Here is the first poster for Tim Blake Nelson's stoner-dramedy "Leaves Of Grass," starring the likes of Edward Norton, Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Melanie Lynskey, Susan Sarandon and Blake Nelson himself.
The film centers on an Ivy League professor (Norton) who is lured back to his Oklahoma hometown, where his twin brother (again, Norton), a small-time pot grower, has concocted a scheme to take down a local drug lord (Dreyfuss).
We saw the film at TIFF last year and described it as a "pot comedy, family identity drama, anti-semitism commentary, violent drug thriller and intolerance parable with deep philosophical themes" that was "a complex, very well-written philosophical Greek tragedy that was at times unexpectedly hyper violent, at times hilarious and also involved a love story." Simply put, brace yourself, it's more than just a light comedy.
But perhaps it's that complexity that has led to the film's downfall. Originally set for a Christmas Day release last year (or so it said on Myspace anyhow), the film has either been delayed or had the smallest of theatrical releases ever. Box Office Mojo doesn't even have any recollection of the film.
The project is also already up for pre-order on DVD at Amazon via First Look Pictures (their biggest release in recent years was "Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans" which was never on more than 35 screens at one time if we recall correctly — currently it's on 28 across the U.S.). Could this actually be going straight-to-DVD? The April 20th DVD release date pretty much leaves no turn-around time so it sounds like a real possibility — which is tragic for a project with such talented actors involved and a performance by Norton we found remarkable (you won't find much reference to it on the First Look Pictures site either). Norton even signed on as a producer to help the film gain financial backing for friend Blake Nelson, his "Incredible Hulk" co-star.
So, is this actually the video store poster? Or maybe a DVD cover? Either way, it'll be a damn shame for a film of this caliber to end up rotting away on video store shelves with next to no exposure. Admittedly, it's a bit weird, like five films rolled into one and many of the TIFF audience we saw it with had no clue what to make of it — it's not really a mainstream film. But certainly it deserves a much better fate than this.
Poster For Tim Blake Nelson's 'Leaves Of Grass' Starring Edward Norton, Film Going Straight-To-DVD On April 20th?
Here is the first poster for Tim Blake Nelson's stoner-dramedy "Leaves Of Grass," starring the likes of Edward Norton, Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Melanie Lynskey, Susan Sarandon and Blake Nelson himself.
So far, we've been led every different way by every different party regarding the production of Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows." Producer Graham King has now added more fuel to the fire, and we've just about given up.
King first made headlines when he told everyone that shooting on the project was going to start in the fall after Burton noted a 2010 start last year. Now, in a new interview with Collider, King has kind of back peddled on that statement.
"Just working on scripts," the producer revealed. "I know that Johnny is dying to do it and passionate to do it and I think working on getting the screenplay right. I mentioned to somebody in New York at a junket on 'Young Victoria' that I would love to do it in the Fall but who knows, and then suddenly it’s all over the Internet that we’re shooting it in the Fall. That’s not the case. We don’t have a script yet."
Right, he just mentioned it casually offhand when he corrects a reporter and said at the time, "We're actually going to shoot that film next September/October with Tim Burton and Johnny."
About the script he said, "We've been working on the script a lot, even though he's working on Alice, we've been given a script. John August wrote the first screenplay. We're making some changes, but the film's going to be in production, as I say, September or October of next year."
Clearly those ambiguous statements are all the Internet's fault. Last time, he clearly mentioned John August's script that sounded just a touch-up away and perhaps now he's realizing the script was never that good? Or Perhaps Depp and Burton didn't love it as much as he did. But he's learned his lesson about speaking too soon, yes? Not really.
"I think if we can get the script right hopefully we can…they’ll do 'Dark Shadows' later this year. So we’ll see what happens. Johnny’s doing 'The Tourist' for me [shooting begins late Feb in Venice] and then I think he’s doing another movie ['Pirates 4'] and then hopefully 'Dark Shadows.' It’s all scheduling you know?"
Le sigh...Depp recently said as much at a Serbian press conference. The actor said he was doing another film with Burton later this year before teaming with Emir Kusturica for the Pancho Villa biopic next year, so perhaps King is just trying to manage expectations in case something happens, but clearly he's less optimistic than he was (perhaps the dollars aren't all in place yet, because 'Pirates 4' is probably already mapped out scheduling wise).
King also goes on to discuss Bruce Robinson's Depp-starrer "The Rum Diary" which is in the "late stages of post." A recent test screening for the film took place which King describes as going "really good. The audience loved the movie. And it’s an amazing vibe in there and a great atmosphere. I loved it, so I think this is going to be really special. And it’s not just a movie for Hunter Thompson fans. It’s not 'Fear and Loathing.' I think this has got a commercial appeal. Johnny’s just terrific in it."
Is that a slight on Gilliam's film? Which sure, was a bit of a bomb at the time, but has definitely achieved cult-canon status shortly thereafter. So "Dark Shadows" shooting in 2010? File under: yes, maybe, possibly, or not.
Damn, this is funny and pretty much speaks for itself. Some genius used the theme song to "The Sopranos" and mixed it in with James Gandolfini's dialogue from the show and moments from "Where The Wild Things Are" (Gandolfini did the voice of the 'Wild Things' creature Carol unless you've been living under a rock). It's NSFW, but it's Friday and shit, it's a riot. Good stuff.
