As usual, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) are always the most key augur of to the way Oscar eventually turns in the acting categories. No we won't be live blogging it. But we're here, so we'll probably add the winners as they happen.
For the movie categories that is, we're not going to bother with all the TV awards. Of course there's only five categories for movies which makes this easy for us. And yes, the acting awards are pretty sewn up this year. We don't really expect any major surprises. We'll see. That said, if Carey Mulligan doesn't win we'll be pissed.
As you can see "Inglourious Basterds" was the big winner taking Best Ensemble Cast (the kind-of Best Picture award) and Best Supporting Award for Christoph Waltz's performance as Col. Hans Landa. Looks like we were pissed at Mulligan's loss and it seems the Oscars will be fairly predictable since the Globes and SAGs were pretty much the same.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
WINNER: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
WINNER: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up In The Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up In The Air”
Diane Kruger, “Inglourious Basterds”
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A MALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
WINNER: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up In The Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A FEMALE ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
WINNER: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
OK, the night was fairly predictable, but a lot of us didn't think Sandra Bullock would take this award again, like she did at the Globes. We guess the thinking now is that this is sort-of a lifetime achievement award, but not quite like Jeff Bridge's award, he's obviously been nominated four times before and never won. That's a Scorsese-like lifetime nod. This one will probably be more of a mid-career, you've done solid work throughout, win. Either that or she's actually outstanding, but dunno if we'll see "Blindside" soon enough (or ever) to find out.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CAST IN A MOTION PICTURE
WINNER: “Inglourious Basterds”
“The Hurt Locker
Quentin's 'Inglourious' was always our top choice here, but we were still hoping "The Hurt Locker" would sneak in, and lots of outlets, including Nikki Finke and Anne Thompson, were calling it an upset. What does this mean for Oscar? Mmm, it depends. Yes, in a way it's SAG's Best Picture award in lieu of that category, but it doesn't always sync up with Oscar. This might be more of a way for the Guild to tip their cap to Quentin's work. We'll see. A lot of insiders have told us that "Inglourious Basterds" has a lot of support for Best Picture, but to us it's probably "Avatar" unless "The Hurt Locker" can magically sneak in there. We still have some hope, but the populist voting system this year worries us.
After the monumental success of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, one of the biggest risks in cinema history and one that paid off in a very big way, New Line Cinema squandered their success by releasing a series of disasters, culminating in the butchered version of "The Golden Compass," which, while a hit internationally, flopped domestically and leading to the studio being folded into sister company Warner Bros. Now, as a Variety story on the studio says, the studio is going great guns again, with 15 of their last 17 films turning a profit (only the dreadful "Semi-Pro" and "Inkheart" flopped, and even the latter turned out to be a surprise hit on DVD).
There's a few tidbits of information in the article (a semi-sequel to the upcoming "Valentine's Day," entitled "New Year's Eve," appears to be in development, set for a 2011 release, along with a sequel to "Journey to the Center of the Earth"), but by far the biggest news comes in a discussion over the studio's return to the tentpole game, with the "Lord of the Rings" prequel "The Hobbit."
The first of Guillermo Del Toro's pair of films based on JRR Tolkien's book, which are apparently set to start filming in June, has long been set for release in Christmas 2011, but Warner Bros head honcho Alan Horn tells the trade "that the most probable scenario would be a release in the fourth quarter of 2012." This makes sense (the shoot is set to be 14 months, allegedly, which wouldn't leave much post-production time to make a Christmas 2011 release), but it's the first time anyone in a position of power has said as much.
There's also the possibility that the production's being held up because of the uncertainty over the future of MGM, who own the rights to the original book, and who are currently being sold. Casting and pre-production work does seem to be underway, though, and it's unlikely that whoever ends up owning MGM would want to hold up one of the few guaranteed blockbusters in the company's slate. Although, having said that, if we're to believe Roland Emmerich, there may not be many people around to see it in theaters.
So, at the beginning of the week, we commented on the controversy that erupted over the weekend regarding the writing credits on "Up in the Air" — the LA Times printed a piece suggesting that Jason Reitman wasn't giving credited co-writer Sheldon Turner his due on the awards circuit. We weren't convinced, and put out an appeal for a Turner draft of the script. One very kind reader did exactly that (thanks again!), we've had a look, comparing it with a a draft of Reitman's script for the movie (one very close, although not identical to the finished film).
A couple of points before we start — Turner's draft that we have is dated February 18th, 2003, so it's hard to tell how many drafts came before or after, and further revisions may well have been made. Similarly, Reitman's draft is dated August 19th, 2008, and revisions certainly were made, although, as said above, it is very similar to the finished movie — the biggest changes are ones that may have been made in the editing room. Spoilers will follow after this paragraph, for those who haven't seen the film, beware. So, is Reitman taking undeserved credit, or is he justified in snubbing his credited co-writer?
Rather more of the latter, it would appear. The premise of Turner's draft is more or less identical (both versions of course are based on the book by Walter Kirn); Ryan Bingham (George Clooney's role) is a man employed by his company to fly around the country and fire poor unfortunates who are being laid off by their companies. He also is chasing a milestone number of frequent flier miles, a goal he's somewhat obsessed with. He's joined by a bright young colleague on the road (this time a 26-year-old man, with the rather absurd name Sutton Sway, and a pregnant wife) who partially causes Bingham to rethink the way in which he lives his life. Sway, like Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) in Reitman's version, doesn't feature in Kirn's original novel. Structurally, at least, the two versions are not dissimilar, although the plotting differs heavily in the details.
