Some sad news these past few days. On Sunday, Leslie Nielsen passed away at the age of 84.
Here’s a nice tribute to Mr. Nielsen, written by Drew over at Hitfix. Months ago I had decided to include Airplane! as the final film in the movie marathon I’m holding with my friends next week (I’ll be writing more about this on the site next week), and that choice now has an unexpected poignancy. But I’m looking forward to revisiting one of his greatest roles. I’ll need to find some time to re-watch The Naked Gun some-time soon…
Then, on Monday, the news broke that Irvin Kershner had passed away at the age of 87.
Among his many other achievements, Mr. Kershner directed The Empire Strikes Back, which just might be my favorite film of all time, and certainly ranks among the movies I’ve seen the most often. I give Mr. Kershner enormous credit, along with screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, with crafting the dark, mature epic that we know Empire to be. There’s a wonderful tribute to him over at aintitcoolnews, and I also suggest you check out this installment of Quint’s series of Behind the Scenes Pics in honor of the great Kersh.
Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.… [continued]
In the introduction to my review of Time After Time, I wrote that the true reason for the supposed Star Trek odd-numbered movie curse (the phenomenon in which the even-numbered classic Star Trek films seem to be of a far higher quality than the odd-numbered ones) is because of the coincidence that Star Treks II, IV, and VI are the three films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer. Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I have long-held Mr. Meyer in great esteem. Even years ago, when I first learned of his roles as writer/director of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (by far my two favorite Star Trek films — and that stands to this day) and as a writer of Star Trek IV (Mr. Meyer wrote all of the 1986-set portions of the film, while Harve Bennett wrote the framing sequences set in the 23rd century), it was clear to me that Mr. Meyer’s was one of the key creative voices behind GOOD Star Trek.
What little I knew of Mr. Meyer himself (mostly from interviews I had seen or read — including his lengthy comments in William Shatner’s much-underrated chronicle of the making of the six classic Star Trek films, Star Trek Movie Memories* — and also from his terrific commentary tracks on the special edition DVDs of Star Trek II and Star Trek VI) supported the conclusions that I had drawn from his work: namely, that Mr. Meyer was a bright, erudite fellow whose ideas about Star Trek, and about quality movie-making as a whole, quite mirrored my own.
That opinion was further supported by Mr. Meyer’s wonderful memoir: The View From The Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood. This is a fascinating chronicle of Mr. Meyer’s years in the business, and it’s of interest to anyone fascinated by the nuts and bolts of how Hollywood works and how movies do (and don’t) get made, and of course of particular interest to anyone curious for tons of behind-the-scenes info on the making of the Star Trek films.
Mr. Meyer has an honest, hunorous writing style in evidence right from page one. In these sorts of memoirs, I often find the early chapters (devoted to the subject’s youth) to be deadly boring. As a reader I’m usually eager to get to “the good stuff” — that is, the subject’s adult work and achievements that were the reasons I picked up the memoir to begin with. However, in this book, a) Mr. Meyer is bright enough to know what we’re really interested in, and so keeps those early chapters brief, and b) posesses such … [continued]
For years, Star Trek fans spoke of the odd-numbered curse that afflicted the Trek movies. The odd-numbered films (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek V: The Voyage Home) seemed markedly inferior to the even-numbered ones (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country). True Trek fans, though, knew that there was nothing supernatural at play. The simple fact is that the even-numbered Trek films were of a higher quality because those were the three Trek films that benefitted from the involvement of Nicholas Meyer.
This talented filmmaker wrote and directed Star Trek II and Star Trek VI (the two darkest and most adult entries in the franchise) and was heavily involved with scripting Star Trek IV (by far the most commercially successful film in the saga until J.J. Abrams’ recent Trek reboot). The commentary on the DVD of Star Trek IV reveals that Mr. Meyer basically wrote every scene of the film that takes place back in 1986 (while Harve Bennett scripted the opening and closing scenes set in the 23rd century). Basically, this means that Nicholas Meyer wrote the bulk of the film! (Mr. Meyer states in the DVD features that the first line of his part of the movie is Spock’s wonderfully deadpan comment that “judging by the pollution content in the atmosphere, we have arrived in the latter half of the 20th century.” Such a good line!)
