Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back on Track

Wow, have I been neglecting this thing or what? CCT didn't happen, I haven't posted reviews, the last update was a trailer - a week ago.

But you know what? It's my first week at the Film School, so I've been acclimating myself to everything. I'm getting used to everything: classes, parties, filming, the people. It's pretty intense. A lot to handle.

So, let me at least say a few short things about three films I saw weeks and weeks ago.


Hell Ride is an homage to that lost subgenre, the Biker B-movie. Larry Bishop writes, directs, and stars - as Pistolero - in this tale of revenge between rival gangs thirty years after the murder of Pistolero's girlfriend (Julia Jones). Now, I saw this at a drive-in, so I was pretty spoiled (the good way) as far as experiences go. You have to experience a grindhouse flick at a drive-in: it's the way it was meant to be seen. And Hell Ride fucking delivers. True, all the actresses appear to be bit players from cheap pornos, but they serve their purpose well...their sexy, sexy purpose. Everyone's having a good time, hitting the right notes, just being generally awesome. The only distraction, really, is Vinnie Jones' fluctuating accent. But whatever. It's an awesome ride (see what I did there). And, gosh darn it, Larry Bishop is actually a pretty fuckin' good director. ***


Stoner-comedy/buddy-action flick pits a stoner (Seth Rogen) and his dealer (James Franco) against a drug baron (Gary Cole) when one of them witnesses a murder. I'll go so far as to say this was the best comedy of the summer. It's one that you appreciate more and more with each reminiscence. The friendship is sincerely portrayed, and the comedy is HIGH-larious (people, I am giving you pearls here). As for the action. Holy shit. I did NOT expect it to be that violent. Damn. People get shot, stabbed, blown up; blood flows, skulls are crushed, and brains splatter against windows. It's pretty intense, but it never takes you out of the moment. Danny McBride and Craig Robinson are the real scene-stealers here, as a drug dealer and a fey hit man, respectively. Great stuff. ***1/2


Another great comedy that works on a number of levels. It's mega-violent and hilarious, so that works for fans of the action-comedy genre. But you'll get so much more out of this if you're in the know about studio politics in Hollywood. Robert Downey, Jr., is phenomenal as the Australian method actor playing black: sincere and hilarious, with a mastery of accents that calls to mind - for me, at least - Peter Sellers. Ben Stiller is doing his thing, which is great and all that. Danny McBride also appears in this one, and I can't wait for his career to really take off. The man is DYNAMITE. It takes a while for the story to get comfortable; I'd say it's not until the leads are actually "in the shit" that it begins to be worth the $8.00. And Jack Black and Steve Coogan just annoyed me here, a real shame since I'm a fan of both. You know who didn't annoy me, though? Tom Cruise, who absolutely OWNS as a sadistic Hollywood mogul. Sir, you were born to do comedy. And drama. And action. Fuck, is there anything Cruise can't do? Gah. So, yeah, well worth the watch. ***

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Frost/Nixon Trailers

Finally, a look at Frost/Nixon, based upon the Tony Award-winning play by Peter Morgan. Ron Howard is usually pretty hit-or-miss with me: usually, it helps if Russell Crowe is featured in some way.

But Frank Langella? And Kevin Fucking Bacon? Fuck. Yes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The T is for Thursday

We finally got Internet today, which means I can finally bring you the CCT you all so richly deserve!

Today's installment, a make-up from Tuesday, focuses on a highly-praised Pulitzer Prize-winning novel published in 2000. Numerous attempts have been made to get the work to the screen, but to no avail. Scott Rudin, Academy Award-winning producer of No Country for Old Men and The Hours, currently has the rights, and the original novelist worked on all the drafts. And yet - nothing.

For good reason, though. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay spans about fourteen years and 636 pages. Michael Chabon's opus centers on the rise, fame, and fall of two comic book artists finding life and love in the Golden Age of Everything - Comics, Radio, etc. Joseph Kavalier is a Czech artist, a refugee from the Nazis, hoping to earn enough money to get the rest of his family to America. Samuel Klayman - who eventually becomes the Sammy Clay of the title - is his Brooklyn cousin, an imaginative writer seeking his own escape. Together, they create popular characters like the Escapist, who gets his own radio series, and Luna Moth, inspired by Rosa Saks, the beauty of the avant-garde society.