What of other details, though? The L.A. Times article claimed that a number of moments, including the suicide of a worker fired by the pair, and Clooney's trademark firing patter ("Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it's because they sat there that they were able to do it") originated in Turner's version. In fact, neither are present here, and, as far as we can tell, not a single line of dialogue is repeated between the two scripts. The earlier version pivots around mass layoffs across the country at a company called Tikki Toys. Bingham, after his boss forces him to fire Sway, develops a conscience, and organizes a buyout of the company by its employees, saving their jobs, but sacrificing his own. He also decides to give a relationship a try with Linda, a casual partner who he seems to fall for.
So Turner's script, while clearly from the the same source material, is a very different take. Is it any good? Not really. While Reitman's version has proven divisive (it's more-or-less hated by some here at The Playlist, while this writer numbers it among his favorite movies of last year, and the editor-in-chief falls somewhere in-between), it is, objectively, far superior to Turner's script, which is the glib, mainstream rom-com version of the story; it's hard not to imagine Matthew McConaughey in the lead, somehow... First among its flaws is the deeply unpleasant nature of its lead. The most interesting thing about Clooney's character in the final film is the fact that, despite the unpleasant nature of his job, he does care about the people he fires, as evinced by his horror at Keener's proposal to, essentially, sack people over Skype. Turner's Bingham, however, is just kind of a dick — at work, to a hipster about to be given the boot, who asks "Dude, why am I here...?," Bingham responds "You're not. Anymore. Dude."
Reitman's Bingham gradually comes to realize the hollowness of his own existence, and makes steps to address this, but the redemption of Turner's lead (who's given a backstory involving a divorce and, believe it or not, being fired from his first job) feels unearned — it's a Robert McKee-approved character arc, rather than genuine change in a recognizable human being. There's even a moment in the third act where he's asked what his final objective is, and he replies "Redemption." The script regularly achieves this level of crassness — one mass firing scene literally features the employees chanting "Kill the messengers," until Bingham gives a crowd-pleasing speech, reminiscent of a bad sports movie, telling them "Just because corporate America's lost its soul doesn't mean it can have ours! Together we can do more than persevere, we can — we must — prevail." It's also replete with dated pop culture jokes — references to J.Lo, Clubber Lang and Kajagoogoo, and ends with a horrific piece of narration from Bingham, where he concludes that he'd rather be a simple man, like his father, who sold fruit on a street corner.
There's some things to like in the earlier draft; Bingham constantly surrounds himself with TV or radio noise, which is a nice character trait, and there's a good scene where he meets another frequent flier, whose son has killed himself. The fact remains, however, that there's little-to-no crossover between the two versions despite being based on the same source material. However arrogant Reitman appears in interviews (and it's hard to deny that, even if much of the criticism that's appeared recently boils down to "his dad directed "Ghostbusters""), any anger he may or may not have over sharing credit with Turner seems fairly justified. But like we said, maybe a later draft of Turner's was closer to the finished film. As it stands, it seems like a typical case of the WGA granting credit to the first writer on an adaptation as a matter of routine, rather than as a measure of their input (it's happened many times before, Scott Rosenberg on "High Fidelity" being one example that stands out — but the WGA always favors those that filled those initial blank pages and in many ways, their thinking isn't off).
The pair are set to share a stage for a Q&A, sponsored by the WGA, on Sunday, and it'll be fascinating to find out what happens there — will the two writers graciously confirm and acknowledge each others input, or will it be a no-holds-barred cage match for the right to give the first speech at the Oscars? One will assume if tensions exist they'll keep a lid on them and remain civil. We're curious either way. [ed. must note, whatever you think of "Up In The Air," the script was one of the best ones we read all year]
Breaking: Judge Rules Roman Polanski Must Come To The U.S. For Sentencing; Director Working On 'Gods Of Carnage'
Wow, well, he had asked and hoped to be sentenced in absentia, and even his victim, Samantha Geimer and her lawyers had joined Roman Polanski's lawyers, in their bid to have the director sentenced in absentia and reduced to time served, but no go.
A Los Angeles judge has ruled that Polanski must return to the U.S. to be sentenced in his three-decade-old, unlawful sex case.
But, the Superior Court judge's ruling today is likely to be appealed. More as this develops, but likely not more today wethinks.
In the meantime, as his legal woes continue, the director already has another project on the go. According to an Interview with Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, in French Elle magazine, while under house arrest in his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, the director had started work on an adaptation of a play called , "God of Carnage." According to the L.A. Times:
"God of Carnage" won the award for best play at last year's Tony Awards. Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, the dark comedy tells the story of two sets of parents brought together by an altercation between their respective children.Sounds pretty interesting, no other details, but its early days, Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" comes out first in February.
Seigner recently worked with Reza on the playwright's film directorial debut, "Chicas," which is an adaptation of her play "Une Piece Espagnole" ("A Spanish Play").