Brittany Murphy's reputation-challenged husband Simon Monjack revealed exclusively to the Daily Beast earlier this week that he was in the final stages of preparing a wrongful death suit against Warner Brothers for the tragic death of his wife. While it's still unclear what caused the cardiac arrest of the 32-year old actress, Monjack claims it was brought on by stress when WB fired her from the currently in development "Happy Feet 2." Of course, there are others who say the dozen or so painkillers, antidepressants and anxiety medications in her bedroom can't be ignored either.
Well, a WB spokesperson has responded to Monjack in a very clear, very pointed statement:
Any claim that Warner Bros Pictures was somehow responsible for Brittany Murphy's tragic death is demonstrably false, reprehensible, and defamatory.With the ball now back in Monjack's court and with the game looking pretty much decided, we hope he drops his plans to pursue this. While we didn't get into the he said/she said of Monjack's not quite sterling rep in Hollywood, its certainly not helping the perception that he's a litigious gold digger by filing such a seemingly frivolous suit against a major studio. While Murphy wasn't an icon, she was a talented actress who, in her very brief career, was lucky enough to be part of a small, solid number of very good films. She never complained or turned around and talked smack about the people she worked with (a lesson Katherine Heigl might want to learn) but kept her head down and worked. If Monjack wants to best serve his departed wife, he will let her rest in peace.
Despite press reports to the contrary, Warner Bros Pictures and Ms Murphy never entered into any deal for "Happy Feet 2", and thus, there was not a contract to cancel.
We're not copyright lawyers or anything, but whoever owns the rights to the "The A-Team" may have a strong case for a lawsuit after viewing the trailer to "The Losers." The very idea of the film is exactly the same: members of a CIA special ops group, betrayed and left for dead, decide to hunt down whoever set them up. The only thing missing in this trailer is a van they all travel around in. And before nerds start clogging up our comments section, yes, we know it's based on a graphic novel, but that doesn't make the concept any more original.
One of the Playlist members noted that at the very least, this looks better than the forthcoming "The A-Team" — but just barely. While it doesn't have any ridiculously stupid set pieces involving tanks shooting down planes in midair, it is just as loud and dumb. The sexy babe factor is up a slight quotient (though truth be told, "The A-Team" marketing department hasn't quite cashed in their Jessica Biel chips and there is still plenty of time to go), but the amount of gunfire and guys smiling and practically high-fiving each other as shit blows up is pretty much the same.
Our hopes were never high to begin with on this one, director Sylvain White, best known for the cinematic gem "Stomp The Yard" and the straight-to-DVD "I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer," seems all too willing to crib from other films. The glossy trailer seems to be a pretty obvious hybrid of "Ocean's Eleven" aesthetic style and "Smokin' Aces" smirking shock-and-awe. The cast — Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan,
Stringer Bell Idris Elba, Jason Patric — are a lot of "hey, I know that guy" actors who are talented, and deserve better than this.
"The Losers" opens on April 9th, but we'll just wait one more week and see "MacGruber" instead.
Michel Gondry has pretty good taste in music, as evinced by the myriad of music videos he's directed (Radiohead, Bjork, etc.) and the always interesting musical choices he's had in his films — Jon Brion, Beck ('Eternal Sunshine'), an odd cover of the Velvet Undergound ("Science of Sleep"), composer Étienne Charry ("Interior Design"), the R&B and soul of "Block Party", the jazz and Fats Waller from "Be Kind Rewind," etc.
And yes, it's an action adventure movie ostensibly and therefore likely requires something a little different from what's listed above, but we're rather disappointed to learn that Gondry is going with the fairly conventional choice of Danny Elfman for "The Green Hornet."
One of the first superstar composers, as it were, or one of the few composers pleebs can generally name if asked, Elfman's been grandfathered in by geeks as having godhead composer status, but he actually hasn't made a score we've cared for in almost two decades. Yes, his work for "Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure" and the first few Tim Burton films was fun, but the clowny vibe, haunts his every work.
Suffice to say, it's probably not an overstatement to say he's perhaps the most overrated composer working today. Or maybe it's just that geek film sites do backflips and hoorays every time his name is mentioned in conjunction with any movie. Either way, yes, you need something upbeat, dramatic and not off-the-beaten path for super-hero film like, "The Green Hornet," but didn't Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg promise something different and much more of a buddy film?
We still have faith in Gondry, but we're not very jazzed to hear about this announcement, which makes the film sound rather orthodox and by-the-numbers action. It's probably why we didn't put it in our Most Anticipated Films of 2010 feature and instead, cautiously placed it in the Most Anticipated 2010 Popcorn Films; we're not quite convinced it's not just going to be "Gondry doing tentpole," which yes, will be above average interesting, but...
The picture also stars Tom Wilkinson, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos and the great Christoph Waltz of “Inglourious Basterds,” playing the villain that Nicolas Cage turned down (a scary thought). The film arrives in theaters December 22, 2010, let's hope Diaz and Elfman don't ruin it.
It's Friday again, but dear god, this is one of the worst weekends for film releases on record.
