Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cup Of Cheer

I want to wish everyone who uses the Blogosphere a prosperous and healthy 2006!!

Thank you to all of you who have visited The Last Reel. Your support is appreciated.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Climb Every Mountain

Dark Horizons has posted the 2006 slate for Paramount Pictures:

Of course everyone will be watching to see if star Tom Cruise's recent erratic behavior will affect the overall numbers for Mission Impossible III, while we ponder the answer to that question...also on tap is an updated version of the classic children's tale--Charlotte's Web, It will be hard to capture the magic of the original animated masterpiece I remember as a kid. Controversial director Oliver Stone takes a look at the attacks of 9/11/01 through the eyes of 2 port authority police officers trapped underneath the remains of the twin towers... should be an interesting to one to watch. The one film I am itchin' to see from this list more than any other though is Zodiac from one of my favorites, director David Fincher. Based on a real life series of serial killings in the 70's, and starring Robert Downey Jr., I'm hoping that it will be as good, if not better than his other great films like Panic Room, Fight Club, and that other serial killer thriller, Se7en.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Bigger They Are...

Dark Horizons has posted the 2006 slate for Sony Pictures:

My first reaction of "Wow", had to do more with the size of the roster, than any one film on it. No less than 29 flicks are set to roll out under the studio banner. Considering that overall box office numbers were down in 2005, this is quite an ambitious slate for any studio, to hedge there bets on.

A new James Bond has been cast for the 21st film in the long running franchise. The story for Casino Royale takes us back to Bond's first assignment. It all rests on the shoulders of Daniel Craig. Will movie-goers be shaken and or stirred? You want sequels? Sony's got 'em in 2006. The Grudge 2 has Sarah Michelle Gellar back as Karen and facing more evil spirits. Underworld: Evolution continues the war between Werewolves and Vampires, while the long in development Basic Instinct 2 : Risk Addiction seems weird after all this time, I am such a huge fan of the original Basic Instinct that I will probably check it out...Remakes of The Pink Panther and When a Stranger Calls will most likely not even come close to being the classics that the originals were. The comedies Click , starring Adam Sandler & Christopher Walken, R.V. with Robin Williams, and The Benchwarmes with my favorite "misfit" Jon Heder, all have the potential for big laughs. Perhaps the most anticipated movie on the entire slate though is The Da Vinci Code. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, director Ron Howard, adapter Akiva Goldsman, and star Tom Hanks, have a lot to live up to...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Doing The Nasty: A Review Of "Closer"

For all of the talent, both in front of, and behind the camera, I was surprised at how "unreal" Closer turned out to be. Considering all of its buzz and attention from Oscar, I was expecting something more than I ended up getting.

Set in London, Closer follows Alice (Natalie Portman), an American expatriate and sometime stripper and her relationship with Dan (Jude Law), an obituary writer and budding novelist. The two meet after she sustains minor injuries after being hit by a car. Things are going great for the lovers until Dan meets Anna (Julia Roberts), an American photographer and is soon infatuated with her. Even as Anna gets involved with Larry (Clive Owen), the doctor. There are plenty of flirtations infidelities, and struggles for power among this foursome.

Adapted for the big screen by Patrick Marber, from his own stage play, and directed by Mike Nichols (The Birdcage, the TV miniseries "Angels in America") , all four of these folks are so nasty to one another that some events can seem just too unreal at times. I'm not a romantic by any means but I find it hard to believe none of these folks have any redeeming qualities. I know bad people exist in the world but this takes the cake. The only way this would work, in my view, is if this were a dark comedy. Nothing skews that way though. And as a relationship drama since there's no one to root for or sympathize with, why should I care...and thanks to a poorly scripted last half hour the ending gets loses its punch...As for the performances: Law is just playing the variation on every cad he's ever played (both in real life and on film), Roberts is kinda just there but not really. If anyone shines here at all, it's Portman and Owen. Portman has developed into quite the actress (the Star Wars prequels notwithstanding) while Owen brings it up a notch for the others.

As part of Sony's "Superbit" line of DVDs, almost all of the disc's capacity is used to ensure high quality video and audio. The picture presentation is flawless but this comes at the expense of having a DVD without much bonus material. The only extra on the disc is the five-minute video for "The Blower's Daughter" by Damien Rice, from the soundtrack and is heard twice during the film.

Closer is watchable, despite its problems, but I certainly was disappointed by it--considering its potential for greatness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The "Kong" Show

According to the latest box office report from Box Office Mojo, the 4 day holiday weekend saw King Kong barely retain the top spot against The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, with only .3 million separating the two films. As Narnia and Kong continue to fight it out...

Last Thursday night, I watched King Kong, here now is my review:

The original King Kong from 1933 was truly a marvel for its time and has inspired many filmmakers over the years since its release. When I found out that Peter Jackson was going to remake the film, I like everyone else got very excited, and hoped that that the film would another grand slam--ala` his breathtaking adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy. And while I did enjoy the new film quite a bit, it wasn't the blockbuster I thought it would be.

Larger than life, fly by the seat of his pants, documentary filmmaker, Carl Denham (Jack Black), sails off to remote Skull Island to film his latest epic with leading lady, Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and writer Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) in tow. Upon their arrival, native warriors kidnap Ann to use her as a sacrifice to summon the mighty "Kong. But instead of devouring Ann, Kong saves her from her fate and the island's many exotic creatures. Kong is eventually captured and taken back to New York. Leading us of course to the now famous climax atop the Empire State Building, with a fleet of World War I fighter planes, gunning for the giant ape.

Off the top, the CGI Kong is a beautiful creature, allowing for some of the best use of the technique I have seen on film. That said though, at 3 hours and 7 minutes (without previews and ads) the film does drag on a bit too long for my tastes. The scenes on Skull Island, for example, seemingly take forever. As the characters escape the other CGI enhanced dinosaurs, spiders, giant birds, slugs and bats, the impact gets lost. They are padded beyond belief...thus they also lose their edge and excitement. There are stretches of time where dialogue gives way to action--making it seem as though Jackson indulged himself too often with the bells and whistles.

I have to hand it to Watts and Black for doing a good job in the film. As Ann, I felt her connection to Kong, helping to sustain the story. While Black, known for his more comedic roles, acquits himself very well, as Denham. On the flip side Brody seemed out of place as Jack. Watts has more chemistry with Andy Serkis playing Kong than she does with Brody--no spark at all.

