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Archive for April, 2005

“Let’s go be bad guys.”

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The official trailer for Serenity came out about an hour ago and man, does it look good. The effects look sharp and the dialogue is typically Whedon-y. I feel pretty confident in saying that anyone who dug Firefly, the TV series from which the movie spawns, is probably going to like this movie. It honestly looks like the TV show on steroids, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

More dicussion of Firefly and Serenity later, but for now, go watch the trailer.

Written by Allen

April 26th, 2005 at 5:18 pm

Posted in General

First Official Pic of Routh as Superman

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Warner Brothers has released the first official picture of Brandon Routh in the new Superman getup from Superman Returns. Two things to discuss here: one, the suit; and two, Routh himself.

The costume I like. It’s not necessarily the way I would have gone with it, but I like it. I especially like the fact that they didn’t do what I was most afraid they were going to: give it the the padded, latex sculpted-muscle look. It’s just a set of tights, which is as it should be for Superman. (If you’ve got to go the padded, sculpted route, then you’ve probably cast the wrong guy.) I like the deeper red for the boots and cape and I don’t mind the slight tweaks to the S-shield. The main thing I don’t like, and this is just a minor quibble and a personal preference, is the small size of the shield; I like the logo to be a lot bigger on Supes’ chest, at least in the comics. Maybe it would’ve looked ridiculous in live-action, and anyway, the smaller shield definitely keeps more in line with the obvious influence for the suit, the old Max Fleisher cartoon series.

(I wonder…will the comic books adapt to match the way the suit looks in the movie? Wouldn’t surprise me.)

About Routh…well, he definitely fills out the suit nicely. From the neck down, I can buy him as Superman. I don’t think Superman has to be huge; he’s not super because of the size of his muscles. Christopher Reeve certainly didn’t have the physique of a bodybuilder. But Reeve just plain looked like Superman, and that’s my main complaint with Routh–he doesn’t have the face of Superman to me. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I see some footage–all I’ve had to go on so far is stills, most of which haven’t been related to this production. We’ll see.

Written by Allen

April 22nd, 2005 at 5:59 am

Posted in General

Doc Ock, Gandalf Sign On For “DaVinci Code”

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The cast for Ron Howard’s adaptation of The DaVinci Code just keeps getting better and better. This movie was going to be an absolute smash no matter who they got to star in it, but man, they’re certainly not going for “movie stars” with the casting…they’re getting Actors. In addition to the already-cast Tom Hanks as protagonist Robert Langdon, Jean Reno as French policeman Bezu Fache and Audrey Tautou (Amelie) as cryptologist Sophie Neveu (though I would have preferred Julie Delpy), we now have Alfred Molina as Bishop Arigarosa and Holy Grail scholar Sir Ian McKellen as Sir Leigh Teabing. That’s most certainly an impressive cast so far.

My hopes for this movie are getting higher and higher. A movie like this one–a thriller relying so heavily on mathematics and small visual cues–could prove difficult to film, but Howard’s opening to A Beautiful Mind makes me think he can pull it off. And the cast will be top-notch. I only hope that the execrable ripoff National Treasure won’t predispose people to think The DaVinci Code‘s going to suck just as badly.

Written by Allen

April 20th, 2005 at 1:01 pm

Posted in General

Review: Ocean’s Twelve

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Ocean’s Eleven was one of my favorite movies of 2001: great cast of actors and an excellent director (Steven Soderbergh) making an easy, fluffy movie and obviously having a ball doing it. The witty interplay between the characters and the slickly-executed heist succeeded largely because the A-list stars were obviously having fun making the movie. The audience felt more like they were privy to a Hollywood party that happened to result in a movie than like they were watching a crassly cobbled-together clunker driven by some studio’s marketing department.

The same can’t be said, however, for its sequel, Ocean’s Twelve. While O12 would seem to have all of the compenents of the original in place, it’s missing one crucial part: the fun.