Kavalier and Clay is a super book, absolutely exhilarating. Chabon is a masterful writer, conveying familiar emotions brimming with passion in just a few short sentences. And true, the ending is a little anticlimactic, but the pros definitely have it over the cons. You really get to know all about Kavalier and Clay, so that they become more friends than characters in a book. The supporting characters are colorful and unforgettable, and I've tried to capture that spirit in my casting coup. Which we may get to without further ado.

Passages marked in quotes are from

Who is He: "...An owner of Empire Comics and Joe and Sam's boss for several years, is a businessman first and foremost and plays his historic role in cheating two naïve young men out of their multi-million dollar idea. But he is not without a conscience, having worked hard more than a decade at his own, less-successful novelty business."

My Choice: The book describes Anapol as a hefty man with sad eyes. I chose someone that both matches this description and is a phenomenal character actor.

Ken Davitian (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Get Smart)

Who is He: Anapol's brother-in-law and business partner, his "success results from the intelligence and talent of the people around him."

My Choice: I wanted to go for someone who was bulky, but younger and smoother-looking than Anapol. He may be a worse businessman, but Ashkenazy has an opinion of himself that is disproportionate to his abilities.

Mark Addy (A Knight's Tale, TV's Still Standing)

Who is He: The voice of the Escapist on the radio, and the face of him in the movies. Bacon is handsome, charming, and full of life. He strikes up a friendship with Sammy that concerns many.

My Choice: Tracy is supposed to be the very image of the handsome American male, of football and hot dogs. And he is also supposed to be beautiful and blond. So...yeah.

Chace Crawford (The Covenant, TV's Gossip Girl)

Who is He: "The editor of Empire Comics and a mentor to Sammy, [Deasey] is harsh but sincere...[giving] Joe and Sammy hints on how to effectively negotiate their contracts so they will not get short-changed."

My Choice: Ginger-haired and mustachioed, Deasey needed someone who could convey the cynicism, sophistication, and disenchantment that Deasey possesses. I went with one of my favorite actors of all time. He's an Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Fargo).

William H. Macy (Seabiscuit, Wild Hogs)

Who is He: "A mentally unstable Nazi-sympathizer whom Joe runs afoul of." Having read every issue of the Escapist, he imagines that Joe is the hero in living color, while Ebling himself is the villainous Saboteur.

My Choice: Someone young, I felt, would be suitable. A little older than Kavalier and Clay, but young enough so that we may shake our heads at his naivete and insanity. The actor I chose is versatile and amazing.

Hugh Dancy (The Jane Austen Book Club, Savage Grace)

Who is She: "Carl's older sister...a housekeeper at James Love's beach house estate in Pawtaw, New Jersey. ...She calls the police to raid Love's house after she finds a copy of the Escapist in Sammy's room."

My Choice: Another Brit, another character actor. Her work is impeccable, and to be quite honest, it would be more or less something she's done before.

Catherine Tate (Marple: A Murder is Announced, TV's Doctor Who)

Who is He: "A childhood friend of Sammy's and also a comic book illustrator. Julie is the first artist Joe and Sammy hire to help them create the inaugural issue of the Escapist."

My Choice: It's a small role, but an important role nevertheless, I feel. A best friend type was needed, one who could take on the awkward paunch of Julie Glovsky.

Jonah Hill (Accepted, Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

Who is He: His real name is Siegfrid Saks, but whatever. Harkoo is "a wealthy surrealist art dealer...cheerful, quirky, and supportive." He becomes a bizarre sort of father figure to Kavalier, I guess. Anyway, he's pretty awesome.

My Choice: Harkoo is a pretty bizarre guy, but you need someone who can ground that into some sort of reality. I chose an Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Iris).

Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge!, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Who is She: Sammy's mother, "a very practical, no-nonsense woman." She may seem tough, but she's got a heart of gold, and a lot of love in it.