Btw, in case you missed these related features:
The Best Films of the Year [ed. picks only]
The Worst Films of the Year
The Most Underrated Films of the Year
The Most Disappointing & Overrated Films of the Year
The Breakthrough Performances of the Year
The Dumbest Projects Announced This Year
If this is indeed Joaquin Phoenix's last film role, then what a way to go. In easily his best role to date, he inhabits the role Leonard, an emotionally shattered man, awkwardly trying to put his pain behind him and uneasily looking to find love again. To that end, he becomes ensnared by two women, the wilder Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the patient Sandra (Vinessa Shaw). Both excited and confused by these women, Leonard is a rollercoaster of emotion and is by turns outgoing and withdrawn, confident and dismissive. But it's Phoenix's utterly brilliant performance that captures Leonard's complexity that makes it so fascinating. As for the completely undersung director James Gray, he is in such command of the camera here it's utterly breathtaking. The film is imbued with such beautifully understated sequences – Sandra's confession and the restaurant scene with Elias Koteas are particular standouts – that they are practically film classes in and of themselves. As with many of our favorite films this year, this is one doesn't revel in histrionics or big emotional scenes (when it so easily could), but heart-wrenchingly explodes with small moments, hesitant words and desperate longing.
The beach serves as a powerful setting in German filmmaker Christian Petzold's sophomore feature, a modern reimagining of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." In scenes rife with physical intensity, Benno Fürmann plays Thomas, a striking Adonis of a man, hulking and authoritative, completely opaque and an emotional blank slate. Dishonorably discharged by the military, he soon finds a job working for Turkish immigrant Ali (Hilmi Sözer), and later has an affair with his wife Laura, played by the great young actress Nina Hoss (who is quickly gaining cache as one of world cinema's most skilled actresses). Both native Germans, Thomas and Laura find themselves shamed by their relationship to the wealthy outsider Ali, a kind of resent which spurns a cultural and class-based conflict that informs many of the picture's wordless stretches. Dialogue may be minimal throughout and the plot as simple as they come, but just the way Petzold positions his subjects within a frame says more about them and is more piercing than any other gestures could be.
"Five Minutes Of Heaven"
Briefly buzzed about early in 2009 for James Nesbitt's performance, the film was acquired by IFC and then pretty much dumped into a very limited theatrical run/On Demand release, never letting the film find the audience it should have (we ended up seeing it on a plane). But the film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel ("Downfall," "The Experiment"), certainly deserves better than being watched on a seven inch screen while waiting desperately for the drink cart to come around. This taut, nervy thriller about a man who gets the chance to meet the man who killed his brother in the religious battles of 1970s Belfast is an unflinching look at the toll of guilt, vegeance and anger that lies in the wake of terrorism. Featuring a blistering performance by Nesbitt, who is matched by a surprisingly dialed down Liam Neeson, this is one that shouldn't be missed.
"The Limits of Control"
This methodically paced, slow burn minimalist masterpiece left a lot of critics confounded or indifferent, which is a crime, because Jim Jarmusch's immersive exploration of process, inspiration and creative focus is one of the year's most singular and satisfying films. Following a hitman on a mysterious, slowly unfolding mission, Jarmusch is less interested in plot intricacies that delving into the ritual of the task at hand. Loaded with deadpan humor, boasting a phenomenal soundtrack (featuring Boris, Sunn O))) and Earth) and graced with inspired lensing by Christopher Doyle (the closing shot is genius), "The Limits Of Control" is zen perfection.
Korean-American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung film takes on a major conflict: the Rwandan genocide. And depending on your opinion of Terry George's "Hotel Rwanda," "Munyurangabo" may be the first narrative film to capture the lingering spirit of the conflict in a realistic and honest way. About a young Tutsi boy, an orphan of the genocide, who vows to avenge his parents with the help of Hutu friend, the duo are immediately sidetracked by Sangwa's decision to stop and visit his family. The film then unexpectedly stalls, and an examination of the lasting prejudices between Hutus and Tutsis becomes central, as does the complex dynamic between the members of an impoverished Rwandan family. Chung's deft compositional sense, deliberate pace and sympathetic rendering of youthful characters stifled by a harsh culture and familial expectation is sublime. However, the real masterstroke here is a long-form, single-take poem – a moment in the film where fiction and non-fiction blur.
If you didn't think that Steven Soderbergh’s gonzo whistleblower farce was deliberately goofy and tongue-in-cheek, just listen to Marvin Hamlish’s score for God’s sakes. But at some point, the tale of a spineless agriculture executive turned equally spineless spy (a superb Matt Damon), turns into something darker and more psychologically complex – a portrait of a man dealing with mental illness. When the movie makes that switch (via its outstanding, and rare use of great voice over – the unreliable narrator), the entire movie shifts gears and becomes even more brilliant. "The Informant!" is proof that even Soderbergh’s "lesser" (ie. more populist) films require deeper consideration and multiple viewings.
It's easy to see why Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's followup to their critically acclaimed debut "Half Nelson" didn't make the splash it should have. Misleadingly sold as a baseball movie, that's only telling the half the story. Yes, while the first half of the film does concern the trials and tribulations of Dominican ball players trying to make it to the big show, the second act shift (which confounded many critics) opens up the film into a brave and honest look at the promise and compromises of the American dream. Fleck and Boden's film brilliantly finds the common values that binds immigrants, Middle America and big city dreamers and makes the case that the nation has more than enough room – and heart – for us all.
Fuck "Avatar," "Precious" and "Up In The Air" — this is the best of film of the year. Jane Campion's breathtaking, gorgeous and deliriously romantic tale about the chaste affair between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne knocked our socks off. Bolstered by a star-making turn by the sublime Abbie Cornish, Campion's film miraculously transmits the passion and desire of two characters who by circumstance and stature are unable to spend very much time together, but who regardless, fall madly, deeply in love. Featuring painterly cinematography by Greig Fraser and an impeccable eye for detail, Campion's lush film has been unforgivably overlooked by both critics and audiences and deserves so much better. And jeers to Sony for shafting the film even more by giving it a DVD only release, when its gorgeous vistas practically scream for BluRay.
Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn's 7th film hit some of us like a lightning bolt from heaven; it positively electrified us. The true-life tale of small time hooligan Michael Peterson (Tom Hardy) who spent 30 of his 34 years in prison locked in solitary confinement. Assuming the name of his favorite vengeful action hero and occasionally taking part in underground fighting rings beating up gypsies and dogs, he is a larger than life character through-and-through. But this isn't a movie where the performance outweighs the movie because, under the sure-handed direction of Winding Refn (of the "Pusher" trilogy), he transforms it into a performance art piece of violence and destruction. Rarely is mayhem this stylish and emotionally satisfying.
Just thinking about how this movie, a gorgeously rendered historical epic with a total running time of 280 minutes, was truncated to a mere 148 minutes and dumped On Demand and X-Box Live at the time of its theatrical release, is enough to ruffle any respectable film fan's feathers. This movie deserved the biggest screen around. But none of its release hiccups could dilute the impact of the original big daddy version of John Woo's finest film in more than a decade. Too complicated to properly describe; it's an embarrassment of riches (and solidifies our mancrush on Tony Leung). Hopefully this signals a return-to-form for the Hong Kong director and not a one-shot anomaly. Please, no more "Paycheck" films.
Without the weight of a major studio or big indie behind it (the new, tiny but awesome Oscilloscope have picked it up) "The Messenger" has been criminally overlooked this awards season. If "The Hurt Locker" took audiences right into the heat and chaos of Iraq, this film bravely brings us face to face with the difficulties that lie in the war's wake on the home front. Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster play officers who must notify the families of slain soldiers while preventing the job from becoming too personal. The directorial debut by writer Oren Moverman ("I'm Not There," "Jesus' Son") is wonderfully organic, allowing Harrelson and Foster to give two of the finest performances we saw all year. Moving, powerful and thoughtful, "The Messenger" is a reminder that long after the battle has left the Middle East it will continue to have repercussions here at home.
Austrian Gotz Spielmann's "Revanche" is a slow burning revenge saga that avoids the rhythms of, say, a Coen Brothers thriller, and favors a more meditative pace (especially in its last act), patiently observing its protagonist in the throes of moral crisis. But not everything in "Revanche" is so heady: it's also a film of nerve-racking suspense, and one that uses a voyeuristic device similar to that in Florian Henckel von Donnersmark's "The Lives of Others" to both give insight into these characters and to build an overwhelming tension that earns a satisfying climax. Though slightly longwinded, the striking composition of nearly every frame, communicates an undeniable sense of loneliness and isolation. "Revanche" is one of the most accomplished films of the year from a very promising (and relatively new) international talent (and earned the attention of the folks over at Criterion, who will be issuing the film on DVD/BluRay next month).
"Princess and the Frog"
Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” was a better musical than “Nine” and a better movie about the underprivileged female black experience in America than “Precious.” Also, it had a lot of voodoo, which both of those movies sorely lacked. A glorious return to traditional 2-D animation, Ron Clements and John Musker’s beautiful, under-seen gem hit all the right notes in a jazzy update of the classic “Frog Prince” fairy tale set in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Between the catchy-as-fuck Randy Newman songs and the spritely animation, it was hard not to fall in love with this handcrafted fable, as dazzling and engaging as any work of computer generated trickery.
Frederick Wiseman's almost three-hour-long ballet documentary "Le Danse," which became kind of hynoptic art by the end, and "Paper Heart" which most people seemed to loathe — it ended up on a lot of Worst Films of the year lists — but it's actually pretty charming and funny in spots and nothing really worth hating on. Hell, many — if not 80-90% — of the picks in our editor's Best Films of 2009 list were definitely overlooked and underrated so be sure to revisit that list as well. — Kevin Jagernauth, Drew Taylor, Sam Mac & RP
Sometimes, formula material, when handled by some decent talent, can still be turned into something charming and winning. You don't have to look much further than Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart," a project originally envisioned as a made-for-TV vehicle that was picked up, dusted off and spit-shined into an Oscar contender. It's by no means a highly original or even spectacular film, but its homespun, lived in feel, coupled with solid performances by the cast, turned it into a small, enjoyable film. "Extraordinary Measures" is the flipside to that equation. While it boasts the talents of Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser and is based on a pretty amazing true story, it's so routinely executed, you can practically sense the actors waiting for the director to yell cut so they can get on with their lives.
As the first theatrical release for the fledgling CBS Films, it frankly feels like something we'd find on the network station on a Saturday afternoon. This attempt at a feel good weepie (that is so manipulative it actually ends up being even more emotionally stifling) is about John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) who, facing the impending death of two of his three children from the incurable Pompe disease, tracks down the leading researcher Dr. Robert Stonehill (a cranky Harrison Ford) to see what he can do save his kids. When Stonehill tells him he needs money for research, Crowely quits his job, starts a biotech with Stonehill, sells it to a big pharma company, and they develop a drug that manages to prolong his kids' lives. All within a span of one year. Pretty remarkable huh?
Not if you're director Tom Vaughan. The auteur behind "What Happens In Vegas" and "Starter For 10" is so busy moving the picture along from episodic plot point to episodic plot point, that he fails to really convey how utterly incredible it is that this guy managed to accomplish this feat in such a short amount of time. Even more, because the material is so rote, there is absolutely no dramatic tension. We know that we're going to get our happy ending so any obstacles, which all happen to be fairly trivial anyway, are just momentary distractions to keep us from leaving the theater altogether.