We expect your hopes aren't too high that it will mark an end to the cinematic drought of the last few weeks. 'Avatar,' barring an unforeseen disaster effecting only IMAX theaters, will maintain its status at the top of the box-office. We're interested to see how Mel Gibson's comeback vehicle fares, but mainly because he has quite a few projects in works in the near future, both as star and director. This week is absolutely bereft of new movies to see in theaters. If you do make it out to the movies this weekend — and hopefully you're not on the ice frigid East Coast or worse, in New York — do yourself a favor and see something that has expanded into wide release (may we recommend "A Single Man" or "Crazy Heart") or go to your local indie theater (here's to hoping you actually have one) and support something that only hits in small limited release. Otherwise your options are downright dismal. You've been warned.
In Wide Release: Marking his first starring role since 2002's "Signs," Mel Gibson returns tail-between-legs with "Edge of Darkness." Remaking his own BBC miniseries, "Casino Royale" director Martin Campbell directs this story of a Boston detective searching for his daughter's killer. Trying to capitalize on the success of last year's similar "Taken," a solid box office performance would bode well for Gibson's aggressive comeback attempt. We reviewed the film yesterday, finding it a must for Gibson devotees only. Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the movie a 59% rating while Metacritic chimes in with a 54 score which is far, far more generous than we were. To us it should be sitting around the 30% mark [ed. I personally loathed it].
"Ghost Rider" and "Daredevil" director Mark Steven Johnson tries his hand at romantic comedy with "When In Rome." Kristen Bell stars as an unlucky-in love New Yorker who travels to Italy where she steals coins from a fountain of love, causing several suitors to woo her aggressively. We got a chance to check out the movie recently and found it to be a poorly executed, relentlessly stupid rom com. RT gives the film a miserable 11% rating while Metacritic is slightly more optimistic with a 30 score.
In Limited Release: Steve Buscemi headlines the black comedy "Saint John of Las Vegas." Peter Dinklage and Sarah Silverman co-star in the film, about a former Vegas blackjack champion drawn back into the world he's left behind. We caught the film earlier this week and found its contrived awkwardness to be trying too hard and overly obvious, despite a great cast. The buzz on this one has been virtually non-existent and the reviews don't look like they are going to change that. Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a rating of 7% with a Metacritic score of 27.
In deeper limited release there's "Bass Ackwards" and "For My Father" with middling to non-existent reviews and "North Face" and "Off & Running" with great reviews, but we weren't invited to any of them, so we have, "no dog in this race" as Mel Gibson loves to aggressively and fondly say.
Lastly, there's the documentary about R&B singer Bill Withers titled, "Still Bill" which we saw at SXSW last year and generally enjoyed. If you're a Withers fanatic, it's a must see, for others, a interesting curiosity and perhaps something for Netflix when it arrives.
Ok, they may have pushed back their first official movie of the year back until August ("Pirahnna 3D" — "Youth In Revolt" came out in January, but was a 2009 film that was pushed so it doesn't count) and those signs point to the belly going up, but the Weinstein Company, who actually did just get more financing assistance recently, are still going at it and not going down without a fight.
Are they done? Well, if so, no one told director Derek Cianfrance (or the producers of the film who also lead, "Half Nelson") because TWC just picked up his romantic drama, "Blue Valentine," starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams which was a pretty big hit at Sundance this year (and some of the Twitter reactions from notable critics were pretty damn breathless, Movieline's Stu VanAirsdale being one of the few critics we like thinking the exact opposite).
Wouldn't it be ironic if "Blue Valentine" came out before "All The Good Things," another TWC/Ryan Gosling film with Kirsten Dunst that has been sitting on the shelf for over a year. The film, a staggering 12 years in the making, apparently was sold for a low-seven-figure deal.
No release date on this one yet, but considering the buzz, we would imagine sometime later this year in the fall. Though, you'll recall it was reported for a Spring 2010 release date late last year, so maybe that will still be the case? Can TWC move that fast these days?
As Sundance winds down, other buys have been announced. The personal familial documentary, "Family Affair" has been acquired by OWN, the recently announced Oprah Winfrey Network distribution company and "Contracorriente" ("Undertow") directing by Peruvian helmer Javier Fuentes-Leon has been bought by Wolfe Releasing.
Also, apparently TWC are close to acquiring the documentary, "The Tillman Story." Just when you think they're dead in the water, they still seem to have lots of fight in them. We hope these films have better lives than things like, "The Janky Promoters" with Ice Cube that was ditched straight-to-DVD last year and "Shanghai" with John Cusak which has been sitting around now for what feels like two years now.
You'll recall that it's James Franco, not Ryan Gosling as once rumored, who took the lead role in Danny Boyle's "127 Hours," the true story about mountain climber Aron Ralston who was trapped on a hiking trip by a boulder and was forced to amputate the bottom half of his own arm in order to survive.
That Fox Searchlight project is scheduled to start filming in March in Utah. It's basically a one-man show and may have incredibly long stretches with no dialogue of Franco alone on a mountain, but there are a few other people in the story, as in Ralston's girlfriend and the family that finds him once he's finally come down from the mountain (not a spoiler, you read the news and now how this famous incident went).