As an enormous fan of Mr. Meyer’s work in the Star Trek universe, I have long wanted to check out his 1979 film, Time After Time. For years I’ve been hearing about this film that Mr. Meyer directed, featuring H.G. Welles travelling through time to combat Jack the Ripper. (Though somehow in my head I had gotten the idea — which has been my impression for YEARS now! — that it was Sherlock Holmes traveling through time, not Welles… go figure…) But, while well-received at the time, Time After Time is a pretty forgotten film these days, and my personal “must-watch” list of movies is pretty long, so it took me until last month to get to see the film.
I know this film has some fervent fans, but I can’t really say that it’s an undiscovered treasure. Time After Time was clearly made with a lot of love and care, and there certainly is a lot to enjoy in the film, but over-all I must say that it hasn’t aged terribly well.
In 1893 London, H.G. Welles (Malcolm McDowell) unveils his newest creation to his stunned dinner companions: a time machine. Welles intends to … [continued]
A friend of mine at Walden Media was kind enough to invite me to last night’s sneak peek at the latest Narnia film, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (Thanks, Evan!) I am happy to report that I quite enjoyed the new film (though I recognize that I’m not quite the target audience).
I adored the Narnia books as a kid, reading them over and over (though it’s been a long time, well over a decade-and-a-half, since I’ve last read any of the books). The first film adaptation, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, left me cold (read my comments on that film here). It seemed like a film that wanted to be The Lord of the Rings, but wound up being just a pale, half-hearted reflection. I found the drama as unconvincing as were many of the special effects. I was far more taken, though, with the follow-up: Prince Caspian. My understanding is that the sequel did not live up to expectations at the box office, but I thought it was a terrifically rousing installment. It was a much darker, more serious film. The special effects were worlds better than the first film (I found the landscapes of Narnia to be extraordinarily beautiful and believable), and the story-line was far more compelling. (Edward’s duel with the evil Miraz was a particularly stand-out moment.)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader falls somewhere between the first two films, in terms of style and tone. The film preserves Prince Caspian‘s greater emphasis on creating a compelling, dramatic narrative through-line for the film as well as the high-quality of its fantastic visual effects, while at the same time returning to a slightly more family-friendly tone that is closer to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader doesn’t have quite the same life-or-death stakes that I felt Prince Caspian did, and it certainly has FAR less of a body count! As such it seems to me that it will be a more palatable family film than was Caspian. While the darker and more violent tone of Prince Caspian appealed more to me (as an adult fan of fantasy films), I suspect that the fine folks at Walden Media and 20th Century Fox are hoping that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader hits just the right middle-of-the-road sweet spot with audiences. Based on what I saw last night I have every reason to suspect that the film will.
In fact, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader reminded me quite strongly of the first two Harry Potter films. Its episodic nature; its efforts to present some … [continued]
I’m a big, big fan of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That film really took me by surprise — it’s a very, very funny film, but also one that is remarkably endearing.
The breakout star of the film was, of course, Russell Brand’s rock star Aldous Snow. Snow was a delirously lunatic creation — a jovial, high-life-living, self-absorbed maniac of a musician who stole every scene of the movie that he was in. Many of those scenes co-stared Jonah Hill, who had a small role as a hapless waiter who idolized Aldous.
Get Him to the Greek is a feature-length attempt to recapture the energy of Mr. Brand and Mr. Hill’s interactions in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Russell Brand repises his role of Aldous Snow, while Mr. Hill portrays a new character: Aaron Green, a young music executive. Aaron has come up with an idea for Pinnacle Records, the company at which he works: in an attempt to revitalize Aldous Snow’s career, and their flagging record sales, they’ll schedule a concert at the Greek Theater in LA on the ten-year anniversary of Aldous’ previous triumphant performance at that venue. All that Aaron needs to do is to ensure that the hard-living musician arrives at the theater on time to perform.
