Monday, November 16, 2009

Credits: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Monday, November 9, 2009

Credits: Charade

Friday, November 6, 2009

Precious Day

Precious hits theaters today, and we'll no doubt be seeing more of this man, Lee Daniels, from here on out. My boyfriend and I are going away for the weekend, so I have no idea if I'll catch it or not. If you get a chance to see the film this weekend, come back here and tell me what you thought!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Poll: What are Gabby Sidibe's chances of having a long film career?

A lot of talk has been going on this week about Gabourey Sidibe, the charming new actress starring in Precious. Lots of debate has gone on about whether or not her talent will outshine her obviously atypical looks (in cinema, anyway) and ensure a successful acting career in coming years. Let me know what you think in the sidebar poll.

(POLL RESULTS: In the wake of the trailer premiere for Clint Eastwood's Invictus, we talked about his best films so far this decade. Mystic River was the winner, with 55% of the vote, while Million Dollar Baby took second with 33%. 11% professed admiration for his latest, Gran Torino. Thanks for voting!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oscar Has Its Hosts

Woot! Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin have been announced as this year's Oscar hosts, and I think it's great news. I guess it makes sense to have more than one host, since AMPAS is trying to take the show back to its roots with 10 Best Picture nominees. It wasn't uncommon in past years to have a few people in charge.
The two comedic actors also costar in this December's It's Complicated, a comedy from Nancy Meyers and another vehicle for one Ms. Meryl Streep. I like this idea a lot better than Hugh Jackman, to be honest, so my hopes are high. Now all they need to do is get the nominees right...
The full press release:

Beverly Hills, CA (November 3, 2009) — Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin will serve as co-hosts of the 82nd Academy Awards®, Oscar telecast producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman announced today.

“We think the team of Steve and Alec are the perfect pair of hosts for the Oscars,” said Shankman and Mechanic. “Steve will bring the experience of having hosted the show in the past and Alec will be a completely fresh personality for this event.”

“I am happy to co-host the Oscars with my enemy Alec Baldwin,” said Martin.

“I don’t play the banjo but I’m thrilled to be hosting the Oscars – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Baldwin.

Martin hosted the 73rd and 75th Academy Awards shows, earning an Emmy nomination for the first stint. He has also served as a presenter on the show several times, most recently at the ceremony in February when he appeared with Tina Fey. He is currently touring with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers in support of his latest album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo.” In 1977 and 1978 Martin won Grammys for Best Comedy Recording. He earned a third Grammy in 2001 in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category. In 2007 Martin earned a Kennedy Center Honor.

Baldwin was nominated for an Academy Award in 2003 for his supporting role in “The Cooler.” That year also marked his most recent appearance as a presenter on the show. Baldwin currently stars as Jack Donaghy on the comedy “30 Rock,” a role for which he has won two Emmys (in 2008 and 2009). Baldwin earned a Tony nomination in 1992 for his performance in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Top 10: Actresses That Need Better Parts

Don't you hate it when an actor or actress that you truly admire starts throwing their career away? There always seems to be a plethora of talented entertainers who pick project after project that does them no favors and has no artistic merit whatsoever. Here are a few actresses I happen to love and see enormous potential in, that rarely seem to land in the roles as great as their talents.

10. Mena Suvari
Most promising film: American Beauty

Remember this? Stellar lead performances from Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening hogged all of the attention back in 1999, but there was some phenomenal supporting work in the film. One that still stands out to me is Mena Suvari as Angela, Janie Burnham's friend who uses ambition and sex appeal to mask a seething center of insecurity. Her delivery is perfect throughout the entire film, and she manages to turn a bitchy character with a serious attitude problem into someone sympathetic and likable in the film's final act. Her performance is funny, infuriating and ultimately sad.

9. Rachel McAdams
Most promising film: Mean Girls

In one of the best high school movies ever, Rachel McAdams played the now legendary Regina George, the queen bee and most popular girl in school desperately trying to hang on to her social status. The voice of writer Tina Fey made this movie an instant comedy classic, and its strongest player was undoubtedly McAdams. Her timing and delivery were genius, and made her character a quotable and memorable screen villain for the ages. If she could shy away from romantic leads for a while, and maybe take on a gritty role where she's not required to look drop dead gorgeous, she has a shot.