There frankly isn't much else to talk about with the picture. Fraser and Ford are pretty much on autopilot here, though Ford is kind of enjoyable in his grouchy curmudgeon mode. But, the supporting cast seems to try and rally to make something of the material they're given. Keri Russell fleshes out a pretty thankless role as sidekick to Fraser/suffering mother, while Jared Harris has fun with a much sleazier (and American) version of the character he plays on "Mad Men". Even Courtney Vance in his very brief screen time, injects more heart into the project that the leads do for nearly two hours.
A couple of days ago it was revealed that CBS Films honcho Les Moonves came in and "saved" the film, mostly by some editing and changing the ending. Really? We shudder to think at what shape the film was in before he got his hands on it. "Extraordinary Measures" is supposed to be the launch film for this new film division, but as many have already pointed out, it feels like something you'd find on CBS TV. "Extraordinary Measures" is only notable for instilling in us no emotion at all. Clearly, it's not a good movie by any means, but it's so sterile and lifeless, it can't even work up in us the emotion to hate it on any kind of level. An even slightly more ambitious film might have addressed some of the health care issues it raises, but the movie is so single-minded in its narrative focus, it winds up being the kind of picture we've seen already a half dozen times. [D+]
JustJared has revealed (if they are indeed correct) that Bradley Cooper (who is like the comedy version of Sam Worthington these days....he's attached to everything) and Jason Segel are running neck and neck to play Cameron Diaz's love interest in "The Bad Teacher." The film is about a foul mouthed teacher (Diaz, and frankly, we're kind of excited to see her shed the squeaky clean, perky role she plays in every other rom-com), who after being dumped by her boyfriend, sets her sights on the school's model teacher.
This has some decent pedigree behind it, so we're still holding out hope that this will be one worth watching. Jake Kasdan who has a cult following thanks to "Zero Effect," is behind the camera. "The Office" writers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupinsky wrote the script which we called "enjoyably mean-spirited" though the duo are also responsible for the godawful "Year One" so we'll wait to see what sort of hilarity (or not) ends up on screen.
Shooting on the film starts next week in L.A.
Well, this is odd news. Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Nick Cassavetes (who proves that talent doesn't necessarily fall down the family tree) is in early talks to direct an "updated version" of the already thrice made "A Star Is Born."
The familiar story about wide-eyed girl dreaming of stardom who finds a helping hand from a washed out, alcoholic older leading man was first made as a drama by William Wellman in 1937 but truly became legendary when it became a musical in 1954 starring Judy Garland and directed by George Cukor. In 1976, Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson tried to repeat that success but were met with dismal results.
There are a couple of interesting things to note in this story. Firstly, the project is currently set up at Warner Brothers and you might remember that back in September, Cassavetes sued subsidiary, New Line, for kicking him out of the director's chair of "Elephant Orphanage." We guess WB and New Line don't talk to each other, or the case is now water under the bridge.
Secondly, this is still being eyed as a razzle dazzle, A-list starring musical. Names like Beyonce, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Jon Hamm and Robert Downey Jr. are being eyed for the potential leading roles. Have WB not looked across the lot at the financial disaster is "Nine"? They must really like the script by Will Fetters (whose only credit right now is on the forthcoming Robert Pattinson drama "Remember Me"....yeesh) to be keeping this project in development.
We're a little surprised that another studio is giving the star-studded musical another shot, especially since audiences showed indifference to "Nine." While it's based on proven material (albeit, material that fans of Rihanna won't be familiar with in the least) the Weinsteins probably thought the same thing they decided to greenlight the stage version of "Nine" into a film.
Whatever you might think of her acting choices of late ("(500) Days Of Summer," "The Happening," "Yes Man," "Gigantic") Zooey Deschanel is blessed with a great voice. If she ever decides to quit acting, she'll definitely fall another career to keep her going. Luckily, she doesn't have to choose one over the other, and luckily for us, she seems to be dedicated just as much time to her "side project" as she does her day job.
Teaming with M. Ward and dubbing themselves She & Him, the duo released their first album "Volume One" back in 2008 to some acclaim. The laid back set of tunes found a middle ground between folk, country and classic girl group sounds for a breezy album of laid back pop. Since then, they've made appearances on various soundtracks with exclusive tracks including "(500) Days Of Summer" and "The Go-Getter."
Well, we're happy to report that set of songs, "Volume Two," is slated for release on April 5th courtesy of Merge Records. A sneak peek of the album has arrived with "In The Sun" hitting the web. The song finds the duo in familiar form and backed on vocals by Tilly & The Wall. We dig it. Full tracklist and song below:
She & Him "Volume Two" tracklist
"In the Sun"
"Don't Look Back"
"Ridin' In My Car"
"Me and You"
"Gonna Get Along Without You Now"
"I'm Gonna Make It Better"
"Over It Over Again"
"Brand New Shoes"
"If You Can't Sleep"
"In The Sun" by She & Him
"Up In The Air" director Jason Reitman — saddled with a bit of script credit controversy of late — stopped by Bill Simmons' podcast over at ESPN yesterday to discuss topics like the Golden Globes, his reaction when "Avatar" won, Clooney vs. Bridges 2010, and what NBA coach he would most equate his directing style to.
For those of you (probably a lot) who aren't familiar with Simmons, he is primarily a sports columnist (ESPN, duh) but in his podcasts he often tends to talk about movies and television with critics, actors, and whoever else he decides to bring on. (The guy loves "The Wire." So at least you know he has decent taste.)