I think it should be writ down as Tinseltown Law that George Clooney and Brad Pitt should be required to make a movie together every couple of years. Both Clooney and Pitt are pretty boys who really wish they weren’t; neither of them takes themselves all that seriously; both, honestly, are among my favorite actors. Their chemistry together was one easily of the best parts of Ocean’s Eleven…so, of course, they have very few scenes together in the sequel. Clooney might have top billing again, but the importance of his Danny Ocean has been pushed slightly off to the side in favor of Pitt’s Rusty Ryan. That alone isn’t a problem; Rusty’s actually a more intriguing character than Danny.

Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
Grade: C+
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
Written By: George Nolfi
Starring: George Clooney Brad Pitt Julia Roberts Catherine Zeta-Jones Matt Damon Vincent Cassel
Studio: Warner Brothers
Other Links: Official Site

The problem’s more with the members of the infamous eleven not named Rusty or Danny…they’re largely non-existent. It felt like the actors were each under contract requiring them to come back for a sequel, but the producers weren’t required to do anything interesting with them. Bernie Mac spends almost half the movie in jail–if it weren’t for a cutaway to him late in the game I’d have forgotten he was even part of the story. Don Cheadle gets to do almost nothing; same with Elliott Gould and Carl Reiner. Casey Affleck and Scott Caan might as well not even have been in the movie (though their absence might have made the movie better). Julia Roberts has a limited part, likely in no small part because of her real-life pregnancy, but she at least gets to tweak her public image some.

The script for O12 was reworked from an earlier, unrelated script that Warner Brothers asked screeenwriter George Nolfi to refashion for the O11 characters, and it shows: the movie feels very much like the characters from the original were shoved into a story that didn’t concern them. The plot involving master thief “The Night Fox” (Vincent Cassel) and his pursuit by Interpol (excuse me, “Europol”) detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) feels entirely separate from the goings-on of the rest of the crew, though there are efforts made to connect the storylines. Nolfi and Soderbergh didn’t use quite enough stitching between the two storylines, however, and the resulting jumble doesn’t hold together well.

I don’t mean for all of this criticism to imply that Ocean’s Twelve is worthless–while the movie doesn’t compare well with the original, it’s still reasonably entertaining and has some funny moments: Roberts’ awkward situation toward the end of the movie; Topher Grace’s repeat cameo, once again playing a not-so-flattering version of himself, as well as the other suprise celebrity cameos; Cassel’s performace as the extremely confident and slightly skeevy “Night Fox” (man, how does he move like that?); and Pitt and Clooney both bring the same charm they brought to the first film. Not a bad way to spend two hours, but it felt not unlike visiting old friends you haven’t seen in awhile and discovering you just don’t enjoy their company as much as you used to.

Written by Allen

April 19th, 2005 at 4:55 pm

Review: Sideways

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Miles Raymond, the wine connossuier at the heart of Alexander Payne‘s Sideways, would surely have looked down on, if not openly mocked, the bottle of wine the wife and I opened up as we cozied down on the couch to watch this fascinating movie. The wine was an ’02 Firesteed pinot noir, and though Miles may be a fan of fine pinots, this $9.99 bottle would surely not have met his definition of “fine.” (It barely met my definition of fine, and I’m far from the wine expert Miles is–I prefer a good cold English stout with lots of suds, preferably served up with something that was once part of a cow.) Wine–the tasting of it, the savoring, the buying, the talking about it–is Miles’ passion, possibly the only passion left in his life as the movie opens.

Sideways has a very simple story driven by very complex characters: Paul Giamatti plays the emotionally crippled and neurotic Miles, who takes best pal Jack (Thomas Haden Church), an out-of-work actor who specializes in voice overs, on a week-long pre-wedding trip through California’s wine country, ostensibly to teach Jack something about wine…though Jack’s motivations for the trip reside somewhat south of his wine palate (in Jack’s words, he wants to “get his nut on,” a phrase we don’t hear nearly enough in non-pornographic movies). And that’s exactly what he does, as Miles tries to keep the fragments of his plans for their trip–and his sanity–together along the way.