8. Emmy Rossum
Most promising films: Mystic River, The Phantom of the Opera

The National Board of Review named Emmy Rossum their breakthrough actress of the year back in 2004, and I think they were on to something. She has some quality that makes her instantly likable. In Clint Eastwood's Mystic River she played Katie Markum, the ill-fated daughter of Sean Penn's Jimmy, and didn't need a lot of screen time to show us that Jimmy's loss was profound and unfair. In the coveted role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera, she was wonderful, even if you couldn't say the same for the film itself.

7. Keri Russell
Most promising film: Waitress

Keri Russell first started stealing hearts and impressing critics as the iconic title character in the WB's college drama, Felicity. But it was her role as an unhappily pregnant waitress with a talent for making pies and eyes for a new doctor in town that really made the world take notice. She gives a witty and endearing performance, and carries the quirky little indie with charm and grace. It's a tragedy that this film marks the end of writer-director Adrienne Shelley's career, but at least there is the joy in what will hopefully be a long and colorful filmography for Russell.

6. Kristen Stewart
Most promising films: Into the Wild, Adventureland

I know that Stewart has made loads of money and picked up quite a fan base with her involvement in the Twilight franchise, but I have to say it may be one of the worst decisions she could have possibly made if she wants to be taken seriously as an actress. She was one of the strongest supporting elements in Sean Penn's beautiful Into the Wild, and gave a perfect performance in this year's college comedy Adventureland. She was smart, funny, and desperately lonely and lost. Here's hoping she lands more important roles in the future.

5. Scarlett Johansson
Most promising films: Lost in Translation, Girl With a Pearl Earring

I can't quite figure out why things aren't going right for ScarJo. She obviously has talent (3 Golden Globe nominations) and good taste (frequent collaborations with Woody Allen), but yet her name just doesn't excite the kind of praise that one would expect by now. Personally I think Woody puts too much emphasis on her sexuality, because I know she has more to offer than a pretty face and killer curves. Her lonely, neglected new wife in Lost in Translation was a captivating character and I'm sure she has a few more in her.

4. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Most promising film: Okay, her strongest role was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that success so far hasn't translated to films, but it could!

Call me crazy, but I think Sarah Michelle Gellar could be great. No, she hasn't made good choices where her film career is concerned, but she killed - no pun intended - on Buffy and has all the talent and beauty needed to be a major star. I'll probably take crap for this, but I actually thought she did an awesome job in the teen slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer (a guilty pleasure for me). She was the only convincing member of the cast and in the right part she could carry a film.

3. Katherine Heigl
Most promising film: Knocked Up

Katherine Heigl brought the funny in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, in which she plays a career-minded woman who has to put her plans on hold after a drunken one-night stand leads to an unwanted pregnancy. Heigl is hilarious and holds her own among Apatow's close-knit comedy troupe. She's also a slam-dunk dramatic actress, and she has the Emmy to prove it. She's already landing lead roles left and right (27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth) but a part in a film from a director like Kimberly Peirce or Jane Campion would be a better fit for her range.

2. Kerry Washington
Most promising films: Save the Last Dance, Ray, The Last King of Scotland

Kerry Washington is one of those actresses who commands your attention and demands that you remember her. I saw Save the Last Dance as a teenager (in one of my less discerning moments) and quickly forgot about it, but I thought about Washington for a long time, and kept reminding myself to keep an eye out for her. She gets small roles in a number of great films (she's supported two of her leading men to Best Actor wins), but for some reason no one trusts her to headline a movie. It's a shame, because I'm positive she'll knock a lead performance out of the park as soon as she gets the chance.

1. Kate Hudson
Most promising film: Almost Famous

Kate Hudson is the most tragic example of a talented actress squandering her gifts in films that don't deserve her. Her breakthrough performance in Almost Famous as Penny Lane, the Stillwater groupie in love with the one man who doesn't want her, was phenomenal, and should have ensured a long career in respectable films. As Penny, she has wonderful moments that take the audience from laughter to tears and back again. A part in Rob Marshall's upcoming musical Nine seems like a step in the right direction.

These women all have something great to offer. If their agents would get to work and find them roles in important films, they could be incredible. Who would you like to see challenge themselves a bit more often?

Monday, November 2, 2009

No. No. No.

There's a sequel a-brewin' for the 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit.


Not at all. I hate unnecessary sequels, especially to movies that are decades old. Just leave well enough alone, y'all.


Directed by Kenny Ortega

Premiere date: October 28, 2009
PG for some suggestive choreography and scary images.

Michael Jackson's This Is It offers Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this summer in London's O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June, 2009, the film is produced with the full support of the Estate of Michael Jackson and drawn from more than one hundred hours of behind-the-scenes footage, featuring Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. Audiences will be given a privileged and private look at Jackson as he has never been seen before. In raw and candid detail, Michael Jackson's This Is It captures the singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius and great artist at work as he creates and perfects his final show.


