McHattie’s a pleasure to watch- this could be ground zero for the launch of the intriguing veteran’s new leading man career. We saw it at SXSW. It didn't reinvent the wheel, but it was enjoyable and worth seeing.
We posted the trailer back in December and have hopes that this one will put Atom Egoyan back in good graces after a few post-"Sweet Hereafter" missteps. The interesting and complicated plot involves Simon (Devon Bostick) using a class assignment as his impetus for altering his identity to the world (through the Internet) in the hopes of further understanding the mysterious circumstances surrounding his parents' car crash. Also starring Scott Speedman and Rachel Blanchard, we suggest this one to those inquisitive enough to look for respite from action and sci-fi this early into the summer.
Irreverent punk rock French auteur Olivier Assayas surprises with his latest, a very low-key examination of a family suddenly fractured by the death of a matriarch and the remains of their childhood symbolized by an achingly gorgeous summer house. We saw this at last year’s New York Film Festival and while it was noticeably muted and reserved compared to Assayas’ previous work, we did feel that it was a mature step forward for the director of “Irma Vep” but not without its bravura cinematic moments, particularly a powerful last act Steadicam shot that will have art house audiences talking as they are wont to do, which is quietly and politely. Anything it does lack comparatively to older works it more than makes up in wonderfully affecting and deeply resonant emotion. Juliet Binoche and Charles Berling star. It's one of the best movies of the year so far.
"The Brothers Bloom"
"The Brothers Bloom" has shown up with some frequency round these parts, be it the many changes to the release date, the posters, the trailers, or the first few minutes of the film being released. Oh, and of course our review of the film from TIFF. In it, we give the film a B-, saying it: "became fun and more enjoyable as it progressed (or we became inured to the hijinks-y romp), but those with a distaste for capriciousness that flirts with hyper-whimsy at every turn should be forewarned." With a fun cast (Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, and Rinko Kikuchi) and a talented (if slightly in need of some guidance) writer/director in Rian Johnson, we'd still like to see the film reach some sort of an audience.
The trailer and posters of this film seem to want to center on ass. And Jennifer Aniston's ass at that. It appears to be a romantic comedy starring the lovable Steve Zahn as a socially-inept motel manager that awkwardly hits on traveling art saleswoman Aniston and somehow she relents despite his immensely deficient people skills. Somewhere along the lines he asks to touch her but and she acquieces to that too. Then she tries to shake him and moves away, but the strange little man sort of stalks her across the country too, but we imagine that's meant to be cute because he's capable of doing the most embarrassing things to get her back. The soundtrack is cultivated by music supervisor Randall Poster (Wes Anderson's dude) and we seem to remember some decent music culled for it. Woody Harrelson co-stars.
"Angels and Demons"
Ron Howard, forfeiting the goodwill he earned with his above-average "Frost/Nixon," returns to direct the prequel/sequel/something to his incomprehensibly dull "The Da Vinci Code." Tom Hanks also returns, sans the goofy haircut and the plot has something to do with a series of murders at the Vatican and a conspiratorial threat from the secret society the Illuminati. We can assume that the well-rounded cast (Stellan Starsgaard, Ewan McGregor, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Ayelet Zurer) were all swayed by the staggering amount of money thrown at them, and not by any real investment in the project. Still, it could be fun, especially when you consider that Spielberg’s go-to script guy David Koepp did a pass.
The story about a habitual train conductor on the eve of retirement was Norway's official Oscar selection for the 2008 year and while it didn't make the shortlist, notable filmmaker Bent Hamer ("Factotum" with Matt Dillon) and his film were selected for last year's Un Certain Regard section of Cannes so that and strong reviews, bode well.
Who is Sam Worthington’s agent blowing? The guy’s a total unknown, but he’s got above-the-title billing for this, the upcoming “Clash of The Titans” and, potentially one of the biggest studio releases of all-time, “Avatar.” Here, he plays Marcus, a cyborg in the near-future, vexed by his hybrid status, who ends up being the key to the savior of humanity John Connor (Christian Bale) and his army’s offensive against the machines of Skynet who seek control over their human overlords. McG’s installment in the series promises to magnify the silliest element of the earlier “Terminator” films in depicting logistically-impractical human/robot war, with more than a few screenwriters tacked on at the last minute to give this action spectacular some sort of tenuous message about the nature of destiny and the bonds of man and machine. Knowing McG’s tacky filmmaking skills and p.r. bullshit-slinging, expect this to have only slightly more depth than an “Old Glory” life insurance ad.