Well, could the girlfriend be played by Katie Featherston, the lead female in Oren Peli's "Paranormal Activity"? This morning she tweeted that she had an audition with Danny Boyle (via /Film). There's no other details and it's just audition, surely countless other people will do the same for the role, but it's interesting to note.
Of course what role she'll play and if it's the girlfriend is total speculation on our part, we don't know the story that well, but Ralston is married so presumably they were together when his 2003 accident happened? Not sure, but we'll keep an eye on this one though and see where it goes.
You'll recall a few short weeks ago, "Bond" star Daniel Craig was in talks to replace Robert Downey Jr. in Jon Favreau's upcoming adaptation of "Cowboys & Aliens."
Well, it's happened. Downey had to side-step the role to shoot "Sherlock Holmes 2" which is trying to fast-track itself for a summer shoot (it seems like they're scrambling right now to get a script finished) which would confict with the summer shoot for "Cowboys & Aliens."
So Craig stepped into the frame and according to DHD, he's officially going take the role. The film is an adaptation of Fred Van Lente's graphic novel and revolves around cowboys and Native Americans who put aside their Old West differences to battle invading aliens. Honestly that sounds godawful to us, and not unlike something like Will Smith's "Wild Wild West" (people the West and sci-fi do not mix), but we suppose given the talent involved, maybe it will turn into something more.
The upside is with someone like Craig on board, surely they'll attract more A-list talent which will elevate the material which was written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof, who are also currently scribing the upcoming "Star Trek" sequel. Maybe it's just meant to be a fun, entertaining tentpole like that aforementioned space trekkies reboot. Wouldn't be the worst thing in the world we suppose...
'C &A' seems to have some franchise potential so it's probably a good place for Craig to place himself career wise until the next Bond movie gets worked out. It was supposed to shoot by the end of the year, but now that seems a little up in the air, because of script and MGM financial issues.
So, we reported yesterday on the casting of Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams in Sarah Polley's follow-up to "Away From Her," a romantic drama entitled "Take This Waltz" (named, of course, after the Leonard Cohen song). We've managed to nab a copy of Polley's script (which featured on the 2009 Black List), and thought we'd take a little look to see what's in store.
The film is essentially a love triangle story between a married couple and mysterious artist type who befriends the wife and then makes her begin to question everything and unsettle her mostly happy existence. Yesterday when we skimmed the script we thought Seth Rogen could possibly play either role, but having got in deeper, that's clearly not the case (though Rogen may need to put back on some of his lovable schlubby weight). Read on...but some mild spoilers ahead, but don't worry, we don't give away anything crucial or how it turns out in the end.
Filled with music cues, the script opens with Nouvelle Vague's cover of PiL's "This Is Not A Love Song" (and again many specific song references written in, from the likes of Micah P. Hinson, Feist and, of course, Cohen himself), as 28-year-old Margot (Michelle Williams) makes muffins, with an unseen man joining her as she watches them rise. The next shows "Well choreographed, familiar sex" between Margot and her husband Lou (a cookery writer, preparing a book of chicken recipes, this would be Seth Rogen's role) — a couple who clearly love each other deeply, but the early scenes we see of their relationship show an awkwardness of familiarity. Margot worries that, after five years, she has nothing to say to his husband, and they lapse into games and routines, the two breaking into an almost parental relationship, with Margot putting on a baby voice ("No one's even making me bweakfast. I m'wad at you"), or giving each other "Punch-Drunk Love"-style violent compliments ("I love you so much I'd like to inject your face with a curious combination of ebola and wine flu!").
We were a little hesitant/worried from these early scenes, which are well-drawn, genuine, and almost poetic in places, but almost over-familliar, and err towards being a little twee; the "Juno"-haters are going to have an embolism. However, the script kicks in a gear swiftly, when Margot goes on a business trip to Louisborg Fortress in Nova Scotia (she works as a literature pamphlet writer for Heritage Canada, and in many ways the ancillary stuff around the story is very Canadian). On a guided tour of the site, she meets Seth, a man the same age as her, "Dark, tousled hair. Strange and attractive" (we thought Rogen could play Seth, but this can't be it, it's much, much more a Jim Sturgess handsome, hipster-lean type). They end up sitting next to each other on the plane back, and there's an instant connection, lots of genuine flirting, laughter and butterflies in the stomach. Coincidentally — perhaps too coincidentally as story plots go — it turns out they live across the street from each other, and in the cab back, Seth tells Margot flippantly and somewhat cockily, "Oh yeah. As though we didn't just fall in love."
Margot's clearly terrified by the flirtation, as it seems to confirm her doubts about her marriage, but she can't help herself from being drawn to Seth, and they continue to meet. The two are both frustrated artists, Margot continually delaying writing her novel, Seth being a painter who's afraid to show his work to others, and they dance around each other for some time. Both of Margot's relationships are incredibly well-drawn, and the dialogue sparkles for the most part — Lou's a little less fleshed-out than Seth, although it sort of works in the context in the piece as a whole.