Directed by Robert Kenner

Premiere date: June 12, 2009
PG for some thematic material and disturbing images.

Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli - the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising and often upsetting truths about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Credits: Vertigo


Based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
Stage musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Screenplay by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher
Directed by Joel Schumacher

Gerard Butler
Emmy Rossum
Patrick Wilson
Miranda Richardson
Minnie Driver

Premiere date: December 22, 2004
PG-13 for brief violent images.

Christine Daee is a tortured young star who is haunted by the voice of the phantom, a musician who hides in the shadows to hide a facial disfigurement, yet sings to her obsessively. Dwelling in the dark, damp chambers beneath the Paris opera house, the phantom lords over the cast and management with artistic autocracy - he writes the shows, casts them, and threatens all who disobey his plans with dramatically violent outbursts. But when his young student Christine falls for the rich and dapper Raoul, the phantom descends into madness.

National Board of Review
Best Breakthrough Performance - Emmy Rossum

3 Academy Award Nominations
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Original Song - "Learn to Be Lonely"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Numbers: November 1, 2009

1. (new) This Is It - Gross: $21,300,000 / Gross to date: $32,509,000
2. (1) Paranormal Activity - Gross: $16,540,000 / Gross to date: $84,780,000
3. (4) Law Abiding Citizen - Gross: $7,303,000 / Gross to date: $51,384,650
4. (5) Couples Retreat - Gross: $6,097,390 / Gross to date: $86,663,145
5. (2) Saw VI - Gross: $5,560,000 / Gross to date: $22,820,000
6. (3) Where the Wild Things Are - Gross: $5,081,000 / Gross to date: $61,800,000
7. (8) The Stepfather - Gross: $3,400,000 / Gross to date: $24,748,000
8. (6) Astro Boy - Gross: $3,035,000 / Gross to date: $10,891,000
9. (11) Amelia - Gross: $3,000,000 / Gross to date: $8,305,832
10. (7) Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant - Gross: $2,809,080 / Gross to date: $10,520,870

Worth mentioning: The Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It took the box office this weekend, though it didn't make as much as Sony projected. It's the second highest opening weekend for a concert gilm, only behind the tween phenomenon that was Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds.

I Heart Gabby


Based on the novel by John Irving
Written and directed by Tod Williams

Jeff Bridges
Kim Basinger
Jon Foster
Elle Fanning

Premiere date: July 14, 2004
R for strong sexuality and graphic images, and language.

Famous children's books author Ted Cole and his beautiful wife Marion's once-great marriage has been strained by tragedy. The Coles lovingly parent their surviving child, bright 4-year-old Ruth, who takes everything in stride as perhaps only a child can. But Marion's equation of love with loss, coupled with Ted's infidelities, points towards a much-needed change in the relationship. That may come in the form of Eddie O'Hare, the young man Ted hires to work as his summer assistant. Eddie idolizes Ted, but Ted's erratic work habits soon leave Eddie to his own devices. Marion becomes an object of desire for Eddie, rekindling in her some surprising emotions as a mother and as a woman. To Eddie's surprise and delight, his yearning is potently reciprocated. As he becomes passionately entwined with the seemingly fragile yet increasingly bold Marion, Eddie comes to realize that, similarly, Ted's surface fecklessness hides something deeper within. As the summer draws to a close, Marion and Ted must make difficult decisions about the future of their family.

National Board of Review
Special Recognition for Excellence in Filmmaking

We love you, Ms. Hannigan!

November 2009

I can't believe we're almost through with 2009. Only a little more than four months until the Oscars, so now we're getting into the heavy-hitter months of November and December. Lots of awards hopefuls are up to bat. Some will thrill us and some will disappoint.
This coming weekend we'll see A Christmas Carol, an animated update on the classic tale from Robert Zemeckis and Jim Carrey. Precious, one of the most decorated films of the year so far, will finally be released after months on the festival circuit. Oprah and Tyler Perry should do wonders for this little movie, and my guess is it will be enormously successful once it goes wide.
This weekend also brings the ensemble comedy The Men Who Stare at Goats.
The 13th will see a few indie contenders in theaters: The Messenger, That Evening Sun and The Young Victoria. I've seen The Young Victoria, and personally I thought it was a little slow and I don't see much hope for it with AMPAS.
On the 20th, the big November money-maker and guaranteed suck fest (pun entirely intentional) New Moon comes out. I cannot beg enough for everyone to just stay away from this nightmare. See Broken Embraces instead. It might not be the deepest of Almodovar's works, but I caught it earlier this month and fell in love.
Then the next week we have two of my most anticipated films of the year, The Road and The Princess and the Frog. The Road isn't looking like the strongest of bets as far as awards are concerned, but I loved the novel and love Viggo Mortensen, so I'll be catching it anyway. The Princess and the Frog is Disney's return to 2D, and if successful could result in a resuscitation of the dying art that is hand-drawn animation. I'm praying that it's a critical and commercial success.
Finally, on the 27th, there's a limited release of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, another mostly disappointing film I saw this month. Performances in that one range from fine to dreadful, so if I were you I'd wait for the DVD.
What are you planning to see this month?