During the 60-minute podcast, Reitman touched on some interesting points that we haven't heard him discuss anywhere else.
For one, he talked about how the role of Ryan Bingam was written for Clooney, but that he had a surprising back up choice if the A-lister turned down the role: Comedian Steve Martin.
"[If it wasn't] George, I would have completely rewritten the role and made it much more like 'Lost In Translation' was for Bill Murray. That was my backup plan." We enjoyed the Clooney version but Martin in a role like that would be intriguing to say the least. Reitman also hinted at his next projects. While he didn't go into too much detail, he did mention two sports projects, one a football project and one a hockey film.
"I'm actually about to start writing my next screenplay next week...I've got a book that I'm adapting. I've got a 5 day trip planned to Palm Springs to write."This is likely his adaptation of Joyce Maynard's new coming of age novel, "Labor Day," which Reitman confirmed in December of 2009 would be his next project (though it already looked like it was next).
"I'm working on a football movie. This football idea is a strange one. It doesn't even take place in modern football and it's based on a short story."This is very likely the football project, "Whispers in Bedlam" that was announced in the trades earlier this year as part of his new Right of Way Films production shingle. As /Film thoroughly noted, this is a project based on story by Irwin Shaw and written by Matt Spicer and Max Winkler — Spicer is one of the co-writers of "The Adventure's Handbook" and the upcoming film, "Ceremony" starring Uma Thurman and Michael Angarano and directed by Winkler. It's a comedy about a football player with hearing problems who receives experimental surgery and finds himself suddenly able to hear everyone talking from far distances.
I also have an idea for a referee hockey movie. Honestly, 'Slapshot' makes hockey movies difficult. Like 'Bull Durham' does for baseball or 'Hoosiers' and 'White Men Can't' Jump do for basketball.The hockey idea is definitely something we've never heard before (and to our knowledge never reported). From what he mentioned, while in Palm Springs he is going to hole himself up in a hotel and get as much writing done as possible. He also said that he just sold another project yesterday that he wasn't at liberty to talk about.
The hockey movie doesn't surprise us (he is Canadian after all) and they joked that the football movie would be "Leatherheads 2" but we're sure he will do something much more interesting with the genre. He obviously has a lot on his plate in the near future, but "Labor Day" does look like his next directing gig which is good, because it's definitely in his wheel house.
So, back to Cameron and "Avatar." Was he pissed? Nope, but he does throw someone else under the bus. “I was under the impression that he (Cameron) would win director and Avatar would win picture. I went back and watched it and I didn’t think I looked that weird. Quentin looked just as, if not more mad than me. I think he thought he had more of a chance to win.”
You can check out the entire podcast over at Simmons' blog here.
All are from noted directors with strong previous works and have intriguing plots and themes that could be either revelatory or disastrous, depending on their execution. If for no other reason, consider this piece as an effort of awareness, alerting you to films and filmmakers that should certainly at least be on your radar. (Note: any films we've already seen at film festivals won't be on this list — no one's trying to slight Bong Joon-Ho, Claire Denis or Bruno Dumont. Those are another piece).
We've finally hit late January, but the worst may not be over for the film-going public. If fact, it's just quite the opposite. Maybe the studios just assume that people don't want to leave their homes in the bone-numbing cold, but people seem to be able to withstand blizzards and mudslides to pack the house for "Avatar." Of the new releases, "Legion" is tracking the strongest, but after the Golden Globes wins on Sunday, James Cameron should easily remain king of the box-office. In fact, this is one of the worst new release weekends on record. It's pitiful out there, be careful (unless you happen to be in a limited release city, see below).
In Wide Release: Harrison Ford follows up his frighteningly robotic performance at the Golden Globes with director Tom Vaughn's (the underrated "Starter for 10") "Extraordinary Measures." Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell co-star as a successful couple who put their careers aside when two of their children are diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness; teaming up with Ford's scientist character to find the cure. The first project from CBS Films looks and sounds like a TV disease-of-the-week movie with the exception of the two megawatt leads. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 26%, while over at Metacritic we get a score of 46. Our review, soon, but no doubt, it's boring and failure on every level.
The weekend of Paul Bettany kicks off with "Legion," the first feature from director Scott Stewart. Bettany plays the Archangel Michael, bent on saving humanity from the apocalypse with the help of a sharp blade and a shiny machine gun. Similar to "Extraordinary Measures," "Legion" also looks like a movie, albeit an original for the SYFY Channel or something. The studio isn't screening this one until the last minute, but maybe we'll have a review up later, if we can stomach it that is. The cast for this one also includes Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, and Tyrese Gibson. [ed. critic screenings were last minute. As in this morning! what does that need to tell you?]
Rounding up the wide releases is the latest in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's successful bid for kiddie stardom, "The Tooth Fairy." The studio's description pretty much says it all: "Dwayne Johnson returns to family comedy with this film that has the brawny ex-wrestler forced to be a tooth fairy. Kids and parents alike will surely giggle at the thought of The Rock in a tutu." If you really need to know more, RT tracks it at 14%, while Metacritic is much more forgiving with a score of 40.
In Limited Release: Paul Bettany returns with even more religious fun, as he takes on Darwin in "Creation." The story follows Darwin on the verge of writing "The Origin of Species" and how his ideas affect his relationship with his deeply-faithful wife Emma (played by real-life spouse Jennifer Connelly). We reviewed the film yesterday, finding that despite strong performances, it was incredibly, depressingly dull. The subject matter is fascinating though, and we'd love to see the material taken on by more capable hands. Looks like everyone got a good nap in during this one, with Rotten Tomatoes reporting a 47% rating and a 46 score from Metacritic.