When the action moves back to the city, the film gets back on track, for one heck of a conclusion. Matching the grand spectacle and wonder of the original, it took me back to the first time I saw the '33 version. Wow!

In order to do justice to the source material, Jackson had to release the extended cuts of The Lord Of The Rings films. For King Kong though, I think had he followed the axiom that sometimes " less is more", what is a very good film would have been a true masterpiece indeed.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Star Is Born?

The editors of Entertainment Weekly may have chosen the cast of TV's LOST as "Entertainer Of The Year" in their final double-sized issue of 2005, but taking the the top spot in the film category is none other than The 40 Year Old Virgin himself, Steve Carell. I have yet to see the film...but I here its hysterically funny... Carell has no less than 5 movies scheduled to open next year, including a big screen adaptation of the popular 60's spy spoof television show, Get Smart. Only time will tell whether or not he can play Maxwell Smart as perfectly as the late great Don Adams did in the original series.

"Virgin" made this second banana very popular among movie-goers, but he may have a lot to prove to avoid the moniker of "One hit wonder".

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Latest Slates

20th Century Fox and its subsidiary studio for smaller indie films, Fox Searchlight Pictures, have passed along their film slates for 2006 to Dark Horizons.

As for the 20th slate:

I have to admit, when I saw the trailer for the "teen" comedy Grandma's Boy, I laughed really hard. I just hope that the whole film is that funny and it's not a case of putting the funniest parts in the trailer leaving nothing else to laugh at. The "let's remake everything in sight" mentality continues in Hollywood with Omen 666, a retelling of the 1976 classic. This is one remake that I personally think we can do without...That said, I can't help but be a bit a bit curious at the same time. And then of course there's the sequels X3, Ice Age 2, Garfield 2, and even a Big Momma's House 2 on the way.

Meanwhile, as far as the Searchlight slate is concerned:

They have a remake of The Hills Have Eyes, originally made by horror master Wes Craven, in 1977, the new version has a long way to go in order to be that good. I am a big fan of Danny Boyle's zombie/end of the world thriller 28 Days Later...from a few years ago. Given that I have high hopes for Sunshine (working title), a thriller that reunites him with Cillian Murphy, who's great in everything I have seen him in. Right now nothing else on the list jumps out at me.

My holiday plans may mean no posts for a few days...Until my next entry...Take Care...Be Well..Be Wise and Take Comfort That It'll All Be Over Soon...The Grinch has left the building...

Friday, December 23, 2005

About Last Night...

After a day fighting the throngs of last minute holiday shoppers, yesterday afternoon at a local shopping mall, (yeah, I know given how I feel about this time of year, what on earth was I doing out and about? Just a glutton for punishment I guess...) After surviving the insanity with all of my body parts intact, I took a chance to decompress, and unwind at the multiplex. Last night I saw Peter Jackson's King Kong... Rather than post an in depth review of the 3 hour plus epic due to the constraints of my holiday plans, for now, I will make just a few observations about the film. A more detailed analysis will be forthcoming when my schedule permits.

*Some of the CGI looked absolutely stunning--while some of it looked primitive (was that intentional?)

*At least one cast member seemed out of place in the film.

*The look of the original film from 1933 was faithfully and successfully recreated--especially for the climax of the picture.

*Overall though, I liked the remake...quite a lot...But...

TO BE CONCLUDED...Some time next week.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Another Possible Future?

I found this little item on The Internet Movie Database website:

Michael J. Fox is heading Back To The Future for a fourth time-traveling movie. The actor, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, admits he's in negotiations for a final film in the series - but only if they make his character as old as he is in real life. The former Spin City star wants to take over Christopher Lloyd's eccentric scientist character, Doc, in the sequel. He tells movie website, "The only way it would work would be if I played Doc. I'm 44-years-old now and I'm not interested in running around on skateboards! I think after 1, 2 and 3 we all kind of felt we had done it. And I think if they did it again now they would do it with a younger cast and just do a different realisation of it, which would be fun."

I don't know about this. The original trilogy is such a classic series of films that the script would have to be just right--in order for it to work. I think they should leave it alone and not mess it up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


The publicity and hype machine has "officially" started in earnest for Superman Returns. The anticipated relaunch of the film franchise may not happen until June 30th 2006, but talk of the film and everyone involved seems to be everywhere of late, including my mailbox...

The February 2006 issue of Premiere arrived with a photo of stars Brandon Routh and back to blonde bombshell Kate Bosworth on the cover. The 9 page article by Tim Swanson, was written right in the middle of principle photography, and gives you a pretty good idea of how things were going. The spread also includes a time line of all things Superman and some "new" photos of Routh as The Man Of Steel, Bosworth as Lois Lane, Kevin Spacey as arch villain Lex Luthor, and Parker Posey as Luthor's girlfriend Kitty.

Co-star Kal Penn gave an interview to MTV News about his role and the film in general on December 15th.

Wizard Magazine # 178 (hitting stores today) has what the website calls "a monster-sized preview" of the film--devoting 28 pages of space and filled with "exclusives"

The Associated Press filed a story last week that Routh handed over the Olympic torch to Joe Torre, manager of Baseball's New York Yankees, as part of its relay to the upcoming winter games in Torino Italy.

And this is just the beginning folks...We still have some six months to go before the film's release date.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


While Coach Carter (a recent rental) offers actor Samuel L. Jackson the chance to sink his teeth into a meaty dramatic role, something he hasn't done in quite along time, it's hardly going to go down as a "classic" sports film.

The Richmond High School basketball team is at the bottom of the division. As the film opens, the team only won four games last season. They are just another reason that Richmond has such a bad reputation. After the team's head coach quits, Ken Carter (Jackson) accepts the job for very little money guarantees that he will put in some long hours. But he is more than ready, because he believes he can help his boys break the cycle of despair that they find themselves in and offer them a better future. Carter is himself a Richmond alum, boasting school records that have not been broken in over twenty years, and knows that it can be done. The squad is not impressed and quickly resist his strict formula for success. In order to play for him, each student must sign a contract that demands academic standards that are beyond the state's extracurricular GPA mandate as well as a slew of other guidelines. Carter's son Damien, (Robert Ri'chard) is so motivated to play for his father, that he withdraws from the top prep school that he attends to go to Richmond. Carter's unorthodox methods are soon put to the test as pressure from parents, players and the school board mount.