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Written and directed by Brad Bird

Craig T. Nelson
Holly Hunter
Sarah Vowell
Samuel L. Jackson
Jason Lee

Premiere date: November 5, 2004
PG for action violence.

It takes a will of steel to hide your superhero talents from a world that still needs you, yet no longer appreciates what you can do. Battling a bulging belly and boring job, Mr. Incredible longs for the glory days of upholding law and order while his superhuman family tries to fit in and find their place in "normal" life. Relief from quiet suburbia finally comes years later, when the family uncovers a diabolical plan and must bring together their respective strengths to save the day.

National Board of Review
Best Animated Feature

4 Academy Award Nominations, 2 Wins
Best Animated Feature
Best Original Screenplay
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing

TOP 10: Foreign Horror

Happy Halloween! I knew with the dark holiday coming up that I wanted to do a top 10 of horror movies, but it seems like every film site everywhere does the same thing around this time of year. A person only cares to debate whether The Exorcist or Psycho is creepier so many times, so I decided to tweak the criteria a bit.

These are my 10 favorite foreign horror films. No matter what language you speak or what country you call home, these movies are guaranteed to inspire a few nightmares.

10. A Tale of Two Sisters

If you're planning on watching this one, be sure to make time to see it twice. This intriguing Korean ghost story has a shocker ending that'll have you rethinking everything you've just seen. When two sisters come home from the hospital after the death of their mother, they contend with two evils in their home - their bitter new stepmother and a vengeful spirit. It's a wonderful, somber movie about adolescence and mourning.

9. Nosferatu

This German silent film from F.W. Murnau is the original Dracula adaptation. The 1922 classic concerns a man named Thomas Hutter, who travels to Count Orlok's castle to sell him a house. But the monstrous man soon sets his sights (and his fangs) on Hutter and his loving wife. It may be mild by today's shocking standards, but an eerie, evil performance from Max Schrek as Orlok is still an unsettling and lasting image. It's a menacing tale that's still the definitive film version of Bram Stoker's classic story of death and decay.

8. Suspiria

Italian director Dario Argento was the undisputed master of horror when he made this classic in 1977. Suspiria tells the story of Susan, an American girl attending a famous school of dance in Europe. She's not there long before strange and unnatural occurances have her frightened and ill, and soon she discovers the school has long been a gathering place for a witches coven. Argento creates a surreal and chilling atmosphere and makes stomach-turning material more interesting than it has any right to be. And special kudos to Goblin's spine-tingling and relentless musical score.

7. Ringu

By now I'm sure you all know the story of Ringu. A cursed videotape seems to kill everyone who watches it after seven days. Reiko, a journalist, hears the urban myth of the tape and is drawn into the mystery of an otherworldly girl's death. Once she views the tape, she has one week to uncover the secrets surroundinng it in order to save her own life. One of the creepiest moments ever conceived and put on film is a girl's crawl from a well in the video and out of the television toward one of her victims. Thank goodness videotapes are pretty obsolete in this digital age, or I'd still be terrified every time I touched a VHS.

6. [REC]

Far and away one of the best zombie movies I've ever seen, [REC] takes the hand-held scare tactic - a tired device in horror films, if you ask me - and makes it into something new and thrilling. A Barcelona news reporter and her cameraman are on assignment filming a group of firemen, but suddenly find themselves quarantined in an apartment building where an unknown virus has turned residents into violent killers. Exceptional performances and an astonishing and unnerving ending turn this zombie flick into a must-watch horror gem.