It’s a familiar set-up, and one can see the road-map for the film’s story a mile away. Clearly, Aaron is going to have a lot of frustrating moments trying to keep Aldous en route to the theater, and one can also reasonably expect the straight-laced Aaron to be tempted and perhaps at first overwhelmed by the singer’s partying lifestyle. Perhaps Aldous might also learn some lessons in responsibility from Aaron.
And that, in a nutshell, is the movie. So don’t expect Get Him to the Greek to turn any comedy film tropes on their ear. Nevertheless, I was quite taken by the film’s relentlessly entertaining nature. Director and co-writer Nicholas Stoller has assembled some amazing comedic performers, and he pretty much lets them all cut loose and bounce off of one another for the duration of the film. There are plenty of scenes that seem to go one for longer than they should, and plenty of scenes that don’t really serve much of a purpose in the film’s story. But I didn’t mind terribly, because it’s a lot of fun watching these characters interact with one another, and I enjoyed the time we got to spend in their world.
Brand and Hill are reliably hilarious. For me the biggest surprise was Rose Byrne, who knocks it out of the park as Aldous’ former musical partner and lover Jackie Q, who is now living with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich (who ahas a … [continued]
David Mack is one of the best of the group of extraordinarily talented, reliable writers who have been writing new Star Trek novels for Pocket Books for the past several years. It’s the compelling work of these core writers that has kept me engaged with the novels’ expansion and continuation of the Star Trek saga. So when Amazon delivered me his latest novel, Star Trek Typhon Pact: Zero Sum Game, it immediately jumped to the top of my lengthy to-read stack.
Mr. Mack’s stories have been among my favorite Trek novels from the past few years: his terrific, tense DS9 novel Warpath (click here for my review); his Mirror Universe story The Sorrows of Empire (click here for my review); and his game-changing three-part Star Trek Destiny series (click here for my review). (I have his novel-length expansion of The Sorrows of Empire sitting on my book-shelf. I’m really looking forward to reading that, since I enjoyed the novella so much — this might be the next book I read.)
But despite my enjoyment of Mr. Mack’s previous work, I must admit that I had some concerns about this novel, going in. Primarily this is based on my disappointment with the way that the Deep Space Nine series of novels has floundered. It was the post-finale continuation of DS9 novels that got me back into Star Trek fiction, nearly a decade ago, and for the first several years I thought that Pocket Books’ DS9 series was unimpeachable. The novels came out in fairly regular installments, and together they formed a terrifically well-made story that continued the stories of all of the beloved characters, and extended the canvas of the DS9 saga. But after David Mack’s really fantastic novel Warpath, which ended on an excruciating cliffhanger, the series hit rough waters. In the years since that novel’s publication (in 2006), only three post-finale-set DS9 novels have been published: two short, mediocre books, and a third novel (The Never-Ending Sacrifice) that was terrific but which told a pretty separate, distinct story that didn’t connect in any strong way to the continuing post-finale story readers have been following (click here for my review of that great book). Whereas other novels have moved forward the stories of the other 24th-century-set Star Trek shows (we’ve seen several novels continuing the story of the crew of the Enterprise-E following the last movie, Nemesis, and there has even been a new series continuing the Voyager story), the DS9 saga has felt, to me, to have been left behind.
In his universe-spanning cross-over series, Destiny, Mr. Mack made the decision to jump ahead in the … [continued]
The big news in trailer-land this week was the release of our first substantial look at DC/Warner Bros.’ big new Green Lantern film. Check it out:
Not bad at all. I am cautiously optimistic that this will be the big, cool sci-fi superhero epic we all want it to be. You can watch the trailer in better resolution here.