My Choice: She has played the quintessential housewife/mother on television for twenty years. She is a marvelous actress that has long been under-appreciated in live action films. Only Woody Allen really knew how to utilize her properly, especially as the quintessential Jewish mother in Radio Days.

Julie Kavner (The Simpsons Movie, Awakenings)

Who is He: "A retired performing illusionist who mentors the teenage Joe in escape tricks, [he] helps smuggle Joe out of Prague when Nazi restrictions threaten to trap the boy."

My Choice: An actor who can convey wisdom. An actor who can convey weariness and tragedy. Kornblum is a man of many secrets, only a few of which are divulged. This Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (Ed Wood) could nail it.

Martin Landau (Sleepy Hollow, Crimes and Misdemeanors)

Who is He: A businessman who brings the Escapist to the radio and young men to his house in Pawtaw.

My Choice:

Toby Jones (Ever After, the upcoming W.)

Who is He: "The adjutant at the German consulate in New York City. Joe visits him weekly, trying to find a way to get his family out of Prague. Milde is polite but unhelpful."

My Choice: The man's German, so I chose a German. Chabon describes him as a good-looking, decent enough kind of guy, so I chose someone who was a good-looking, decent enough kind of guy.

Sebastian Koch (Black Book, The Lives of Others)

Who is She: "Rosa Saks is salvation and muse. She and Joe fall madly in love in the way young people do. Rosa becomes indispensable to the cousins as she helps them with domestic affairs and with rescuing Thomas Kavalier from Prague. Rosa also inspires Joe to create the sexy superhero, Luna Moth."

My Choice: From the very first, there was no other person that could play this role. I've always pictured Rosa as attractive, but not obviously so. She's not quite the pixie, but there is something mysterious and magical about her. A relative unknown was necessary, I feel, someone who has yet to be utilized as a true female lead.

Lizzy Caplan (Cloverfield, Mean Girls)

Who is He: "Sammy Clay, the everyday hero of Chabon's novel, is a quiet Jewish boy from Brooklyn who chases his dreams — to publish comic books — and catches them. Sammy's bravery and pluck are seen in his initial pitch to Anapol and later in how he stands up to Anapol, Ashkenazy, and Deasey to get what he feels he and Joe deserve for their talent." Despite that strength, Clay has some secrets that he is afraid to get out, urges that he denies despite others' own recognition of them.

My Choice: A star, yes, but someone who is (a) Jewish, (b) scrappy enough to play plucky Broolynite, and (c) a phenomenal actor. I think he would even do well as a man approaching middle age. He has the kind of face, I feel, that could be changed accordingly.

Shia LaBeouf (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the upcoming Eagle Eye)

Who is He: "Trained as an escape artist by one of the profession's unsung masters, Joe is incredibly adept at any task he takes on, making him somewhat larger than life. He is also a gifted artist and half of the genius behind the book's popular comic book superhero, the Escapist. Joe works closely with his cousin Sammy to create this superhero, which is inspired in equal parts by the unique backgrounds of these cousins. Despite Joe's repeated ability to escape and survive, he is incapable of saving even one of his family members from the war in Europe...Joe's great love is Rosa Saks, and their affection for each other is not diminished though time, guilt, shame, and anger must separate them for twelve years."

My Choice: Another young actor, a virtual unknown here in the States. In a few films, though, he has shown himself to be remarkably versatile, a superb actor, with the most intense eyes I've seen. That fish-out-of-water intensity that is vital to playing Kavalier - he's got it. In spades.

Ben Whishaw (I'm Not There, Brideshead Revisited)

To those who have yet to read the book, do it. It is a modern American classic. To those who have: who do you have in mind for Kavalier and Clay?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quick Update

No CCT yet. I'm hurriedly typing this before I'm kicked out of the library. Suffice to say, no internet at home, library is not 24 hours yet since school's not begun. Yikes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Harry Potter and the Delayed Release

If you've seen the new Harry Potter teaser and trailer, then you know that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is coming out in November. In fact, they even stress that it's coming out THIS YEAR.

Except that they're a bunch of liars, and the release date has been pushed back to July 2009. Last year's WGA strike apparently cost the Summer its blockbusters, so Warner Brothers opted to put its other mega-successful franchise in the slot occupied this year by The Dark Knight.