It's very charming initially, unexpectedly very funny, in a quiet way, which is something we didn't expect, considering the wrenchingly emotional nature of "Away From Her," so it makes more sense that Rogen's involved. But the emotional tone of the script is mostly pretty heavy — Margot loves Lou, but she's fallen in love with Seth, and as soon as she meets Seth, it becomes an impossible situation, and your heart breaks for all three leads. It's as honest and unflinching a look at people in their late '20s (there's a wonderful scene where Margot talks about her own sexuality, for example, of a kind that you rarely see) as "Away From Her" was for people in their '60s, and Polley isn't afraid to make her characters unsympathetic in places. All these thoughtful characterizations counterbalance what sounds cliche from the outset — a happy female tires of her very amiable, attentive, put perhaps average husband when allured by the mysterious, sensitive artist type next door.
It's not perfect by any means; there's a slightly redundant subplot involving Leo's sister, a recovering alcoholic, and there's a strange, "There Will Be Blood"-style time leap about 15 pages before the end which feels a bit rushed. Some will find the characters, particularly Margot, self-absorbed, but it wouldn't be an honest film about twentysomethings if it didn't show a certain amount of narcissism, now, would it? In fact, given that Polley's 31, it feels like a slightly older twentysomething reflecting back on the impetuous mistakes many of us made in our youth; given that sentiment it could really crushingly connect with a 20-30-something audience — yes, 31 isn't instant wisdom, but Polley is an old soul). But all in all, considering the cast she's assembled, and the directing chops she showed in her first films, we're eagerly awaiting the finished product on this one.
Walking out of the theater we overheard someone say "When In Rome" is "a love story ruined by total idiots" and that's actually pretty accurate. This rare PG-13 comedy from Walt Disney is, not surprisingly, a relentlessly stupid film that barely has enough juice to get the thinly scripted story to the ninety minute mark.
The plot, such as it is, follows Beth (Kristen Bell), a woman with a great job as a curator for the Guggenheim, but who doesn't believe in true love after a series of bad relationships. She goes to Italy for her sister's wedding and while there meets Nick (Josh Duhamel), a fellow New Yorker whose charm and cynicism matches her own and once again her heart flutters with possibilities as they flirt non-stop throughout the reception. But when she sees him kissing a seemingly random girl he meets late in the evening, a devastated Beth gets hammered, splashes around the famous Fountain Of Love, and fishes out a handful of coins thrown in by people looking for love hoping to save them from wasting their time trying to find The One. Unbeknownst to Beth, she unleashes a curse where the owners of the coins will now be infatuated with her. UH OH!
Beth returns to New York, once again heartbroken, and finds herself suddenly intently pursued by four would-be lovers. Lance (Jon Heder), a Criss Angel-esque magician; Gale (Dax Shepard), a self-absorbed male model; Antonio (Will Arnett), an artist, and sausage magnate Danny DeVito (and yes, there is an extended dialogue sequence which uses sausage as a double entendre ha ha ha). All four of them send endless gifts and flowers to her job, follow her around New York and generally act in a way that would have any normal woman taking out restraining orders against each of them. Among the fray is Nick, who also wants to see Beth, but through an irritating plot contrivance/misunderstanding is constantly rebuffed.
While the concept has the potential to at least be cutesy, the execution is absolutely lousy. Shot with all the subtlety of a TV sitcom, the film goes for big, broad comedy (a running gag involves Duhamel falling/running into inanimate objects) that, while not entirely shocking, is dismaying be wasting the talents of everyone involved. Heder essentially plays "Napolean Dynamite" with dyed black hair, Arnett is once again wasting away with a bit part in a fourth rate comedy, while Kristen Bell, who showed some definite comedy chops in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and the excellent TV series "Party Down," is reduced to a stock character here. We're as astounded as anyone else by saying Shephard is the only one here who delivers some genuine laughs. He has one great scene when his character is first introduced to Beth that finds the rare balance between stupid and funny, and in the rest of his appearances, he's the only one who seems to bring some freshness to the proceedings. Dax Shepard.....who would've thought? Oh, and we should note that it absolutely pains us to find Angelica Huston slumming it in a film like this.
Being the agent for director Mark Steven Johnson must be the hardest job in Hollywood, because every time this guy steps behind the camera he delivers a bomb. "Simon Birch," "Daredevil" and "Ghost Rider" are his previous three films, and he even wrote "Elektra." How on Earth is this guy still getting his name on the back of a director's chair!? Watching this, we're not even sure this guy knows how to compose a shot. The location filming in Italy is so rote, we honestly thought it was a sound stage . We're also not sure how the iconic Guggenheim, where large portions of the movie are set, looks so ordinary in this film, but we have a feeling Johnson probably isn't an art lover to begin with. We're sure Johnson will disappear again for a few years and re-emerge to helm another piece of crap. At the very least, we can be relieved he's not getting regular work.
Anyway, we're not going to bother detailing the second-half machinations that further push apart, and then bring together Beth and Nick, nor bore you with how the curse is lifted. Needless to say, it's predictable, unfunny and tedious to the point where we were getting more laughs out of the person sucking their teeth behind us at every plot development than anything happening in the film.