5. The Devil's Backbone

There are some glaring similarities between Guillermo del Toro's 2001 gothic horror film and his sensational hit Pan's Labyrinth. His lead characters in both are children coping during the Spanish Civil War, with adversaries both real and supernatural. In The Devil's Backbone, Carlos is a young boy whose father has recently died in the war. He's taken in at the Santa Lucia School and soon meets the restless ghost of a murdered student. It's a compelling and convincing tale made with intelligence and ambition. A visually arresting and emotionally poignant ghost story that fits right in with del Toro's most beautiful and effective works.

4. Let the Right One In

Tomas Alfredson's brilliant vampire movie is more than a genre flick. It's a beautiful study of young friendship and the horrors of adolescence. A 12-year-old boy named Oskar is regularly bullied and friendless until Eli, also 12 and alone, moves is nextdoor. Her arrival coincides with a series of gruesome attacks, and though Oskar realizes there is something different about her, he befriends her. The loneliness they both feel is the only thing strong enough to unite them despite the vastly different worlds they inhabit. The film is a wonder to make a vampire movie and a tale of innocent childhood friendship fit together so beautifully.

3. Diabolique

As far as scares are concerned, Diabolique is relatively tame. But it's inarguable that French director Henri-Georges Clouzot was masterful with suspenseful thrillers. The film tells the story of two women - one the wife of a boarding school's brutish headmaster, the other his mistress - who bond over their apparent mutual hatred of the man and decide to do him in. The film is a masterpiece of deceit and double-crossings with a Hitchcockian flair that convinces you that you know where it's headed, only to yank the rug from under you time and time again.

2. Eyes Without a Face

Eyes Without a Face is a 1959 French film directed by Georges Franju. Its an elegant and subdued film with stunning and creepy visuals. A plastic surgeon becomes obsessed with fixing his daughter Christiane's horribly disfigured face. He and his nurse conspire to fix her by kidnapping other young women and removing their faces. It's wonderfully controlled filmmaking that places mood over scares, and the lead performance from Edith Scob - wearing a bizarrely blank mask - is jarringly serene. Plus, there's a killer bit with a dog (I'm a sucker for any scene with a German Shepherd).

1. The Orphanage

The best ghost story I've ever seen is J.A. Bayona's The Orphanage. Laura and her husband move in to the seaside orphanage in which she grew up and turn it into a facility for disabled children. But when their son goes missing, Laura discovers terrifying secrets about the house and the children who lived there. A modern horror film that understands and smartly uses suspense is rare, but this is one of those films. The Orphanage doesn't rely on cheap and frequent scares, it instead chills you from moment one with dread and anticipation of what might happen. Belen Rueda gives a knockout performance and the final act's startling revelation is more horrifying than any ending you've ever seen before.

There you have it, the best of foreign horror. Three of these titles have spawned inferior U.S. remakes, with two more on the way, but do yourself a favor and catch the originals next time you're in the mood for a good scare.

What are your favorite horror films? Do any of these foreign gems make your list?

Friday, October 30, 2009


Directed by Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab

Premiere date: September 8, 2004

The town of Whitwell is a tiny community of about two thousand people nestled in the mountains of Tennessee. Its citizens are almost exclusively white and Christian. In 1998, the children of Whitwell Middle School took on an inspiring project, launched out of their principal's desire to help her students open their eyes to the diversity of the world beyond their insulated valley. What happened would change the students, their teachers, their families and the entire town forever, and eventually open hearts and minds around the world. Paper Clips tells the moving story of how these students responded to what had been to them a completely unfamiliar chapter in human history - the Holocaust - with a promise to honor every single soul lost in that horrible event by collecting paper clips to represent each individual exterminated by the nazis. Their dedication was absolute. Their plan was simple but profound. The amazing result, which stands permanently in their schoolyard, is an unforgettable lesson of how a committed group of children can change the world, one classroom at a time.


Screenplay by Debra Granik and Richard Lieske
Directed by Debra Granik

Vera Farmiga
Hugh Dillon
Clint Jordan
Caridad De La Luz

Premiere date: January 15, 2004 (Sundance Film Festival)
R for pervasive drug content, language and some sexuality.

Irene is a working-class mother living in upstate New York. She struggles to keep her marriage together and raise two sons while keeping her cocaine addiction a secret. After a series of nearly fatal mishaps, and finally hoping to make a change in her life, she decides to check herself into a rehab center. She knew kicking the habit would be tough, but the experience proves even more difficult than she could have anticipated. There, she meets and falls in love with a fellow reformed addict. When one of them falls into a relapse with the addiction, their commitment to staying clean - and to each other - shatters.

Sundance Film Festival
Dramatic Directing Awards - Debra Granik
Special Jury Prize - Vera Farmiga