I’m excited for Green Lantern, but in a weird way it was, in my mind, topped by this trailer for the loony new fantasy comedy Your Highness:
Come on, doesn’t that look like fun?
Here’s another one that looks like a great time at the movies — Jon Favreau’s simply-titled Cowboys and Aliens:
That’s a much slower-paced trailer than is usual these days, and I think that makes it all the more effective. And is it possible that, for the first time in two decades, Harrison Ford looks like he might be entertaining in a film again? Do we dare to hope?
Can’t wait for these flicks!… [continued]
You might have thought that Tom Hanks had a crazy accent in Catch Me If You Can, but that was merely a prelude to the ludicrously silly sort-of-Slovic voice that Mr. Hanks puts on for his role as Viktor Novorski in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film, The Terminal.
Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) has just arrived to New York City from the Eastern European country of Madeupistan. Er, excuse me, Krakozia. Unfortunately, his country undergoes a military coup while Navorski is in the air. By the time he arrives in New York City, all relations between the United States and Krakozia have been severed, and due to a variety of legal permutations, Mr. Navorski is unable to enter the U.S. but is similarly unable to return to Krakozia. In short, he finds himself stuck, indefinitely, in the airport.
Let the comic hijinks commence!
I commented in my review of Catch Me If You Can on my feeling, when I first saw the film back in 2002, that it was a surprisingly slight film for Mr. Spielberg to make. That probably caused me to dismiss the film a little too quickly at the time. Well, if Catch Me If You Can is slight, then The Terminal is practically nonexistent.
That sounds harsh, which isn’t my intention. There’s certainly some fun to be had in The Terminal. It’s just that while Catch Me If You Can was a light, fun film, it did have a pretty dramatic emotional core. The Terminal sort-of shoots for that as well, but there’s just not much there. What’s left is a fun, frothy film, but one without a whole heck of a lot to say.
(My wife thought that Viktor’s predicament — in which he is forced to go to some extreme lengths in order to adapt to survive the stranded situation in which he finds himself — reminded her of Mr. Hanks’ role in Cast Away. I’d never thought of The Terminal in that way, but she’s right! The difference, of course, is that The Terminal doesn’t have any of the dramatic underpinnings of Cast Away. That’s putting it mildly!)
The Terminal has a fairly episodic structure. Through a variety of vignettes, we see Viktor adapt to his crazy situation and somehow make for himself a remarkably pleasant life living in the airport. He gradually bonds with several of the other off-beat but kind airport employees — played by Chi McBride (Boston Public), Diego Luna (Y tu mama tambien, Milk), Gupta Rajan (just as entertaining here as he was in The Royal Tenenbaums), and a pre-Star Trek Zoe Saldana (and, by the way, it’s a riot to … [continued]
Andy Richter has headlined two terrific but quickly-cancelled TV series. A few years after the demise of Andy Richter Controls the Universe (which was cancelled after FOX aired 14 of the 19 episodes produced), Mr. Richter stepped into the lead of Andy Barker, P.I. on NBC. The peacock network cancelled that show after a mere six episodes.
After waiting years for both series to see the light of day on DVD, I was overjoyed when both Andy Richter Controls the Universe AND Andy Barker, P.I. were released in complete series sets late last year! (Click here to read my recent review of the DVD set of Andy Richter Controls the Universe.)
Andy Barker, played by Mr. Richter, is a mild-mannered accountant who has just opened up his own office on the second floor of a small mid-western strip-mall. What Andy doesn’t realize is that the previous tenant of that office space was a private eye. When a mysterious damsel arrives at his office door, seeking help finding her husband (she thinks the office still belongs to that of an investigator), Andy finds himself drawn into the world of crime. No one is more surprised than he to discover that he actually enjoys working as a private eye, and that he’s pretty good at it as well! Thus begins his career as the world’s first accountant/P.I.