The Girlfriend Experience
Steven Soderbergh presents the second of his six film deal with HDNet, a low budget exercise in naturalism not unlike “Bubble,” his first film from the ambitious arrangement. “GfE” concerns a high priced escort in New York City trying to manage the balance between her own life and her career, both of which threaten to bleed into each other. Though like “Bubble” the film is largely improvisational and very low-fi, it does feature a script from his “Ocean’s Thirteen” collaborators David Koppleman and Larry Levin, but this looks as far from Soderbergh’s audience-pleaser films as you can get. Pornstar Sasha Grey stars in the project, the first time a mainstream pornographic film star has had the lead in a major American film since Marilyn Chambers of David Cronenberg’s “Rabid,” and the first time an American film starred someone who’s willingly received double-anal on film, unless you don’t count the Dennis Hopper stag films we traded some peyote for while in South America. (note: 'GfE' is already available OnDemand as of 4/30). Some of us liked it, some of us didn't.
Seriously, how many Wayans can there be? Damon Wayans Jr. (holy shit, we're old) stars in this comedy spoofing the dance film genre. Normally, we’d be intolerant of the sort of stuff the Wayans have been up to lately, but the trailer looked far less offensive than “White Chicks” and “Little Man” and, faintest of praise, the dance genre is such a laughable trend that there’s gotta be a few good, easy laughs to be had in this.
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"
From watching the 'NATM2:BOTS' trailer, we can safely ascertain that that applies here too. 2006’s "Night at the Museum" was a pandering kids’ flick which never erupted into the kind of inspired "Gremlins"-esque mayhem it so desperately need to, it was also sort of enjoyable if you were six and partially mentally retarded. Mug-face enthusiast Ben Stiller galavants around historical D.C. instead of NYC this time around, with many of the same people making cameos from the first film - Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan. Except this time, there's even more people added to the mix - Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, Amy Adams, Christopher Guest, Hank Azaria, Eugene Levy, Ed Helms, Craig Robinson and (wait for it) the grotesquely odd-looking Clint Howard. Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant ("Reno 911!", "The State") put pen to paper for this sequel (and make cameos), adding another non-sketch comedy disappointment to their resume. Sorry dudes, we love you on TV but not in films.
Pixar’s tenth film (and their first in 3-D) concerns an old codger (Ed Asner) who ties a bunch of balloons to his house and sets off for the South American jungle (with an stowaway in the form of a chubby boy scout/ wilderness explorer). While in the jungle, the unlikely duo confronts a talking dog, a giant monstrous bird and a villainous Christopher Plummer. Typical Hollywood bullshit, right? But seriously – we saw nearly 50 minutes of the movie back at New York Comic Con and it looks like just the right mix of humor, action, and genuine, whimsical surrealism. Also – look for another sweeping score by frequent Pixar collaborator Michael Giacchino (who will also be scoring "Star Trek" and "Land of the Lost" – busy dude). By all probability a sweet winner that should act as a barrier-crossing crowd pleaser without the hokey catch-all flytrap tactics of most middle of the road pictures.
The Foreign Film bureau at the Academy Awards already deserves to be shot in the kneecaps for overlooking many a great film in recent years ("Gomorrah," Carlos Reygadas' "Silent Light," Fatih Akin's "Edge of Heaven," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," "Persepolis" etc.,), but for actually awarding this weepy and groan-inducing picture by Yôjirô Takita the Best Foreign Film of 2008 they might just deserve a bullet in their knumbskull. This painfully bathetic film centers on a newly unemployed cellist (the overly-mugging Masahiro Motoki) who has to trade dignity for a job preparing the dead for funerals (oh Japanese shame!). The funeral ritual is meticulous and beautiful, the treacly film -- which resorts to ridiculous elements like displaying sweeping, crossfading shots of Motoki earnestly playing cello on a mountaintop for almost no reason -- is not. Consider this our review if we don't get around to writing one.