Thanks to Jack’s boyish charms (and here I’m really using “boyish” as a synonym for “obnoxious”), Miles and Jack end up pairing off with two locals: Miles with the stunning Maya (Virigina Madsen), a waitress studying to be a horticulturist, and Jack with Stephanie (Sandra Oh), who works at a winery and really isn’t studying to be much of anything–she lives completely in the moment, which makes her perfect for Jack, who’s trying desperately to fit a lot of living into the moments before his wedding. The complex flavors of this foursome blend deliciously. Much like in Closer, the entire movie centers around the dynamics between and among four people, though the characters in Sideways are far less vitrolic and far more likable those in Closer.

Sideways (2004)
Grade: A
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Based on the novel by Rex Pickett
Starring: Paul Giamatti Thomas Haden Church Virginia Madsen Sandra Oh
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Other Links: Official Site

Giamatti’s performance as Miles was easily one of the best acting jobs of the year–how he didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for his performance is completely beyond me. All I can think of is that Giamatti, normally known as a classic example of “That Guy” from any number of films, doesn’t fit the standard Hollywood concept of a “lead actor” as much as guys like Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx. The Academy already had a “character guy” in Don Cheadle, so the short, balding, pudgy, nerdy Giamatti gets left out, and that’s really a shame. Giamatti absolutely nails the insecurity, anxiety, hurt and disappointment of Miles. It’s a tough job Giamatti has for himself in this movie: he has to take a dishonest, weak mess of a man and make the audience care for him–and root for him. And Giamatti more than meets the challenge.

Madsen’s reponsibility in this movie is almost as tough as Giamatti’s: she has to make the audience fall in love with her right alongside Miles. She accomplishes most of that job simply by being luminous, which she does exceedingly well. But she’s also got to convince us that she’s smart, capable, and driven…yet sensitive enough to be attracted to a neurotic schlub like Miles. Maya is both Miles’ ultimate woman and his unattainable fantasy at the same time (or so he thinks; he seems completely oblivious to the near-constant “hey, I’m interested” signals she throws him). Maya, like Miles, is also somewhat broken: she’s coming off of a painful divorce and to her, Miles represents everything her ex-husband wasn’t and couldn’t be. As much as she clearly likes Miles, she’s tentative and conflicted.

Jack and Stephanie are, in many ways, the anti-Miles and Maya. While Miles and Maya both listen to their heads too much, spending hours on end talking, Stephanie and Jack fall into bed almost immediately. Stephanie wraps her heart around the shallow but loveable Jack; she’s needy yet passionate, emotionally fragile, more than a little irresponsible (we see her mother caring for Stephanie’s six-year-old more than we do Stephanie), yet an unforgiving warrior when injured. (This might be a good place to interject the fact that I don’t normally find Sandra Oh particularly attractive, but wow, she’s smokin’ hot in this movie.)

Church digs his way out from the cinematic detritus that is his recent film career to find a part perfect for his smooth egotism; it’s not hard to imagine that the once-famous actor Church is playing is a minor-chord variation on himself. Church reveals all in this movie–literally–as a man wildly out of touch with himself and what he truly wants. Jack is everything a woman like Stephanie could want–charismatic, wild, passionate, caring–and yet at the same time he disgusts her: he’s a liar and a cheat. Church, who (like Madsen and unlike Giamatti) was nominated for an Oscar for his work, brings both sides of Jack to life and finds surprising depth in a character that initially seems like one-dimensional comic relief.

Payne’s previous movies have been kind of hit-and-miss with me. I loved the hell out of the exuberant Election but was unimpressed by the bleak melancholy of About Schmidt. Payne’s complex characters usually don’t find themselves in situations too far removed from the mundane–he seems more intrigued by examining the “real world” reactions of his characters to situations just outside their comfort zones. Miles Raymond’s comfort zone barely extends past his skin, if even that far, so Payne doesn’t have to push far with him, and the results he gets satisfy like a velvety smooth Zinfandel.

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Written by Allen

April 18th, 2005 at 10:33 pm