I found Andy Richter to be just as engaging and entertaining a series lead here as he was in Andy Richter Controls the Universe. Andy Barker is far less zany than the character of Andy Richter was — while much of the comedy in Andy Richter Controls the Universe was mined from the crazy imagination of the character Andy Richter, the joke in Andy Barker, P.I. is just how honestly wholesome and white-bread Andy Barker is. This could be a really boring character, but the actor Andy (Richter) imbues the character Andy (Barker) with an enormous amount of heart and likability. Plus, Mr. Richter has just enough of a gleam in his eye that we can tell that his Andy Barker isn’t just an average boring accountant (no offense to any accountants out there!) — something that is highlighted by just how much fun Andy Barker is clearly having when he dips his toes into the world of criminal investigations.
Andy Barker, P.I. has just as wonderful an ensemble of actors as did Andy Richter Controls the Universe. If anything, this show displays an even greater assemblage of talents! The late, great Harve Presnell played Lew Staziak, the private eye into whose office Andy has moved. In the pilot, I thought this character was a one-off portrayal (as Andy tracks … [continued]
So here we come, at last. Since first discovering the world of The Dark Tower with Marvel Comics’ The Gunslinger Born series of mini-series, I have been eager to reach this fouth volume. That’s because I knew that the Gunslinger Born comics were mostly adapted from material found in Wizard and Glass, the novel that, from what I’d heard and read, finally revealed much about Roland’s past and the devastating events that set him on the path of his lonely journey towards the Dark Tower.
Though I was familiar with the basic thrust of those events from having read the Gunslinger Born comics, I was excited to read the original source material which, I was sure, contained a lot more detail than the abbreviated (though still entertaining) Marvel comics. I must confess that I was also, though, a bit anxious to begin, not only because of my high hopes but also because Wizard and Glass is a fairly lengthy tome. It’s been looming on my bookshelf for quite a while now (as I’ve recounted before, I bought the first four Dark Tower novels after beginning the Gunslinger Born comic-books, but it took me about two years to actually begin reading them), and I knew it’d be something of an undertaking to begin.
Luckily for me, The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands, ended on a ferocious devil of a cliffhanger — the likes of which I’ve seldom encountered in a series of novels. (I wrote “luckily for me,” because I can only imagine the torturous wait that fans at the time had to go through, as they watched the long years pass before the publication of Book IV.) Luckily for me, I barely had to wait a day between finishing Book III and diving into Book IV.
The beginning of Book IV: Wizard and Glass picks up exactly where Book III left off, with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy trapped in a deadly game of riddles with the insane Blaine the Mono. It only takes about fifty pages, though, before that story is concluded, and Mr. King moves on to the real meat of Wizard and Glass, the narrative that will occupy the bulk of the novel’s page count. This is the story that Roland finally tells to his friends: of how he became a gunslinger at the young age of 14; of how he and his ka-tet of younger days were sent off to the sea-side village of Hambry so that they’d be away from the danger that Roland’s father sensed was coming to their home of Gilead; of how the three young men encountered even greater danger in Hambry — the … [continued]
When I began this project of rewatching the last decade-and-a-half’s worth of films directed by Steven Spielberg, I was hoping that I’d discover (or rediscover) some great films that I had perhaps dismissed too easily when I originally saw them in theatres. I wondered if watching the films now, years later and separated from the hype and expectations that came with their original theatrical releases, would allow me to appreciate them more and perhaps cause me to re-evaluate my original opinions.
So far, though, that hasn’t happened. I’ve enjoyed (for the most part), re-watching The Lost World, Amistad, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and Minority Report, but for all four films my opinions have remained almost exactly what they were when I first saw them. (In a nutshell: mediocre, good, horrible, mediocre.) But then, this week, I arrived at Catch Me If You Can. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this flick!
Based on the autobiography of Frank Abergnale, Jr. (and co-written by Stan Redding), Catch Me If You Can tells the story of Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man who, for years, successfully conned people into thinking he was an airline pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer, and who forged millions of dollars worth of checks.