This comes right on the heels of February '09 release Valkyrie being pushed forward to December '08. They just keep playing Musical Release over at the studios.

My question is this: will the Harry Potter theme park be open by then? And how big of an effect will that have on the movie's take?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Casting Coup: Mame

My love affair with Mame came by chance. In fifth grade, I had the honor of being Ms. Turner's student for a second year. She approached me one morning, and it was the first time she told me about her sister. She, too, was a teacher, at a high school down the street from Joe's Crab Shack. This teacher, a fiery red-head, was participating in the school's musical, and they needed a ten-year-old boy to play a very crucial role. Ms. Turner sent me off to audition: I was the first to arrive, and after that they canceled auditions. I was IT. I've never had an easier audition, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Due to an unmotivated ensemble, however, the show was canceled before I was scheduled to start rehearsals with them. Fortunately, Virginia--not just my sister, but my soul sister--had the soundtrack. It was as though rehearsals never stopped. I continued listening to the CD, memorizing the songs and falling for this Angela Lansbury character. The more I got to know about the musical, the more I learned of the original stage play, Auntie Mame.

When Patrick Dennis is orphaned, he is taken by his nanny Agnes Gooch to the home of Auntie Mame, his eccentric aunt who lives in a plush penthouse in Beekman Place. In ten years, Mame takes Patrick through the Depression, his college years, marriage to a Southern Gentleman, his engagement to a college girl, an unplanned pregnancy, and on into the future.

I read the book of the musical and the script to the play. I saw the film with Rosalind Russell, and the musical with Lucille Ball. I've yet to read Patrick Dennis's original novel, but I'm in the middle of Chapter Two right now.

What concerns me about Mame is that the Lucille Ball version is the only musical adaptation we got on film. It's not atrocious. Bea Arthur and Jane Connell reprise their Broadway roles as Vera and Gooch, respectively. Robert Preston is a great Beauregarde Jackson Pickett Burnside. But Lucy...I don't love Lucy. Not in this one. She can't sing. She's just not a singer. She does a rhythmic talking through each song, and when she does sing, it's AWFUL. Why should one of the greatest musicals be subjected to a sub-par rendering? Why remake a perfect musical adaptation (My Fair Lady) instead of revisiting an oldie but goodie?

Well, I'll remake that movie. Right now. With this damn cast. Click Read More! to get the D.L.

Who is She: Mother Burnside is the matriarch of the Burnsides. A large, intimidating Southern woman surrounded by vultures waiting for her to die so that they can collect on her will. Mother Burnside is Mame's future mother-in-law, and that's fucking terrifying.

Awesome Quote: "Mother of jefferson Davis! She's passing the fox!"

My Choice: An Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Misery), she has played a Southern woman a number of times (Fried Green Tomatoes, for example). She also has musical experience (TV movie of Annie), and while Mother Burnside doesn't actually have a song, she could do background vocals.

Kathy Bates (Rat Race, Titanic)

Who is She: Near the end, Patrick brings his fiancee to meet Mame and her friends. He meets this gal, who Mame hires as either a maid or an interior decorator. I forget how close the musical is to the original. Anyway, she's smarter, cooler, and much less of an uptight bitch. She's the right girl, but does he know it?

Awesome Quote:
Patrick: "Marriage is a great institution."
Pegeen: "Yeah, but who wants to be in an institution?"

My Choice: Pegeen is Irish, so its only natural that a redhead be chosen. This is a non-singing role, so it can be anyone, no matter what their vocal talents are. And it should be a babe.

Jenna Fischer (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Blades of Glory)

Who Are They: Gloria's parents, upper-class WASPs who own a nice piece of land called "Upson Downs." Get it? The Upsons are scandalized by unmarried preggos, poor people, and Jews.

My Choices: They must look comfortable in period WASP garb, and look wholesome. By which I mean, bred. One of them is an Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Pieces of April)

Bill Irwin (Across the Universe, Lady in the Water) as Claude Upson

Patricia Clarkson (Married Life, Jumanji) as Doris Upson

Who is She: A Southern belle who's after Beau, and Beau's money to go with it. She jump-starts the fox hunt in an attempt to kill Mame, Sally's greatest threat to Southern blue-bloodedry.