Based on the true story of Ken Carter and his team that made national news in 1999, writers Mark Schwahn and John Gatins do an OK job with story. However, some of the subplots of the players appeared padded, as opposed to anything natural. They just came across as filler in the way director Thomas Carter structured the film. The B-Ball footage looks good though As Carter, Jackson is finally allowed to"act" here, and makes the most of it--glad to see him in a non action role now and then. Rob Brown (Finding Forrester) and Rick Gonzales (War Of The Worlds 2005) help to populate the student roster make the most of it too. Still I felt as though the film could have been better overall.

The DVD extras include two featurettes. "Coach Carter: The Man Behind the Movie" introduces us to the man behind the movie, featuring interviews with the real Ken Carter, his son, and a few of the Richmond players, and Jackson. "Fast Break at Richmond High" follows the casting process and the intention to use real ball players. Six wisely cut deleted scenes and a music video for Twista and Faith Evans song "Hope" from the soundtrack top off the disc.

Not bad. But where's the Ken Carter commentary? Fans of Jackson's should see this Sports movie fans may be disappointed.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Holidaze Blues

Truth be told...I really don't get all that excited about this time of year. I have felt that way for quite some time now. Without going into too much detail, I can describe how I feel about the whole deal, using just one word---Cynical. That said, I would never begrudge anyone else who celebrates, in any way they see fit. I'm just not one of those folks who gets all willy nilly about the whole thing.

With that in mind, and as the holidays approach at lightning speed, I would like to highlight three of my favorite films that use this time of year as their backdrop. The reason that this trio is tops is because of the "cynicism" that I feel now, runs through each of them at some point. If you're expecting feel good "classics" like Miracle On 34th Street from 1947, A Christmas Carol from 1938, or It's a Wonderful Life from 1946, forget it.

Christmas Vacation-This is my favorite from The National Lampoon series of Vacation films. As hapless family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family prepare for the ultimate holiday family reunion, as usual, nothing goes as planned. Everything that can go wrong does. With a laugh filled script from writer John Hughes, just prior to his success with the more family friendly X-mas tale Home Alone, this film has more of "adult" edge. Chase is great here--especially when he is doing physical comedy.

Gremlins-A dark and fun holiday tale courtesy of Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, director Joe Dante, and writer Chris Columbus. Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) finds the ultimate pet under his tree. What starts out as something so cute and cuddly, ultimately multiplies and turns the town of Kingston Falls upside down, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Also noted for causing the Motion Picture Association Of America to begin considering adding the rating of PG-13 to their system.

A Christmas Story-This film has to be my all-time favorite in this sub genre. In 1940's Indiana, all 9 year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants from Santa is a an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock. And he sets out to convince Mom (Melinda Dillon) and Dad (Darren McGavin) that he'll be able to use it wisely. The film is based on the novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd and as directed by Bob Clark, takes you back to the period--but with a distinct edge that's a real howl. There are so many memorable scenes in the movie that it's hard to pick my favorite.

All of you out there who feel the same way I do about this time of year, will understand why I like these three choices so much...

All of the films mentioned in this post are available on DVD

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Monkey See Monkey Don't

What a surprise!

Everyone knew that Peter Jackson's King Kong would be atop the box office this weekend. It was just a question of just how big the margin would be. As it turned out the margin ended up being some $70 million lower than the analysts were predicting. Since it opened on Wednesday, the big guy took in just around $66. million (Friday-Sunday take was $50.1). While that still makes Kong the 4th highest opening on record in December, it is by no means the juggernaut that even I was sure it would be. I have not seen the film for myself yet, but I plan to before too long and then I will have more to say about it, I'm sure.

Until then, here's the latest report on all of the weekend numbers by Brandon Gray, from Box Office Mojo.

World War Two

Thanks to his strange behavior, and often irresponsible comments of late, actor Tom Cruise has gone from one of the world's most beloved movie stars, to someone that has offended an awful lot of folks--including members of my own family. And while I'm not here to debate the issues that have been discussed all over the media, as he continues to speak out, I will say that I personally think he should stick to making films--keep your life and beliefs private please.

All of this din that surrounds Cruise did have an effect though...I delayed sitting down to watch Steven Spielberg's remake of War Of The Worlds for quite a long time, as I tried to make sense of what Cruise was doing with his career. Out of my respect (and sheer curiosity) for Spielberg, I finally saw the film, just before it left theaters. The following review concerns the 2 disc limited edition DVD.

The Film: Ray Ferrier (Cruise) is a blue collar dockworker, whose just come off a long shift, is preparing to look after his estranged kids for the weekend. His teenage son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and daughter Rachel, (Dakota Fanning) are not looking forward to their visit. The trio are spending the weekend together while Ray's pregnant ex-wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and her new boyfriend Tim (David Alan Basche) are off to Boston to visit her parents. Ray's skills as a father are put to the test and then some as he must do everything he can to protect his kids from an alien invasion. Malevolent aliens have landed on Earth to consume our planet and nothing seems to stop them.

From the time that the aliens first attack, it's quite obvious that Spielberg intended the film to be an allegory for the terrorist strikes of September 11th 2001, and in fact the imagery did bring back some of those same feelings of unease I had on that horrible day. Cruise is fine here as an every man in an extraordinary situation. Fanning is once again playing a child wise beyond her years even as she screams her way through the film. I was most impressed with Chatwin though, who more than held his own with the more well known stars of the movie. I thought it was a nice touch having a narrator open and close the film, especially when it happens to be Morgan Freeman, you can't go wrong. Another nice touch was including cameos for the stars of the 1953 version--Gene Barry and Ann Robinson. Spielberg's film is very well made with solid F/X, that serve the story, but they don't over take it. Frequent collaborator, composer John Williams, delivers a strong and unique score for the film. Without giving anything away, my only real problem with the remake is the film's ending, as scripted by Josh Friedman and David Koepp, it loses its punch with a watered down conclusion.