Mr. Spielberg skillfully strikes a deft balance with the tone of the film. There are some great moments of humor to be found in the tale (I particularly loved Hanratty’s knock-knock joke), and over-all the film has a fun, light tone. And yet, at its core, Catch Me If You Can is really a profoundly sad story. To me, the relationship between Frank and his father, Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken) is the back-bone of the film, and it is heartbreaking. In Frank Jr. we see a young man who, for all of his experiences, is still basically a child, looking for his father’s approval and desperately hoping to find a way to return his life to his idealized vision of how things used to be — with him, his father, and his mother all living happily together in a nice suburban house. Frank Sr., meanwhile, has seen his business slowly fail (in the film we see him continually dogged by the IRS, and one assumes, despite Frank Sr.’s repeated claims, that this is not without good reason) and his wife leave him, but he is too proud to admit when he needs help and too angry at the government (and the society that allowed him to fail) to push his son to stop the increasingly elaborate con that he’s spinning.
Mr. Walken’s unique line-delivery can make him a ripe subject for parody. For me, his one scene in Pulp … [continued]
One of the many, many great TV shows that aired briefly on FOX before being cancelled well-before-its-time was Andy Richter Controls the Universe. This short-lived show, which aired in 2002-03, was Andy Richter’s first TV series effort after leaving The Late Show with Conan O’Brien.
I loved this show when it originally aired, and I’ve been hoping for years now that the show would someday get released on DVD. That day has finally arrived! Readers of this site might recall that I gave the complete series DVD set of Andy Richter Controls the Universe a brief mention in my list of the Best DVDs of 2009. I purchased this set at the end of 2009 and hadn’t had a chance to watch it yet when I wrote my Best of 2009 list, so I didn’t feel like I could include it, but I did want to make mention of how extraordinarily pleased I was that this set had finally been released.
Once the summer ended, I had a chance to, at last, make my way through this DVD set. All nineteen episodes of the series have been included — including, to my surprise and pleasure, five installments that FOX never aired. (Four of which are really, really funny.)
While some of the series’ playful story-telling techniques — such as the quick-edits, the voice-overs, and the regular shifts into fantasy sequences — don’t quite have the innovative quality that they had back in 2002, I’m pleased to report that Andy Richter Controls the Universe has aged very well. I found the show just as funny and enjoyable as I had remembered.
Andy Richter is a terrific comedic lead. His fearlessness that was so often utilized to comedic effect on The Late Show (this is the man, after all, who once famously wandered naked onto the set of The Today Show) is well-suited to this show’s flights of fancy. A lot of laughs are mined from the crazy things we see Andy doing in his mind’s eye, whether that be arriving to work dressed only in women’s lingerie or diving out his office window or prancing about in a suit made from shredded documents. Andy is able to come across as a fairly normal “everyman,” while still maintaining his comedic edge. He’s also lovable enough to make the audience want to watch his adventures every week.
Mr. Richter is surrounded by a strong ensemble. James Patrick Stuart plays Andy’s best friend Kieth, a man so good looking that life has been incredibly easy for him. In unskilled hands, this could have been a really annoying character, but Mr. Stuart brings a surprising amount of sweetness to the role … [continued]
This is a must-watch, my friends. Thank me later.
There’s no question in my mind that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors working today. There’s only one of his films that I haven’t seen (his first — Following — and I do hope to remedy that situation soon), and I have thoroughly enjoyed every other movie he’s made. His worst film is probably Batman Begins, and I think that’s a pretty damn good film!
Contrary to my previous statement, my sense is that the general consensus about Mr. Nolan is that Insomnia, his follow-up to Memento, is his weakest film. But I remember enjoying Insomnia back in 2002, and I really loved it when watching it again on blu-ray last week.