Awesome Quote:
Sally Cato: "Oh, Mame, I'm so excited! I'm just gonan hold my breath 'til dawn!"
Mame: "Do that, honey."

My Choice: I chose a Southern belle who oozes sensuality and gentility, someone who can play both wholesome and bitchy.

Kristin Chenoweth (TV's Pushing Daisies, Bewitched)

Who is She: A rich girl who Patrick meets at university. Gloria is spoiled, prejudiced, vain and stupid.

Awesome Quote: "Bunny Bixler and I were in the semi-finals - the very semi-finals, mind you - of the ping-pong tournament at the club and this ghastly thing happened. We were both playing way over our heads and the score was 29-28. And we had this really terrific volley and I stepped back to get this really terrific shot. And I stepped on the ping-pong ball! I just squashed it to bits. And then Bunny and I ran to the closet of the game room to get another ping-pong ball and the closet was locked! Imagine? We had to call the whole thing off. Well, it was ghastly. Well, it was just ghastly."

My Choice: She's played spoiled, prejudiced, vain and stupid people before. She's also young and looks well-bred.

Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man, Drop Dead Gorgeous)

Who is He: The trustee left in charge of Patrick's inheritance, it means he also has a hand in Patrick's future. Babcock is a friend of the Upsons, meaning he shares their same views on the un-rich and the non-Protestant. He is a true snob, and tries to break Patrick free from Mame's grasp throughout his life.

Awesome Quote: "For nine years, Mame Dennis Burnside, I have done everything in my power to protect this boy from your idiotic, cockeyed nincompoopery."

My Choice: I wanted someone who looks professional, and can pull off that snob effect. He did this especially well in an episode of "The Nanny" in which he played CC's brother, DD. Their family name on the show: Babcock.

Michael McKean (Clue, The Producers: The Movie Musical)

Who is He: A progressive schoolteacher and friend of mame's, he finds the Montessori school to be old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy. His school holds classes completely nude, in order to strip repression off of his charges. Patrick's lessons there last a day, but Woolsey forever remains by Mame's side.

My Choice: I went with an Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (Chaplin) who looks like a sexy Bohemian.

Robert Downey, Jr. (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man)

Who is She: Patrick's nanny, an introverted Catholic woman. Mame opens her up to new horizons with a new makeover. Gooch opens up her blouse and winds up getting pregnant.

Songs: St. Bridget, We Need a Little Christmas, Gooch's Song

Awesome Quote:
Gooch: "I'm a bachelor girl. My baby is going to be a little bas-"
Mame: "Agnes!"

My Choice: What I like about her features is that she can pass for both beautiful (as she needs to be for one scene) and frumpy (for most of the film). She can do it. Her voice has the proper range for Gooch.

Idina Menzel (Enchanted, Rent)

Who is He: Mame's nephew, a writer. A good-looking young man, Patrick learns all there is about life from his Auntie Mame. As he gets older and meets more of Babcock's crowd, however, he becomes more snobbish and disapproving. It's up to Mame, Pegeen, and a few stiff drinks to save the day!

YOUNGER PATRICK: St. Bridget, My Best Girl, We Need a Little Christmas, The Letter

Awesome Quote:
"And if, some day, when everything turns out wrong
You're through with the human race
Come running to me
For you'll always be
My best girl."

My Choice: I've decided to keep Younger Patrick up to the unknown brigade. But older Patrick can be played by someone known, someone who can sing.

That's a video of a young Academy Award Nominee for eBest Actor (Half Nelson), but he also sang recently:

He's also a Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actor (Lars and the Real Girl)

Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Remember the Titans)

Who is She: Mame's best friend, an actress from Pittsburgh who affects a British accent to sound more posh. Vera is a lush and a brat, but is always ready with a quip here and a smoke there. She's so delightfully bitchy sometimes.

Songs: It's Today, The Man in the Moon, Bosom Buddies

Awesome Quote:
Vera: (to Pegeen) "Congratulations."
Patrick: "No, Vera, this is Gloria."
Vera: "Pity."