The Extras: Found on disc 2 are a series of featurettes, produced by Spielberg docu-maker Laurent Bouzereau, that cover all aspects of how the film was made. As much as I have enjoyed Bouzereau work in the past, I wish he would start making whole film docs again, the way he did with many of the Hitchcock discs, rather than split everything up the way he does here. I did find the stuff on author H.G. Wells interesting--the interviews with his family and Spielberg's thoughts on his legacy...Additional static screen production notes, a series of photo and trailer galleries, top off the set.

I liked the remake a lot but I still think the original version will hold up better by comparison. You can read my review of the original film, if you click here

Friday, December 16, 2005

Happy Trails To You

The second trailer for the upcoming movie V For Vendetta has arrived. As a fan of the graphic novel series by Alan Moore, I can't wait to see this film, which is scheduled to open in March 2006. For those of you who have not yet read the books, I have this warning about the new is a very spoiler heavy 2:30 of footage, giving away key plot details. I myself don't care about such things, but some of you might so be sure to click at your own risk. As far as I'm concerned--the new trailer kicks some major butt.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Living In "Sin"

My copy of the SIN CITY-RECUT & EXTENDED 2 disc DVD set arrived yesterday afternoon! I spent an entire evening into the wee hours of this morning, watching the film, and going through all of the extras...

When I first found out that Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novel series was going to be adapted for the big screen, I was both excited and concerned at the same time, at what could come out of it. The books were so unique, even for the comic book medium, that I knew they would be tough to adapt on film. When I saw the film's opening sequence in the theater last spring, all of my concerns were put to rest, and I knew I was in for one heck of a ride. The end result is one of the most faithful films to its source material in the comic to movie genre ever made.

Director Robert Rodriguez asked Miller himself to co-direct the film which loosely connects three of the series best stories. It leads off and ends though with a short vignette called The Customer Is Always Right, with Josh Hartnett as The Man. This helps to set the tone at the start, as well as put on a proper coda for the movie.

The Hard Goodbye Tortured tough guy Marv (Mickey Rourke) is framed for murder and he turns to his parole officer Lucielle (Carla Gugino) for help. Even as he forced to go it alone in the end. What he finds out is both unsettling and brilliant at the same time.

The Big Fat Kill follows Dwight (Clive Owen) and what happens when he enters into a casual relationship with a waitress named Shellie (Brittany Murphy). Little does he know that he's about to put in the middle of a struggle for power over the red light district that forces him to do some wild things. During this segment of the film special guest director Quentin Tarantino was asked to helm a scene here. While I am not a Tarantino fan by any means, I appreciate his work on this film, and his friendship with Rodriguez.

That Yellow Bastard Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is thatrare honest cop in Sin City. Even as he prepares to retire, he will stop at nothing to put an end to a child molester's reign of terror, no matter how well connected the sewer rat might be. In order to have justice for the victims, Hartigan will sacrifice a lot, especially when his life becomes intertwined with victim Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba). When Hartigan's investigation takes him right to the vile Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl) himself, forcing him to discover just how far he's he's willing to go.

Using green screen effects and CGI, Rodriguez was able to bring Sin City to life without really needing to tamper with the look and style of the books themselves. The results are dazzling. The true success though really has to do with Miller's characters and the way Rodriguez doesn't alter them to make them more Hollywood. The performances from the cast are first rate and help sell everything else. I have been critical of CGI/Green Screen flicks like Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow, whose characters let the film's tech look overtake it, but here, the tech acts to serve the characters--not vice versa. Like the books, the noir flavor shine through, while allowing for a dash of licence from the filmmakers.

Disc One includes the original theatrical cut of the film and these extras. A feature length audio commentary with Rodriguez and Miller, a second audio commentary with Rodriguez, Tarantino and Bruce Willis, and a third audio track featuring audience reaction at the premiere in Austin. The commentaries give you a well rounded look at how things came together, from both a creative standpoint and actor perspective. The reaction track is a hoot and worth a listen as you watch the film. There's also a series of featurettes on everything from Miller and Tarantino, to the film's cars, props, make-up effects and costumes. Some of the info from these can also be heard on the commentaries...that said they are worth watching. An interactive character time line and the theatrical trailers top off the disc.

Disc Two includes an extended cut of each story--treating them more like separate short films---rather than a whole with a few connective threads. Some of the "new" footage is just incidental stuff. But there's some meaty additions in That Yellow Bastard and The Hard Goodbye that fans should like.

Three more featurettes focus on how Rodriguez brought the film to life. Spotligting how the CGI effects effects were realized, a high-speed green screen only version of the movie, and a 14 minute uninterrupted take of the Tarantino scene. These are for die hard fans only. You'll also see what it was like at the wrap party with cast and crew. And topping the second disc, you can learn how to make Sin City breakfast tacos, yummmmm.

The package also includes a paperback copy of The Hard Goodbye...

Sin City
is a great film, no matter which way you decide to watch it, and the 2 disc DVD is well worth it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Slate Stakes

Two more movie studio slates for 2006 have been announced...courtesy of Dark Horizons:

DreamWorks Although the studio was recently bought by Paramount Pictures, the "brand name" is alive and well. Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers jumped off the list for me. Can he make this film worthy of Oscar gold, the way that both Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River were? Look for 2 more CGI animated films as well.

New Line Cinema Since horror is one of my favorite film genres, I am looking forward to seeing if those responsible for both Final Destination 3 (I enjoyed the first 2) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning AKA The Origin can sustain their franchise momentum. I really liked the 2003 remake of the 1974 classic original. Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake formerly(?) of boy band N'Sync hopes that moviegoers will take him seriously as a dramatic actor in Alpha Dog. Giving him the benefit of the doubt is hard folks...really hard. I'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Early this morning, the nominees for the 63rd Annual Golden Globes, were announced. The awards recognize the best achievements in both film and television of the past determined by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Here is the list of the motion picture nominees* as posted on

*Editor's Note: Since The Last Reel is primarily a movie blog-I decided to concentrate on the nominee's represented by that industry. The complete list of nominees can be be on Zap2it just the same.