We're not exactly sure who this film was made for. Being a Disney movie, the comedy nowhere near approaches even a moderate level of raunch or innuendo audiences might expect from a film like this. We don't even recall hearing any cursing so the PG-13 rating is greatly misleading; this is basically a PG film with one or two slightly bawdy gags. The film is too insipid and grossly juvenile, even for the most casual of adult viewers, so we don't think it was made for them. Our only guess is that this is aimed at tween girls, and if so, it delivers an absolutely awful message. Beth, who is passionate about her job, states that the only way she will ever get married if she finds a man that she loves more than her job. Hear that girls? You can't have it all! It's either your career or a man — there's no such thing as having a successful career and relationship — but if you don't want to end up lonely and pitied, you know what the right choice is.
If there is any silver lining to all of this, we're sort of glad that this is opening in the dregs of January, where it will probably be steamrolled by "Avatar" and then eventually die a slow death on DVD. It will at least guarantee that we won't hear from Johnson or the writers behind this (and "Old Dogs") for a little while. [D]
Those who thought "Little Miss Sunshine" was all manufactured quirk and no soul had best avoid the Steve Buscemi-starring film "Saint John of Las Vegas." Actually, that advice goes for everyone. Except that woman who blocked me from the train entrance while she talked on her cell phone today. I'll even buy her some popcorn.
With names like Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, and Spike Lee attached as executive producers, "Saint John of Las Vegas" has plenty of promise. Buscemi's co-stars include "Weeds" favorite Romany Malco, Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage, and Tim Blake Nelson, so the fault doesn't lie in the cast. Instead, poor first-time director Hue Rhodes is--to quote a beloved film also starring Buscemi--out of his element. This feels like a facsimile of a successful small film, as though it were done by someone who has watched enough off-kilter comedies to understand the elements that pervade them. His script is episodic and flakier than Silverman's smiley-face-obsessed character, but it's not the only problem here. "Saint John of Las Vegas" tries too hard, from its forced awkwardness to its overly obvious palette of primary colors, designed as if by a child using the three crayons he was handed at a family restaurant.
Buscemi stars as the title character, a man who tries to escape Las Vegas and his gambling addiction by moving to Albuquerque. But even though the New Mexico city lacks slot machines, there's still the lottery, and John can still get his fix. His days are spent at Townsend Insurance, where the bright spot is his cubicle neighbor, Jill (Silverman), who has her desk, her nails, and her clothes plastered with yellow smiley faces. John wants a raise, and when he asks his boss (Dinklage) for more money, he is given more responsibility. He must tag along with Virgil (Malco) as he travels to Las Vegas to investigate a possibly fraudulent claim. Along the way, John encounters a nudist (Nelson), a man on fire (John Cho), and an accident victim, a stripper in a wheelchair named Tasty D Lite (Emmanuelle Chriqui). Of course he does.
Malco earns some of the film's few laughs, particularly in a scene that has him recreating a car crash in the middle of the desert. He can be grateful that at least this is better than "The Love Guru," but Malco is hilarious, and he deserves better than this. The rest of the supporting cast is as good as they can be under the circumstances, with Danny Trejo giving a too-brief turn as a junkyard heavy.
Buscemi has made many great films -- "Fargo," "Reservoir Dogs," "Ghost World," and even last year's little-seen, much-loved "The Messenger" -- but "Saint John of Las Vegas" will fall squarely in the "Mr. Deeds"/"Domestic Disturbance" part of his otherwise esteemed resume. He's fine here, playing a role that requires uncomfortable interactions and stares right into the camera. He's as engaging an actor as ever, but no one could save this film. There's more awkward dialogue here than at a middle-school dance, but it's not entertaining, especially when it tries to be. The film seems to be frantically waving its arms at the audience, begging for attention and affection that it doesn't deserve. [D]
Guy Pearce And Mary Louise Parker To Lead 'The Well,' Phillip Seymour Hoffman To Return To Kazuo Ohno's 'Mr Crumpacker And The Man From The Letter'
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Ziff's production company, Cooper's Town, have taken the occasion of their film "Jack Goes Boating" debuting at Sundance to announce a couple of their upcoming projects in development.
The first is "The Well," a the psychological thriller starring experienced thesps Guy Pearce and Mary Louise Parker. The two will play a well-to-do Manhattan couple whose obsessive pursuit of salvation ultimately leads to destruction. Tim Guinee will write and direct in what will be his directorial debut.
The second project will be an expansion from a project Hoffman previously participated in with writer-director Kazuo Ohno. "Mr. Crumpacker And The Man From The Letter" shot several scenes in the Sundance labs but will now grow into a full feature length film with Hoffman returning to play the titular Mr. Crumpacker, an overbearing boss who decides to go in search of the meaning of life, even though he lacks any capacity for introspection.
Other projects under the Cooper's Town umbrella going into development include an adaptation of Dean Colvard's "Mixed Emotions," a sports drama set on the cusp of the civil rights movement set within the Mississippi State University basketball team and "The Farm," the story of a Brooklyn man who finds a renewed sense of purpose when transforming his backyard into a working, urban farm that based on an article from New York Magazine and a subsequent upcoming book.
Cooper's Town's first came to together for 2005's "Capote" with the company has staying Hoffman-centric since then until the announcements of these new ventures. On top of all this though, the versatile Hoffman also has his reunion with Paul Thomas Anderson on the horizon in their untitled historical religious drama.