Insomnia is a remake of a 1997 Swedish film of the same name starring Stellan Skarsgard and directed by Eric Skjoldbjaerg. I’ve never seen the original Insomnia, though I understand that it’s pretty well thought of. I realize that, had I seen it, it’s possible that I might be as dubious of a remake as I am of the recently-released re-do of Let The Right One In (the new American version is titled simply Let Me In). But having not seen the original, I am free to judge Mr. Nolan’s version exclusively by its own merits — and it’s quite excellent.
Al Pacino plays beleaguered L.A. homicide detective Will Dormer. The L.A. police department has been rocked by allegations of misconduct, and Dormer believes that the I.A. investigators are ultimately after him. In the midst of that, Dormer and his partner Hap (Martin Donovan) are dispatched to a tiny Alaskan town to investigate the murder of a teen-aged girl. Heading up the local investigation is a young, well-meaning cop named Elie Burr (Hilary Swank). She clearly worships Detective Dormer, and he seems to appreciate her enthusiasm. But the case is a difficult one, and Detective Dormer soon finds himself stymied by his main suspect, a local author named Walter Finch (Robin Williams). As the film progresses, Dormer gradually unravels, his struggles with the case exacerbated by his persistent insomnia (caused perhaps by the fact that, because of how far North as the Alaskan town is, the sun never sets during this season – or, perhaps by Dormer’s growing guilt over the mistakes of his past and a terrible event that happens soon after arriving in Alaska).
This was a high-profile role for Hilary Swank, coming as it did not long after her Academy Award-winning role in Boys Don’t Cry (1999). Ms. Swank is solid if unspectacular in the film. The real superstars of Insomnia are Al Pacino and Robin Williams.
Though unquestionably one of the greatest actors of our time, I’ve often felt that … [continued]
The casting announcements have been coming fast and furious for the new Spider-Man film, but I just can’t muster up much excitement. I simply think it’s a terrible idea to re-boot the Spider-Man franchise, which felt to me like it still had a ton of gas in the tank (despite my dislike of Spider-Man 3). Take the recent news that Rhys Ifans will be playing The Lizard in the new film. That should be exciting news — I think the Lizard is a great Spidey villain. But I’m just bummed that they’re finally using The Lizard in a Spidey film and the great Dylan Baker — who appeared as Dr. Curt Connors in ALL THREE previous Spider-Man films — isn’t going to get to play the character.
Speaking of big announcements about which I just can’t muster up too much excitement is the news that George Lucas will be releasing the Star Wars movies back to theatres in 3D, as well as the follow-up announcement that they’re also working on 3-D conversions of the Indiana Jones films. On the one hand, any excuse to see the Star Wars and Indy films back on the big screen is exciting. (After having so much fun seeing Back to the Future back on the big screen, I’ve been hoping that other studios would follow suit and bring some of their best films back to theatres so we can enjoy them as they were meant to be seen.) But I’m not so excited about the 3-D conversions. That has the potential to be cool, but a big part of me would really just rather see a beautifully restored 2-D print of those films. Also, Lucas has unfortunately decided to release the Star Wars films one per year, in order of episode number — which means he’s starting with Episode I, and we won’t get to see The Empire Strikes Back until something like 2016!! That stinks!
I’ve been interested in the upcoming sci-fi film Skyline ever since seeing the trailer. But I’m even more interested now, after reading Mr. Beaks’ great piece at AICN about how Colin & Greg Strause basically made the film independently, free from studio oversight or interference. I can’t wait to see what they’ve put together.
Check out this amazing web-site that contains a treasure trove of footage of Andy Kaufman performing throughout his career, arranged chronologically. Astounding.
I’d never heard of this movie before seeing the trailer, but now I’m intrigued:
The combination of Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films) and Simon Pegg is genius, and it’s exciting to see John Landis directing again!
Like most viewers, … [continued]
When I first saw Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report in theatres back in 2002 (the only time I’d seen the film until I watched it again on DVD last week), I remember it becoming startlingly clear to me that the man has trouble with the endings of his films.