Best Picture - Drama

"Brokeback Mountain"
"The Constant Gardener"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
"A History of Violence"
"Match Point"

Best Picture - Musical or Comedy

"Mrs. Henderson Presents"
"Pride and Prejudice"
"The Producers"
"The Squid and the Whale"
"Walk the Line"

Best Actor - Drama

Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
David Straithairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck"

Best Actress - Drama

Maria Bello, "A History of Violence"
Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Proof"
Charlize Theron, "North Country"
Ziyi Zhang, "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Best Actor - Musical or Comedy

Pierce Brosnan, "The Matador"
Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale"
Johnny Depp, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Nathan Lane, "The Producers"
Cillian Murphy, "Breakfast on Pluto"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"

Best Actress - Musical or Comedy

Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Keira Knightley, "Pride and Prejudice"
Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"
Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Family Stone"
Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"

Best Supporting Actor

George Clooney, "Syriana"
Matt Dillon, "Crash"
Will Ferrell, "The Producers"
Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
Bob Hoskins, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"

Best Supporting Actress

Scarlett Johansson, "Match Point"
Shirley MacLaine, "In Her Shoes"
Frances McDormand, "North Country"
Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"

Best Director

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Peter Jackson, "King Kong"
Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Fernando Meirelles, "The Constant Gardener"
Steven Spielberg, "Munich"

Best Screenplay

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney and Grant Heslov, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Tony Kushner, "Munich"
Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"

Best Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, "Syriana"
James Newton Howard, "King Kong"
Gustavo Santaolalla, "Brokeback Mountain"
Harry Gregson-Williams, "The Chronicles of Narnia"
John Williams, "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Best Original Song

"A Love that Will Never Grow Old," from "Brokeback Mountain"
"Christmas in Love," from "Christmas in Love"
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway," from "The Producers"
"Travelin' Thru," from "Transamerica"
"Wunderkind," from "The Chronicles of Narnia"

Best Foreign-Language Film

"Kung Fu Hustle" (Hong Kong)
"The Promise" (China)
"Merry Christmas" (France)
"Paradise Now" (Palestine)
"Tsotsi" (South Africa)

The real surprise about the list was the fact that the higher profile studio films like Munich and King Kong were outdone by smaller independent movies, like Good Night And Good Luck, as well as Brokeback Mountain. If the "Globes" are indeed a preview of the Oscar race that is to come--then this year should prove quite interesting indeed. The Golden Globes will be handed out live on NBC Monday January 16th 2006.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Format Of The Deal

The deal for Paramount Pictures to buy DreamWorks was "officially" announced on Sunday and the details of sale are all over the media today. While the participants dot the "I"s and cross the "T"s, I stand by my notion--which I wrote about on Saturday:

It will be interesting to see what this sale ultimately does for Paramount, in the long run for now, I say "not much".

Until I read DVDFile's latest editorial on the forthcoming home entertainment format war, I had no idea that the sale might affect which new format comes out on top down the road.

The game of chess continues...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

"Office" Max

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire ends its three week reign as box office champ, thanks to another fantasy flick, based on a popular book. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe locked onto first place with a strong $67.1 million. The political thriller Syriana nabbed the number 2 spot, with $12 million, for its first weekend in wide release. Harry...falls to third place with $10.3 million with its total domestic take now $244.1 million.

Thanks to Potter's gold and Narnia's enchantment, the "box office slump" may finally be at an end. Ticket sales now up some 17% over this time last year And it's a trend that's likely to continue with Peter Jackson's King Kong right around the corner.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

RIP Richard Pryor (1940-2005)

Very sad news...Comedy legend Richard Pryor has died at the age of 65. He shot to fame with his no holds barred stand-up routine in the late 60's and 70's. His style and socially relevant material would influence generations of fans and fellow comedians.

His best films would be, for me anyway whenever he teamed-up with
Gene Wilder. The pair had great chemistry and really worked well off of each other. Of the four films they did together though, Stir Crazy and Silver Streak, are the two that stand out for me. I also enjoyed The Toy, where he was opposite "The Great One" Jackie Gleason. And while his appearance in Superman III seemed to water down the story--Pryor's turn as Gus did offer a few laughs. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis late in life, he largely stayed private since then. But I will never forget his guest shot on TV's "Chicago Hope" in 1995. His dramatic turn was flawless.

As a screenwriter, Pryor helped to craft Mel Brooks' western spoof--the classic Blazing Saddles from 1974.

He died of a heart attack. Pryor will surely be missed but far from forgotten...

In Your Dreams

The Los Angeles Times reports that Paramount Pictures is close to making a deal to buy DreamWorks. Founded in 1994 by industry giants Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg, and David Geffen, the production company had been expected to become part of the NBC/Universal group--considering that they had been trying to buy the indie studio for the past six months. It seems that Paramount came out of nowhere offering a 1-billion-plus deal that's all but signed.

As an industry watcher, film school graduate, and all around movie guy, I don't see the deal really helping or hurting Paramount. DreamWorks is a shadow of what its hype promised (see article). And with its acquisition Paramount has nothing to lose---the studio, like DreamWorks, has seen better days. The studio's theatrical "hits" have been too few over the last few years, its most lucrative "cash cow", known as Star Trek is now on hiatus, after both TV and film series failed to generate much excitement of late, and the
TV division has only a few successes to its credit.

It will be interesting to see what this sale ultimately does for Paramount, in the long run for now, I say "not much".

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Mission" Ad And Some More "Sin"

TheMovieBox.Net has posted the first glimpse of teaser trailer footage from the latest Mission Impossible sequel--which basically amounts to an ad for Entertainment Tonight, which is going to air the full teaser on its Monday December 12th 2005 telecast. The footage seen in the ad is pretty basic for an action film and breezes by pretty fast. It's good to see that Ving Rhames is back as Luther Stickell. I just love the character. He was the the best thing about the otherwise lackluster Mission Impossible II from 5 years ago. I just hope he has a bit more to do in this latest film than he did last time out.


Fans of
the film version of Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novels (both book series and movie are just spectacular) will be excited that a sequel is on track. In the meantime... I can't wait for SIN CITY-RECUT & EXTENDED to arrive. I already ordered my copy of the 2 disc DVD set, which hits the street on Tuesday, December 13th 2005

Company Man

It was a familiar scenario. I was talking with my 20ish year old niece about which films we have watched recently, and at the top of her list of movies I should see was, In Good Company. Of course I had seen the trailer, but beyond that, I knew almost nothing about it. You can imagine my surprise, as I discovered that one of the men responsible for the American Pie comedies wrote and directed this film. As a fan of the AP trilogy, I was even more curious, to see the end result.