Other notable limited releases this week: "The Girl on the Train," a French drama based on the true story of a young Parisian woman who lies about being the victim of an anti-semitic attack on a suburban train. Emilie Dequenne and Catherine Deneuve star in the Andre Techine helmed picture, based on a play by Jean-Marie Besset. RT gives it a 76% rating, with a 67 score from Metacritic.
Also hitting a few screens, the concert film "Leonard Cohen Live at the Isle of Wight." Showcasing a legendary performance from a true legend in from of 600,000 frenzied fans, the 1970 concert was recently released on DVD and CD and is essential viewing, especially if you're a Leonard Cohen fan (which you should be). If you can, see it on the big screen with a serious soundsystem, you won't regret it. We haven't had time to review it, but Manohla Dargis wrote a great review in the NYTimes worth reading.
Oh! and we almost forgot, "Crazy Heart" goes into wide release this weekend. It's a good shaggy dog story and definitely worth seeing and it has great music. Go see it before you see anything above in wide release. Jeff Bridges will definitely will the Oscar this year for his performance in the film, he's great (even if it will be more of a lifetime achievement award).
We haven't been clocking the "Conan The Barbarian" reboot closely or simply "Conan" as it's now known. And kinda with good reason.
Geeks are all over this for obvious reasons, nostalgia being one factor, but the talent behind this one doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Part of the reason we haven't followed closely is that it's a film directed by Marcus Nispel, a bit of a Michael Bay stooge who has thus far helmed gems like the 2003 version of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (meh) and the 2009 reboot of "Friday the 13th" (awful).
Well, Nikki Finke is now reporting that Jason Momoa has won the role of "Conan" from a project coming from Millennium Films and Lionsgate (hmm).
The only reason why we really care, and or are putting in the two minutes to report this, is because of who wasn't cast. Kellan Lutz the "Twilight" star was up for this? Jared Padalecki (from "Friday the 13th" and "Gilmore Girls")? Those two wimpy skinny looking dudes?? (ok, maybe not so skinny, but dorky looking for sure and not scary-looking or tough at all).
When those rumors were circulating around this week — and evidently they were true — the kid in us who grew up with "Conan The Barbarian," the Arnold Schwarzenegger version obviously, was practically offended. Also, anytime a "Twilight" person does not get a role, we're pretty happy because it's generally a win in the opposite direction of every creative-less studio hack that bellows, "put someone from 'Twilight in this!," anytime some major casting decision comes up.
Honestly, we have no idea who Momoa is (apparently from TV shows like ""Stargate: Atlantis," "North Shore"and "The Game"), but hell, at least the dude looks the part and looks like he'd probably kick our asses about 50 times over. That's the kinda guy you need to hire for this role.
That said, this can't possibly be good and it's probably for that niche horror/action audience that enjoyed the aforementioned Nispel projects (though when we say niche, that's not to say these movies don't make money, they do, they just don't ever access or aim for quality). Hell, even the very-flawed "X-Men: The Last Stand" by Brett Ratner was more entertaining and engaging then anything Nispel's ever made (and Ratner was obviously once part of the plan to direct this reboot).
Apparently production starts March 15 in Bulgaria. Meh, as you were, rant over.
UPDATE: Latino Review are reporting that an offer has gone out to Mickey Rourke to play the role of Corin, Conan's father, who trains him up to become a warrior. It's not a huge part — judging from a script, dated October 2009, Rourke'll be done by the end of the first reel, but we don't begrudge him cashing in a decent payday, particularly as he ended up taking the role in "Iron Man 2" for a relatively cut-price fee. Rather him than Liam Neeson playing the mentor/father figure for the 400th time... Of course, it may never come to pass — Latino Review were after all behind the Tobey Maguire in "The Hobbit" rumor, and even if it is true, Rourke may not accept the part. Keep that in mind (via Collider).
We were originally going to do two separate lists of Most Disappointing and Most Overrated films of 2009 but as we were getting it together, we realized that many of the films could have easily landed in both categories. We don't necessarily hate the films below, but these are pictures that we went into with a lot of anticipation or had pre-built buzz that ultimately left us a bit cold (some obviously more than others, read on). These are the films we wish were better, or in a few cases, or just not what their respective fanboy cults make them out to be. Hell, with a few tweaks, some of these may have ended up vying for our favorite films of the year but as it stands these one just didn't quite come together.
How can James Cameron's space epic not be the most overrated film of 2009, if not the entire decade? It's already passed the $1.5 fucking billion dollar mark worldwide and will probably sail past the "Titanic" mark for highest grossing film of all time. But c'mon people! It's simplistic, formulaic, unsophisticated and features some pretty stock characters we've seen a thousand times (with some pretty mediocre actors, hello Sam Worthington). Yes, there's no denying that "Avatar" was entertaining and sure, at times a hell of a lot of fun, but it's "Dances With Wolves" in space (and a little "Thundercats" thrown in) no matter how you slice it and ultimately, pretty conventional. The film might have done gangbusters numbers, but to quote Roger Ebert, "the year's best picture? Give me a f--king break."
"Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans"
We're not sure why this film became a cause of celebre for hipsters (other than their predictable predilection for ironic performances), but if it had gone straight-to-video and wasn't directed by Werner Herzog would anyone have even given a shit? Yes, there are some distinctly Herzog-ian camera tricks, some out-and-out WTF moments that are amusing and Nicolas Cage hasn't been this interesting in years (though when you've spent a decade making an endless string of crap anything with a gram of integrity is going to stand out). But the film itself is a uninteresting police procedural, that feels like a hastily cobbled together paycheck gig and it's so drastically uneven, the two hours it takes to watch it feels like an entire afternoon.