Since it was announced a couple of years back that "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" duo Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller would write, and Stoller would direct, a new Muppet movie for Disney, there hasn't been a lot of news on the project, other than a possible title: "The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made!" and we weren't even sure if the project would ever happen as both Segel and Stoller are busy boys, and already have quite a bit on their plate. It turns out we're not half wrong, as the Vulture are reporting that Stoller won't direct the film, being too busy with completing "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" spin-off "Get Him To The Greek," and prepping an untitled "Back to the Future" style comedy that will star Zac Efron.
Instead, the blog suggests that James Bobin, a director and writer on "Da Ali G Show" and "Flight of the Conchords" is Disney's first choice for the project, being told by an insider from the studio that "the movie is James' to direct - if he wants it." The only complication is that he's also being offered an Judd Apatow-produced comedy called "Bridesmaids," which is written by and set to star Kristen Wiig, and Disney are aiming to have the Muppet movie rolling by the summer, so Bobin'll have to pick.
We like, but don't love, the patchy "Flight of the Conchords," but Bobin actually seems like a damn good choice - the assumption has long been that the Segel/Stoller script would be a musical (Segel's a musician, and has written songs for "Get Him To The Greek"), and Bobin's demonstrated he can deftly blend music and comedy, and our gut tells us he's got the right sensibility for the film. This writer's love for the Muppets knows no bounds, but it's far, far too long since we had a decent movie featuring the felt ones, but knowing Segel's fandom for Jim Henson's creations, and the promising pick of Bobin, this looks like it could deliver.
Update: THR's Heatvision blog is reporting that Bobin has taken the job directing the Muppets movie. Apparently "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller passed on the Muppets gig to go to Sony for "21 Jump Street," and Bobin threw his hat in the ring for the Muppets as opposed to the 'Bridesmaids.' Heatvision also takes the time to describe Segel as a "Muppet Freak." Sounds kinky!
Now this we'd pay to see. Harrison Ford is reportedly set to team with prolific Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn presumably for the Paul Schrader scripted "The Dying Of The Light," according to Empire Magazine (via DenOfGeek).
Den of Geek don't have the exact quote, but we do thanks to our U.K. writer (and we'll put up a scan soon). Basically at the end of an Empire article on Ford he says, "I'm developing a film right now with Nick Winding Refn. I'm hopefully going to start shooting in March."
While it isn't that much to go on we've run down our list of projects on Refn's slate and this one seems to fit.
Despite the role being linked to Robert De Niro last year, Schrader apparently wrote the script with Ford in mind, and DeNiro was rumored to be attached last year. However, DeNiro recently switched agents and Deadline Hollywood ran down a list of his upcoming projects, and there was no mention of "The Dying Of The Light." The role calls for an older actor, so if DeNiro is gone, Harrison Ford stepping in makes perfect sense.
Back to Schrader, who should need no introduction (and if he does, you have some serious Netflix-ing to do), but he is best known for this decades long working relationship with Martin Scorsese that helped turn out such films as "Taxi Driver," "The Last Temptation Of Christ," and "Raging Bull." He is less celebrated - and severely underrated — as a director, having helmed "Auto Focus," "Affliction" and "Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters" and is currently set to also set to shoot the upcoming Bollywood song-and-dance, family crime flick, "Xtreme City." His scripts are generally gritty, emotionally raw and often have thematically religious undertones and we couldn't be more excited that Refn will be tackling a Schrader screenplay.
"The Dying Of The Light" centers on an aging CIA agent who begins to starts to become afflicted by blindness while on his last mission. It should be noted that its being tossed around most places that agent is affected by Alzheimer's but Refn himself set us straight on this last year. Thematically, the film may draw from the Dylan Thomas poem, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," from which it's title is derived from. The poem repeats the titular line and "rage, rage against the dying of the light." As for Refn, who has shown considerable visual flair, a film in which the lead starts to lose his sight will lend itself to some particularly intriguing challenges and we're anxious to see how the director will translate it to celluloid.
With production set to start in March, this now looks set to be Winding Refn's next project but don't expect it to be his only one this year. Last year saw the Dane put out "Bronson" and "Valhalla Rising" (technically a 2010 release but) and with his Keanu Reeves-led "Jekyll," Bangkok-set neo-Western "Only God Forgives" and Gore Verbinski-produced heist film still on the horizon, 2010 could be a busy one and we're already placing this on our 2011 anticipated list. Btw, Harrison Ford, by joining this project, you're now off the hook for "Extraordinary Measures." — additional reporting by Kevin Jagernauth
Ol' Mel Gibson can't get away from that Old Testament justice, can he? The Biblically-inclined action star and Oscar-winning director can be considered a movie star auteur of old-school violence, ever since he grew into his husky, broad-shouldered movie star chops in "The Road Warrior." As a result, his subsequent films often find him punching, kicking and stabbing his victims on one side of an ongoing philosophical debate before being tied down and tortured for his heroic acts — in his critically acclaimed work, he does not necessarily survive such torture.