Dan Foreman (
Dennis Quaid) is a slightly weary yet still confident advertising exec and dedicated family man. He seems to have it all... He is a loving father with a noble existence, if you will, that somehow keeps him going. Enter Carter Duryea (Topher Grace best known for his now departed role on FOX-TVs That 70's Show), a cocky young upstart who is hired to replace him. Before long, Dan is forced to be deferential to his new baby-faced boss. To make matters worse, that extends to his own dinner table when Dan begins dating his lovely daughter Alex (Scarlett Johansson).

I must say that after watching In Good Company, I was duly impressed that director
Paul Weitz, could make a film like this, one with very "real" characters. But wait, is it that much of a stretch? One of the best things about the AP films, was how he and his brother Chris were able to infuse real character moments, amid the hilarious and raucous adult humor ala Porky's. Quaid is pitch perfect as Dan. You really buy into his situation almost immediately, thanks to his portrayal, that avoids falling into very sitcom like trapping given the set-up. Grace proves that if he is handed the right material, he can have a good long film career, after deciding to limit his TV gig. As a screen team, the two stars work well together, and then adding the adorable Johanssen to the mix, adds wonderful sparkle. The script, written by Weitz, rarely falters, but does have a few syrupy moments just the same.

The first, and best, extra on the DVD is the audio commentary with Weitz and Grace. The two obviously became very friendly while working on the film, and that certainly shows on this track. The track is breezy and conversational, which makes for a very entertaining experience. The pair tell plenty of fun anecdotes about the production. There's an approximately 23-minute featurette called "Synergy," which can either be viewed as one whole or as seven separate segments "Stars," "Youth," "Getting Older," "Real Life," "New York Locations," "Editing," and "Story". All of this stuff is your basic behind-the-scenes fare. The best segment is "Story," as it tells about the impetus of the film and the actors' takes on the power of the story itself. There are also ten deleted scenes with optional commentary from Writer/Director Paul Weitz. The scenes run about 16 minutes long and include some very funny moments that simply didn't help the flow of the film. Finally, rounding out the disc are a series of static biographies and filmographies for select cast/crew.

What a good film. In Good Company takes the romantic comedy and goes where few have--building around a father-son dynamic, rather then the typical boy meets girl. Paul Weitz proved he can do all kinds of stuff. The American Pie films are lots of fun. And in a not too different way so is this film...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

State Of The Slate

With overall box office receipts down for 2005, as compared to last year, I'm sure the movie studios are none to happy to see this year come to a close.

That said, with fingers firmly crossed, they are hoping that 2006 can't possibly be any worse. Today Dark Horizons posted the film slate for Warner Brothers for next year (with other studios to follow soon).

When I looked the slate over, aside from the obvious blockbusters like Superman Returns and Poseidon (both of which I have mentioned before elsewhere on this very blog), two other films leapt out at me:

The delayed from 2005 V For Vendetta, adapted from the popular graphic novel of the same name. Despite concerns when a movie is delayed like this, the 3 part story by Alan Moore is awesome, and I am still looking forward to seeing how this translates on the big screen. 16 Blocks, is and action/adventure, starring Bruce Willis for director Richard Donner. It's nice to see that Donner is back behind the camera, after the disastrous Timeline that he did in 2003. With a solid script and good actors behind him--he rarely misfires. I am hopeful the film will work.

The Man With The Hat Is Finally Ready To Return...

Fox News online entertainment columnist Roger Friedman reports that he caught up with George Lucas at the King Kong premiere in New York City and the subject of the 4th Indiana Jones adventure came up.

Friedman writes:

"So the big news is that Lucas is now devoting himself full-time to writing and producing Indiana Jones 4. Steven Spielberg, of course, will direct.

Lucas told me that he's got a script now from Jeff Nathanson, and he's tweaking it. That won't go on forever, he assured me, and filming will occur before Harrison Ford goes into a nursing home."

This is good news for Indy fans--I just hope
Ford is up to the task of doing another Indy picture... After all it's been some 16 years since the last one .

Monday, December 05, 2005

X Marks The Spot

Wow!! I just watched the "announcement" (?-whatever that means) trailer for X-Men 3 and I must say, if the film itself is as cool as this peek, then my earlier misgivings about Brett Ratner taking over as director for the departed Bryan Singer, may be for nothing. Of course I realize you can't judge an entire film from one trailer--Let's just say I am more hopeful about the sequel now than I have been since Singer announced his departure last Fall.

X-Men 3 is scheduled to open on May 26th 2006.

Box Tops

The weekend box office receipts have been counted, and holding onto the top spot for the third week straight is Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, with an additional $20.5 million added to Harry's pot of gold.

Meanwhile, Aeon Flux, based on MTV'S animated series from the 90's, came in 2nd with just 13.1. Sure, the film has the lovely and talented Charlize Theron playing the title character and an enthusiastic fan base, but I hear the movie itself isn't all that great. When you read Brandon Gray's weekly report on Box Office Mojo, you'll find that Paramount is spinning the numbers like a top, as any studio would, given the underwhelming numbers of Flux.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Mountain Range

The December 9th 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly devotes its cover story to the controversial film Brokeback Mountain.

Directed by
Ang Lee, whose last film, the comic book themed Hulk, got a lukewarm reception from critics and audiences alike. Brokeback Mountain promises to get more people talking that's for sure. The film centers around two married cowboys who fall in love with other and end up in a secret relationship. The article, written by Christine Spines details a bit of the film's history, revealing that at one time Gus Van Sant was keen to helm the picture. The article loves making the point that this movie is a big risk for all involved, including stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, as well as Focus Features, who put up the dough to have the thing made.

While I do agree that their may be more risk involved in making a film like this, I believe the risk is somewhat less than it would have been 10 or 12 years ago. Films like
Philadelphia and TV's "Will & Grace" have made it much easier for Brokeback Mountain. The folks that squirm over the film's subject matter probably won't see it anyway. But as I always say, if the film is good or bad, the public will let you know in short order. The movie opens on December 9th 2005.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hollywood Walk "Off" Fame

Can you believe that legendary movie actor Gregory Peck's star on the HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME was stolen? The fact that a person or persons would take the time to do that is just awful. I don't care if those responsible had the best reason in the world for doing desperate are you? I hope the authorities somehow catch the culprit or culprits. Thankfully, a new star for Peck was unveiled on Wednesday, to replace the one that was taken. Peck's son Anthony was there to honor his late father who died in June of 2003 at the age of 87.