I recognize that the present-day epilogues to Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are overloaded with schmaltz and are completely unnecessary to the story, but I’ve never been bothered by those endings (the way others have been, most famously William Goldman, who eviscerated Saving Private Ryan in his famous review). I was so emotionally engaged with the stories and characters in both of those films that I was not bothered with their endings (even though the logical part of my brain did realize that Mr. Spielberg was laying the emotion on a bit thickly). But as I wrote last week, I thought the final 25 minutes of A.I. were abominable and possibly the worst 25 minutes Steven Spielberg had ever put to film. The ending of Minority Report isn’t quite at that level of jaw-dropping terribleness, but I think the first hour and 45 minutes of the film are a very solid, dark sci-fi thriller that is completely undone by the last 35 minutes or so.
At first, Minority Report kept me very engaged. It’s easy and popular to hate on Tom Cruise these days, but I think he’s a far better actor than he gets credit for, and he’s an engaging lead here. Mr. Cruise plays the generically-named Tom Anderton, the top-cop at the new Pre-Crime division that has been set up in Washington, DC. Using three “pre-cogs” (psychics kept under sedation), the Pre-Crime team are able to intercept murders before they happen. After six years of operation, in which the team has virtually eliminated homicides in DC, a national referendum has been set to determine whether Pre-Crime divisions will be set up in other cities across the U.S. In advance of this, John and his team are under investigation by Federal Agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell). Everything goes to hell when the psychics predict that John himself is about to commit a homicide. He goes on the run, determined to prove his innocence, but finds himself setting in motion events that might undermine the legitimacy of the entire Pre-Crime unit.
For that first hour and 45 minutes, Minority Report is a solid, gritty little film. It goes to some surprisingly grim places. There’s an early scene in which we learn that apparent super-cop John Anderton is actually a rather broken man. With the rain falling outside, John sits in the dark in his cluttered apartment, watching holographic projections … [continued]
Director David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) has assembled a powerful new documentary, Waiting for “Superman,” about the deep problems in the United States’ public school system. These problems may seem extraordinary and insurmountable, but Mr. Guggenheim’s film argues that the solutions are actually fairly clear, if the public and our leaders have the will to enact them.
The situation in our schools is a deeply depressing topic, and that might cause many to skip this film. (Who wants to go to a movie theatre to be bummed out?) But I encourage you to give Waiting for “Superman” a try. Mr. Guggenheim has crafted a film that is never boring, and while he covers a lot of ground in the film, the narrative zips ahead at an energetic pace, assisted by several clever techniques. Mr. Guggenheim utilizes some simple but interesting bits of animation to help illustrate his arguments. The film’s narration (spoken by Mr. Guggenheim himself) keeps the documentary on target and focuses our attention on the points Mr. Guggenheim is trying to make, without falling into bombastic rhetoric or frustrating oversimplification. (While Mr. Guggenheim is never a character in his film to the degree that, say, Michael Moore is in his films, I appreciated the way that Mr. Guggenheim wasn’t afraid to include himself in the film. We hear him asking questions of many of the interview subjects, and he doesn’t shy away from discussing how and why he and his wife chose not to send their children to public school.)
But most of all, the film succeeds because Mr. Guggenheim has chosen to focus on several engaging individual subjects. Rather than making the movie solely about vast statistics and broad national problems, he grounds his film in the stories of five children (and the parents trying to find the best schools for them) as well as on two controversial figures attempting broad reform to the public school system. These small stories help illuminate the larger problems before us.
The kids featured in Waiting for “Superman” are well-chosen. They are from different parts of the country, and from different ethnic and social backgrounds, but each of them (along with their families) are faced with the same dilemma. All five are good kids who have an interest in learning — but all five are located in districts with public schools that, to put it mildly, are not known for excellence. In more blunt terms, these schools are “failure factories” — one of the many nick-names for these sorts of public schools that can be found across the nation, from which the vast majority of kids fail to graduate.
I defy you not to fall in love with … [continued]