Campbell also understands stars (and their accompanying postures) all-too-well — had he also directed "The Living Daylights," Timothy Dalton would still be an A-List star today. As such, the feeling that Gibson's star has dominated the film is impossible to avoid, considering Craven is fairly bulletproof, never succumbing to one of the biggest threats of the source material, a fate randomly grafted onto another character. Craven pushes Terminator-like through a sea of pawns, and even a few bishops, uncertain as to whether he seeks closure or revenge (but c'mon, we know what the audience wants). Chief amongst these bishops is Northmoor head Danny Huston, who reveals the company's aims cryptically, punctuating his Sphinx-like dodging of questions with references to classification levels. Would it have surprised you that Huston is playing yet another transparently evil billionaire? Congratulations, this is the movie for you.
Campbell, who's got a cushy gig coming up as director of "Green Lantern," doesn't seem to know what type of movie he's making, going from serious political thriller to ultraviolent exploitation picture and back without regard for consistency of tone. The action sequences are usually accompanied by an admittedly amateurish surprise-blast that offers a loud, ugly segue way from a quieter scene, the action-movie equivalent of the cat jumping out in a horror movie. Dramatic moments flounder in a different way, as if Campbell is doing stupid-pretending-to-be-smart, allowing for monotony to settle in after the fifth or so scene of people standing around and discussing matters — does Campbell simply need guns to shoot a genuinely visually dynamic sequence? Worse still, the third act stinks of reshoots, and the denouement is straight out of the Mel Gibson playbook, an orgy of death that could only please the most emotionally bankrupt of those invested in this story. Mel devotees will have a good time, but the rest of us should find a more socially acceptable way to curb our bloodlust. [D+]
Update: Obviously Salinger passed away on Wednesday at 91. RIP.
-------------- Originally published December 12, 2009 -----------
Author J.D. Salinger, is perhaps the most reclusive of America's reclusive writers (Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee, Denis Johnson, etc.) having shut himself off from public and ceasing publication of any new material since "Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction." This tales of the eccentric Glass family, covered most famously in his books "Catcher In The Rye" and "Franny & Zooey" have long been the holy grail for Hollywood producers to turn into movies. Though the novels have inspired contemporary filmmakers ("The Royal Tenenbaums" being the most transparently influenced film to date) Salinger has vehemently been opposed to selling the rights to the books after being burned when his short story "Uncle Wiggly In Connecticut" was pillaged to create the poorly received "My Foolish Heart." Since that experience, Salinger has sworn to never again let the rights to his books fall into Hollywood hands.
Over at the fun correspondence blog Letters Of Note they've posted a 1957 letter by Salinger to a mysterious Mr. Hebert which very clearly outlines everything that wouldn't make a film version of "Catcher In The Rye" work:
R. D. 2He makes a strong case against adaptation, but then again, it has been said about a lot of books that have ended up being made into films.
July 19, 1957
Dear Mr. Herbert,
I'll try to tell you what my attitude is to the stage and screen rights of The Catcher in the Rye. I've sung this tune quite a few times, so if my heart doesn't seem to be in it, try to be tolerant....Firstly, it is possible that one day the rights will be sold. Since there's an ever-looming possibility that I won't die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me to no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won't have to see the results of the transaction. I keep saying this and nobody seems to agree, but The Catcher in the Rye is a very novelistic novel. There are readymade "scenes" - only a fool would deny that - but, for me, the weight of the book is in the narrator's voice, the non-stop peculiarities of it, his personal, extremely discriminating attitude to his reader-listener, his asides about gasoline rainbows in street puddles, his philosophy or way of looking at cowhide suitcases and empty toothpaste cartons - in a word, his thoughts. He can't legitimately be separated from his own first-person technique. True, if the separation is forcibly made, there is enough material left over for something called an Exciting (or maybe just Interesting) Evening in the Theater. But I find that idea if not odious, at least odious enough to keep me from selling the rights. There are many of his thoughts, of course, that could be labored into dialogue - or into some sort of stream-of-consciousness loud-speaker device - but labored is exactly the right word. What he thinks and does so naturally in his solitude in the novel, on the stage could at best only be pseudo-simulated, if there is such a word (and I hope not). Not to mention, God help us all, the immeasurably risky business of using actors. Have you ever seen a child actress sitting crosslegged on a bed and looking right? I'm sure not. And Holden Caulfield himself, in my undoubtedly super-biassed opinion, is essentially unactable. A Sensitive, Intelligent, Talented Young Actor in a Reversible Coat wouldn't nearly be enough. It would take someone with X to bring it off, and no very young man even if he has X quite knows what to do with it. And, I might add, I don't think any director can tell him.
I'll stop there. I'm afraid I can only tell you, to end with, that I feel very firm about all this, if you haven't already guessed.
Thank you, though, for your friendly and highly readable letter. My mail from producers has mostly been hell.
(Signed, 'J. D. Salinger')
J. D. Salinger
So what do you think? Is "Catcher In The Rye" unfilmable? Who do you think could tackle the lead role and direct this?
Posted by Kevin Jagernauth at 11:32 PM
Waah, regardless, 2009 was a pretty good year for soundtracks and scores and arguably a much better one than 2008 which was overall, pretty bland and uninspired when it came to the use of music in film. Then again, we've got two films that have both their scores and soundtracks in their respective top 10s. Make of that what you will. At least there were very few of those lame musical tie-in soundtracks that had bloody nothing to do with the movie. Those are damn cheap and we detest them. That said, on to the good stuff from last year.
BEST SOUNDTRACKS OF THE YEAR