"Drag Me To Hell"
The paper-thin plot in service of getting the squeals a-going: When an insurance claims investigator dooms a gypsy woman to foreclosure, she finds herself afflicted with a horrific curse with designs on sending her to a fiery grave. Alison Lohman stars in the first horror film from Sam Raimi since “The Evil Dead” series. Raimi’s interest in scaring the beejesus out of audiences seems to have subsided with the declawed PG-13 offerings on his Ghost House shingle, and “Spider-Man 3” showcased a once thrilling pop-art showman resorting to cheap parlor tricks and weak sitcom humor, so its hard to get too excited for this, but the horror fan in us wants to believe that Raimi still has plenty in his tank. Some of us found this thing to be a painfully silly, sitcom horror campfest that was beyond goofy. Probably for the die-hards stuck in a timewarp only.
This was exhausting and painful. Don't expect this kind of comprehensiveness for June, July & August, you're on your own, but you will get our picks for the best of the best, but probably way less time devoted to filler. - Drew Taylor, Jared Weiss, Christopher Adams and Gabe Toro
Remember the indie film from Sundance called "Arlen Faber" that received decent reviews and boasted a good cast in Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Kat Dennings, Olivia Thirlby? Well, it's been given a new paint of coat in a new title called, "The Answer Man," and we might have been one of the first few places to report it as even IMDB, Sundance, etc., are still stuck on the title (google results for "The Answer Man," won't turn up anything on the film either). Anyhow, here's the review.
This fresh romantic comedy bears an incredible cast and a tightly written script, but perhaps second guessed its originality and went for stale Hollywood ending. But once you accept the film for what it is, it eases you in to the film’s brand of understated humor propelled by strong performances.
First time writer/director John Hindman gathered an impressive cast of always-greats to tell his fictional story of Arlen Faber who 20 years prior penned an internationally known book, "Me and God" — based on Faber's supposed conversations with the man upstairs — that redefined spirituality for a generation. Dubbed "the answer man" he now lives in seclusion away from fans and authorial duties due to the sheer guilt that he is a fraud. His life is altered significantly when he encounters two lost souls also on the same not-so-simple quest for answers in life.
Jeff Daniels anchors the not-typical romcom as the lonely, foul-mouthed Faber still searching for the answers himself. When he returns some useless self-help books to a nearby bookstore, its owner, Kris (Lou Taylor Pucci), who just spent a month in rehab, can not afford to buy books because his assistant, (Kat Dennings), didn’t have a key to open the store to keep it running during his absence. Faber throws his back out from angrily lugging the books back home only to end up crawling on all fours to the nearby chiropractor. Enter Elizabeth (Lauren Graham), a struggling single mom and miracle healer who just opened her own chiropractic business, together with her assistant (a sadly underused Olivia Thirlby). Faber uncharacteristically lets his guard down for a much-needed chance at love with Elizabeth. He’s attracted to her and the fact that she’s never heard of him, giving him the opportunity to start fresh.
Meanwhile Kris discovers Faber is indeed the Arlen Faber threatens to reveal his home address unless they come to an arrangement. Kris will accept 3 used books for an answer to one question per day. And the answers he gives the young lad are often profoundly helpful.
Things get hairy when Faber starts to give Elizabeth advice on how to raise her son. Since her husband ran out on her, it’s become her biggest fear that she’s not enough, both mother and father, for her son. Graham plays the role of the single-mom with serene defensiveness and understated fear. The repartee between the two is reminiscent of Nicholson and Hunt in "As Good As It Gets," their shaky relationship is rife with misunderstanding and stubbornness coming from both sides. Can Faber set the record straight with the woman he loves and the whole world?
An entertaining romantic comedy in the vein of Frank Capra films, there were many moments where we felt the film could have easily fallen apart due to cheesy Hollywood conventions, but Hindman succeeds in tempering the story contrivances with touching realism, mainly credited to the superb witty writing and the actors portrayal.
Despite its theme of religious salvation, the film doesn’t take them too seriously, because Arlen Faber doesn’t take himself seriously. He’s a hack. A brilliant writer, but guilty of leading the world astray. Whether you believe in God or not, when you hit rock bottom you start searching for answers somewhere, anywhere, but often times the answers are found in each other. It would do well serving a larger audience and we hope it gets the attention it deserves. [B+] - Becca Rodriguez
Here's a clip from the film, there's no trailer out there yet.