My Choice: True, she already played Mame on Broadway. But she's much more perfect for the role of Vera. A great singer, she's demonstrated her vocals in such films as Chicago and Mamma Mia!. It's a part she could play in her sleep, sure, but she always delivers. It's just too much fun.

Christine Baranski (The Birdcage, The Ref)

Who is He: Beau is a Southern gentleman who meets Mame while Christmas shopping in New York. Mame is fired due to her inability to properly look after his needs, but Beau is charmed and takes her home to Georgia. They marry and travel the world.

Songs: Mame

My Choice: A handsome actor who can sing, dance, and do a Southern accent. He's an Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor (The Usual Suspects) and Best Actor (American Beauty)

Kevin Spacey (TV's Recount, Superman Returns)

Who is She: Everyone's favorite aunt, a force of nature with skin. Mame is a free spirit, always changing outfits, interior decorators, hair color, etc.

Songs: It's Today, Open a New Window, My Best Girl, We Need a Little Christmas, Bosom Buddies, That's How Young I Feel, If He Walked Into My Life Today, Finale

Awesome Quote: "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death."

My Choice: She doesn't do musicals often, but when she does, she's a natural. And she LOOKS like Auntie Mame. She SOUNDS like Auntie Mame. She's the perfect person to carry on the Rosalind Russell tradition of class and cool. She is an Academy Award Winner for Best Actress (Dead Man Walking) and a Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (In the Valley of Elah).

Susan Sarandon (Speed Racer, The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Attention Mame fans: Any problems that you see? Or did something strike your fancy to the point of praise? Tell me about it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Addicted to Crazy

That's the second Carol Channing post in as many days. I think I have a problem. And not in the same way Carol has a problem, which seems to work, but a REAL problem.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A New Kind of Mame

Carol Channing sings a new version of "That's How Young I Feel" from Mame, before being carried off on the back of a motorcycle among dancing hippies. It's too good to be true.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Patty C, Do You Love Me?

So, I was doing my daily reading of the Film Experience, when I came upon Nate's piece on Patricia Clarkson. And it got me to thinking about what a beautiful woman she is, and talented, and beautiful.

Seriously, am I right? Look at that smile. That's a million-dollar smile right there. That's a face that could launch a thousand ships. No lie. No exaggeration. Just plain-speaking truth.

And, OK, I always respected her as an actress, but after Lars and the Real Girl, I was hooked. I think I managed to see five movies with her in the the two weeks after that. (Dogville was one, I know...but there were others, I swear.)

And, holy crap, she was funny and quirky and HOT in Married Life, one of the three best movies of the year so far. Look at that red hair. My oh my.

And I completely forgot to mention yesterday that she's actually in Vicky Cristina Barcelona! Why did it take Woody Allen so long to put her in one of his movies. She would have been much better than Helen Hunt in The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (not that Hunt was bad, I'm just sayin'). Apparently, it worked well, since she's also in his next rom-com, Whatever Works. OMIGOD I HOPE SHE'S HIS NEW DIANNE WIEST OMIGOD!


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Broken Promises

So, due to much difficulty in casting, timing, and motivation, The Little Mermaid will not be cast this month. Though you probably already guessed that. So, we're starting August's round of CCTs with Mame. That one is ready to go.

In other news, Vicky Cristina Barcelona premiered in L.A. this week, to glowing reviews. Even Jeff Wells, who dismissed it at Cannes, saw some merit to the film this time around.

VCB is the latest flick from the incredible Woody Allen, who has been enjoying a resurgence of faith in his work since Match Point in 2005.

(I still haven't seen Cassandra's Dream -- few did, since it was a Weinstein Company release -- but I hear it's right up my alley. I'll get to it soon.)

In other-other news, I finished reading Watchmen. Which means the movie can't come out soon enough. I especially look forward to Matthew Goode's performance, because that is going to be AWESOME.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Late to the Party

It's been a week since I've seen it, but I just wanted to make sure the magic wouldn't wear off before I started writing about it. And there's another movie that came out at the beginning of the Summer, but I just got around to seeing it. And I don't need to sit around debating with myself how I felt.

Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are magic when they get together. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was instantly quotable (yes, that counts for a lot), and gets funier with repeat viewings. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby offered the same nonsensical tone with an actual plot, with sexy results. But Step Brothers...hoo boy, did I love Step Brothers.

There's more of a plot than Anchorman, but less so than Talladega Nights. Lay-abouts Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Academy Award Nominee John C. Reilly) still live at home with their parents. Dale's father (Richard Jenkins) meets Brennan's mom (Academy Award Winner Mary Steenburgen), they marry, all four move in together, hilarity ensues. Okay, so it's more of a set-up than a plot, but at least it goes somewhere.

As the first R-rated film of their collaboration, Step Brothers allows Ferrell and McKay to up the ante. Masturbating to the weather girl? Adultery in the men's room? Mary Steenburgen shouting, "What the fucking fuck"?!? The climactic Wine Mixer? I don't do it justice in print, but the execution on film is HILARIOUS.

Everyone in the cast is pitch-perfect. Jenkins almost steals the show as the put-upon patriarch of this crazy clan, while Adam Scott is a perfectly hilarious villain, playing Brennan's devious, more successful brother. The chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly, first seen in Talladega Night, is just awesome. They are clearly more blood brothers than stepbrothers -- comically, anyway.

Step Brothers is mindless entertainment, it is true. (And thank goodness for that -- it's nice to kick back and relax after three viewings of The Dark Knight) Trust me when I say it's hilarious, it's awesome, it hits all the right notes. And that Jon Brion score is GAH! amazing. ***1/2

Well, Indiana Jones (Academy Award Nominee Harrison Ford) has returned: older, campier, computier than before.

Indy and greaser Mutt Williams (Shia LaBeouf) search for a missing professor (Academy Award Nominee John Hurt), winding up in a quest for a mythical City of Gold and the Crystal Skull of the title. Russian commies are the villains this time out, led by paranormal investigator Colonel Dr. Irina Spalko (Academy Award Winner Cate Blanchett).

The Indy movies have always had a great balance between the exciting and the ridiculous. This new one, an attempt to recreate 50s B-flicks, is no exception, though there were times where I had to keep my eyes from rolling. I can accept refrigerators that can survive nuclear blasts. I can accept forays into the supernatural and trans-dimensional.

I just cannot accept Shia auditioning for a new Tarzan movie, nor will I ever accept the use of CG animals. What, they couldn't find real prairie dogs? And why fake monkeys -- did they kill all the real ones in the first three movies (those fucking dates!)? Not a big fan of Janusz Kaminski's cinematography in this one, either. Too much white light. Too fake-looking. I get that there's a "feel" about this film, but it was awfully distracting.

But whatever. It's great to see Indy back in action. Hell, it's great to see Harrison Ford back in action, still in shape and still doing most of his own stunts. The guy's still got it, and looks ready for a few more. Everyone is clearly having a good time, especially Blanchett. I'd love to see her do more roles like this, like maybe in a Bond film. She just nails it. Perfectly.

Overall: Great fun. I'd see it again, but I can wait for the DVD. ***

Saturday, August 2, 2008

His Favorite Year?

Peter O'Toole turns 76 today!

O'Toole is considered one of the greatest actors in the English language, living or dead. It helps that he actually is, as a recent Oscar nomination proved.

Venus was a surprise late contender in 2006. After all, he received an Honorary Oscar in 2002, which usually functions as both a consolation prize and a boot out the door. He wasn't kidding when he said he wasn't done trying. Of course, this meant we also had to watch the hope die from his face as they inevitably announced Forest Whitaker the winner.

Now the younger generation can appreciate him as food critic Anton Ego in Pixar's Ratatouille. Which rocked. O'Toole received his first Hollmann Award Nomination for his superior voice-over work, though he lost that one, too.

Peter is not one to get discouraged. He'll be appearing in the next season of Showtime's The Tudors as Pope Paul III, which means I need to start watching The Tudors, which drives me crazy because I tire Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The man has SIX MOVIES in the works, two of which should be out by the end of the year.

Happy 76th Birthday, Pete. Keep on dancin'.