Peck was a class act, filled with talent, who made for quite the good guy or leading man. The American Film Institute called him the 12th most "Legendary Male Star" of all time. Three of my favorite films among his long career include 1962's original version of Cape Fear, 1976's The Omen, and of course the timeless To Kill A Mockingbird and his role as lawyer Atticus Finch. Peck was and still is a master of his craft.

Women On Top

Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter announced the top paid film actresses of the last year. The story was all over the press. From Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and all of the Cable News Channels, the list got a lot of mileage. What struck me most about the list was the fact that Julia Roberts, who commands $20 million a movie, (and didn't have a new film in '05 due to motherhood duties), still tops the list. That's not a dig or slight at her talents. I like her a lot in most of her movies. But it does say something about the industry that there's only one actress making that much money.

At number 2 is Nicole Kidman, who makes some $4 million less than Roberts, and even though she may have made Bewitched and The Interpreter this year, neither of those flicks is considered a "hit" (hey, I thought Bewitched was pretty good).

Here's the complete list of the Top 10 in case you missed it:

1. Julia Roberts: $20 million
2. Nicole Kidman: $16-17 million
3. Drew Barrymore: $15 million *Tie*
3. Reese Witherspoon: $15 million *Tie*
5. Cameron Diaz: $10-15 million *Tie*
5. Angleina Jolie: $10-15 million *Tie*
5. Renee Zellweger: $10-15 million *Tie*
8. Jodie Foster: $10-$12 million
9. Charlize Theron: $10 million
10. Jennifer Aniston: $9 million

I know the figures are tied into how successful the films are and all that. But it's still pretty interesting that a woman who hasn't had a film open in a year still leads the pack. I guess you tuly are only worth the revenue of your last few films in tinseltown

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Makes Your Head Spin (Part Two)

Last night I sat down to watch Paul Schrader's version of the Exorcist prequel, called Dominion, here now is part 2 of my thoughts on the dueling Exorcist prequels. To read Part One, just scroll down a bit, or you can just click here.

Dominion tells the same story that Renny Harlin's version did. We still follow Father Lankester Merrin's (Stellan Skarsgard) path, starting in 1949, and through the course of the film, we learn how he came to be the Catholic Church's chief exorcist. Having said that, I was struck by the fact that at just how different Dominion turned out to be.

Schrader's version makes a more compelling film, because it treats the subject matter in much the same way that the 1973 original did, as a true battle between good and evil, without being just a carbon copy--or a gore for the sake of gore film. The film has as much to with psychological "terror" as it does anything else. Perhaps the suits at Warner Brothers were skid dish about Dominion because it didn't fit the mold of today's horror film. The back story of Father Merrin takes on much more meaning now under Schrader's direction. What's even more baffling is the fact that had they not tampered with William Wisher Jr. and Caleb Carr's script and still insisted that Harlin direct it, Beginnings may have had better box office.

The Dominion DVD includes an audio commentary track from director Paul Schrader, and while I would have liked to hear more about the studio's issues with his version, the production information, he does pass along is generally insightful. The downside of the track is that there are far too many "gaps of silence" here. For a guy that was replaced outright, I would have thought that Schrader would have been a lot more chatty. A collection of six incidental deleted scenes and a small still gallery top off the bonus material.

It's my hope that anyone who reads this two part post will give Dominion a shot. I suppose we should be gratful that the studio released the Schrader's version at all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Makes Your Head Spin (Part One)

Like just about everyone else who has ever watched 1973's, The Exorcist, I consider it one of the best of its kind ever made. Since that time, there have been many imitators, as well as a direct sequel and then came the third film--both of which, never even come close to capturing the craftsmanship and quality of the original. When I first heard that Paul Schrader was going to make a prequel, I got pretty jazzed. After all, he's the man responsible for two of my favorite scripts: Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. I was intrigued by the possibilities. Schrader finished the film, and then was told by the studio that the film would be remade entirely from scratch, with a new director! At some point tonight, I will taking time to watch the DVD release of Schrader's version, and while I strongly feel that Warner Brothers should have given Schrader a better shake, I recently decided to give Exorcist: The Beginning a look just the same. Here now then is Part One of my thoughts on the dueling prequels.

"The Beginning" follows Father Lankester Merrin (Stellan Skarsgard) in 1949, and through the course of the film, we learn how he came to be the Catholic Church's chief exorcist. As the movie opens, Merrin has lost his faith, and finds himself in Egypt. While there, he discovers that a church was erected over a pagan temple, which was built on the very spot where Lucifer fell to Earth after the war in heaven. The fallen angel has been imprisoned there ever since, until people come by occasionally and loose him on the world. Merrin is asked to recover a small but important artifact--am I watching an
Indiana Jones adventure?-from the church, which ends up meaning nothing to the plot...

The foremost problem with the movie though is that it's NOT SCARY AT ALL. The story by William Wisher Jr. (who collaborated with James Cameron on Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Caleb Carr, with the script penned by Alexi Hawley, is just a mess. It goes all over the place as an incoherent mess. For his part, director Renny Harlin (whose best film is still Die Hard 2) has subscribed to the formula that having blood and gore equals scary. It does not. When the film tries to grab you, it misses the point. As I always say, you don't need to be hit over the head for a film to work.

The DVD does have an audio commentary by Harlin. The track allows for him to make an attempt to explain his actions. While he sounds genuine, it's too little, too late to do any good. There's an 8 minute featurette on the making of the movie, that doesn't really delve in to much, except the usual fluff. Static cast and crew filmographies and the theatrical trailer top off the disc's bonus material.

What a big piece of pure bloated puff this film turned out to be. I was bored silly after just 20 minutes--but managed to somehow stay with it. Paul Schrader's version of the movie may be flawed, but I am hoping that his version of the film won't be worse than this garbage passed off as a horror film sure was.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Little B.O. And A Film Rated X

Weekend Box Office

According to Box Office Mojo's latest report: "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' flew past $200 million despite a hefty drop, while the new movies, led by 'Yours, Mine and Ours' and 'Rent,' were relatively slim pickins..."