Clumsy, ham-fisted, sloppy, and stylistically incongruous, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is the cinematic equivalent of fingerpainting. Even the largely terrific performances (rising above racial caricature whenever possible) and the film's big-hearted sentiment can't overcome the fact that the movie is a huge fucking mess, in which merely wallowing in human misery (but never transcending it) is enough. Mercifully, the overwhelming critical support seems to have tapered off and its Oscar chances seem to be dwindling as well, but people still seem to be confusing this malicious, manipulative movie with one that's genuinely powerful.
God, we nearly pissed our pants laughing with paralytical convulsions at SXSW when we were shown 20 minutes of footage from Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to "Borat." We assumed we'd be vomit laughing when this came out, but sadly, no, "Bruno," was a deeply flawed effort, seemingly compromised from several angles (that tacked-on, feel-good ending being one) and basically like a sketch collection of a few scenes that were sadly not as funny as we all hoped. Worse than that, what moments were hilarious from the film have all but evaporated from our memory — nothing truly comedic enough to stick in our minds and quote annoyingly for months like "Borat" (and maybe that's for the best).
"Capitalism: A Love Story"
While we may not always approve of his methods (his fudging of facts to suit his arguments can be troubling at times), Michael Moore's documentaries have always been fascinating, and most importantly, found the human side of whatever issue he was tackling. When it was announced that his latest film would take dead aim at the failed banking system and housing collapse, it seemed like a perfect fit for Moore. Unfortunately, while Moore's indignation was palpable and occasionally very rousing, the film was disappointingly lacking in substance. Bereft of interviews or material from key players within the economic collapse, the documentary is pretty much a lot of furrowed brows, shrugging shoulders and tears for ninety minutes. There is a great, provocative documentary to be made from the events over the past year, but this one isn't it.
Ah, hell we should have known. While Judd Apatow's epic script for his cancer, self-discovery dramedy was hilarious and his most mature effort to date — inside it was the incredibly exciting potentially for creating a soulful, funny/sad James L.Brooks-like masterpiece — but there was always something off with that third act. The film had a stellar cast of Apatow regulars, plus new editions to the crew like Eric Bana, RZA, Aziz Ansari and Jason Schwartzman, but in execution, Apatow didn't quite know how to land his massive airship once it took such majestic flight. The exorbitantly lengthy film — it's almost impossible to sustain a 2 1/2 hour comedy — is akin to Apatow pitching seven amazing innings, but ultimately, he just didn't know how to close, and the game went far too deep into unnecessary extra innings, spoiling what led up to it. A bit of shame, cause there's some great stuff in this picture.
On paper, Michael Mann's period-piece gangster picture should have been one of the greatest movies of the year, an Academy Award contender; all of it. Heavyweights Johnny Depp and Christian Bale going toe to toe, plus an amazing cast that included Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Emilie de Ravin and Stephen Lang (just to name a few)? C'mon! But sadly, something went awry and that ineffable missing element might have been a soul, as the picture — a sprawling 2 1/2 hours — never really coalesced or came to life until the very end, but by then it was a little too late. While Mann's attention to detail is second to none, perhaps that meticulousness sidetracked him from the heart of the matter. Plus the decision to shoot a Depression-era period drama in butty-ugly digital video — hey, digital can look good, just not here — will haunt him for years.
Damn, we wanted to love this film because, even though it didn't quite work, it had so much going for it. Blessed with a beautiful score, a luminous performance by Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar's always reliable eye behind the camera, the perhaps too-complicated "Broken Embraces" still didn't fully gel. The meta-narrative, that was based around time-jumping flashbacks and various films-within-the-film never could keep up with itself and seemed to get in the way more often than allowing the story engine to move forward. Somewhere along the way, the film's story about a call girl's journey from prostitute to artistic muse, coupled with Almodovar's love letter to cinema, didn't quite resonate as deeply as we had hoped.
After coming off the apparently unsuccessful, romantic comedy, "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK," we were hoping Park Chan-Wook (the director of the critically acclaimed vengeance trilogy featuring "Oldboy") would come back with a well...a vengeance. And while his absurdist vampire romance-thriller was bloodthirsty, stylish and ambitious as all get out, it was also a bit of a wandering, muddled and confused mess. Yes, it had moments of brilliance and comedy and his trademark audacious camera doing some dazzling work, but it also felt like the South-Korean auteur was a) trying to one-up fellow countryman Bong Joon-ho and b) trying to make five films at once. While there's individual moments to admire, the spectacle of "Thirst" was otherwise largely disappointing.
"The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus"
Yeah, we know you don't believe us, but we actually wanted to this to be better than it was. Terry Gilliam's wildly ambitious tale about a deal with the Devil gone awry never quite recovered after its lead, Heath Ledger, passed away. While Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law do an admirable job of pinch hitting, Gilliam's last minute script save just doesn't work. Overly long, oddly paced, and most unforgivably, saddled with unmemorable visuals, "The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus" was a wheezy, creaky duct tape job to a film that was probably more irreparably damaged with Ledger's passing than the filmmakers wanted to admit. Again, we know you don't believe us, but we're still rooting for Gilliam and we know he's capable of much better. — Kevin Jagernauth, Drew Taylor & RP