Read Brandon Gray's full report to get the complete long holiday weekend lowdown.

Triple X

BBC Radio's Chris Evans sat down with actor and former STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION star Patrick Stewart to talk about the latest X-Men sequel and more. Meanwhile, Superhero Hype has even more rumors about the film posted as well.

It will be very interesting to see what new franchise director Brett Ratner comes up with...given his track record.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Sending A Message

The December 2nd 2005 issue of Entertainment Weekly, has for its cover story, an article by Benjamin Svetsky called "Hollywood Pulls The Trigger" In it he writes about a whole "slew" of new films that are taking on politics and American policy in a way that hasn't been done in quite a while. And in the process, posing the question, "Is that what viewers want?".

Personally, I have no problem with movies taking on any controversy, within the context of the film--whatever the subject matter. As long as the filmmakers remember that the film has to entertain as well.

Films like Syriana, Good Night And Good Luck, Jarhead, and The Constant Gardner do have their place...Their "message" need not hit the viewer over the head though, as was the case with Michael Moore's distorted documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Ultimately, the answer to Svetsky's question will be determined by the all mighty $$, and the movie going public. I really don't care for those in Hollywood who have an agenda all the time 24/7, but as long as they make good product, their message doesn't matter. The audience is smart enough to make up its own mind.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Every "Dog" Has His Day

Actor Al Pacino is one of the industry's best at what he does. Even if the movie he's in is sub-par, he manages to make it watchable, with his very presence. "My pal" Al has always been a favorite of mine and many of films are among my all time "Best Ever" list.

I just found out that his
Dog Day Afternoon, a classic from 1975, directed by the legendary Sydney Lumet (also a favorite of mine), is finally getting the "Special Edition" treatment on DVD on February 28th 2006. DVD Active has all of the details. It sounds like its going to be a very cool release. It's about time! The upgraded 2 disc DVD set is surely gonna be better than the "bare bones" initial release.

Whoo-Hoo! I can't wait!

Wax On Wax Off

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I still feel full. Having said that, I am very much looking forward to digging into those scrumptious leftovers, later on today. No matter how full I am after the BIG MEAL though, there's nothing quite like those yummy next day leftovers...

It's too bad that there's such sad news to report:

RIP Pat Morita (1932-2005)

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita passed away yesterday of natural causes in Las Vegas. He was 73 years old. He may be best remembered as Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid films. I had all but forgotten that he was even nominated for an Oscar for the role in the original film. As far as I'm concerned, he will also be equally be remembered as Arnold from TV's Happy Days, as well.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

Before I head off to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family...and stuff myself silly in the process, I thought I'd do a quickie concerning my favorite movie that has theis day as its backdrop.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Writer/director John Hughes, known for his teen comedies of the 80's, gets comic gold by teaming Steve Martin and the late John Candy. Martin plays Neal Page, an advertising guru, who's just trying to make it home in time to carve the turkey and spend time with the family. When his flight gets rerouted, he is forced to accept the help of Candy's character, a well meaning but very obnoxious shower ring salesman named Dell. The two take one heck of a funny road trip together. The chemistry between this "dynamic duo" is undeniable and would do the road pictures with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope of the 1940's and 1950's proud. Planes, Trains & Automobiles may not be a perfect comedy but it is good for lots of giggles and fun. Enjoy!

A special shout out of thanks to our service men and women for doing such a great job in Iraq and elsewhere around the world. I appreciate your hard work and sacrifice Be well and come home safe.

Happy Thanksgiving 2005!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

"Crash" Course

Crash certainly got a fair amount of attention and praise among the critics during its theatrical run. And with good reason. It's a hard hitting realistic look at race relations in modern America today. Given that co-writer/director Paul Haggis also penned the script for the 2004 Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby, as well, you could say that he enjoys taking on social issues for his projects.

The film weaves together several stories and intersects many lives in the process: Jean Cabot (Sandra Bullock), wife of L.A. district attorney Rick Cabot (Brendan Fraser) meet a pair of African American street thugs--Anthony (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) and Peter (Larenz Tate) as they travel across the city, indulging in car-jackings, all the while discussing the sorry state of their race; As for Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle), he is having a busy day of his own-- attempting to pacify his mother (BeverlyTodd), while looking for his lost younger brother, solve a pair of puzzling murder cases, and even finds time for an affair with his partner Ria (Jennifer Esposito) ; Sergeant Ryan (Matt Dillon) is a very bitter LAPD officer who has his hands full too...breaking in a new partner, Officer Hanson (Ryan Phillppe) and caring for his ailing father (Bruce Kirby) while fighting with an insurance company employee, Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine); noted TV director Cameron (Terrence Howard) is dealing with the aftermath of a traffic stop and how its affected his wife, Christine (Thandie Newton); hard-working locksmith Daniel (Michael Pena) is confronted by an unhappy customer, a Persian convenience store owner Farhad (Shaun Toub).

Haggis and co-writer Robert Moresco use a realistic cross section of the LA population to tell the stories. Looking at the nature of the story though, I was not expecting there to be any humor, but there are some strategically placed lighter moments amid the intense drama. Everyone in the all star cast turns in very good performances. From Sandra Bullock right on down, each of the players yield some really nice moments. Special kudos must go to Matt Dillon though for his stark turn as a cop on the edge. I have heard some have complaints about how the film switches from one "story" to another. Considering the scope of the film, I think that it's pace is really handled quite well and not an issue at all.

The extras on the DVD begin with a rather meaningless 16 second introduction from Haggis. All he really does is welcome viewers to the bonus material. Big deal. Better realized is the audio commentary. Haggis ,co-writer/producer Moresco and actor/producer Cheadle make for an engaging trio, discussing the film in great detail, in both the practical and its genesis. There is a 10 minute EPK style behind the scenes featurette. A music video for Kansascali's "If I..." from the Crash soundtrack. Trailers for the soundtrack, as well as other studio releases round out the extras.

As far as I'm concerned, Crash is a must see, offering an interesting examination of the fabric of our society...Warts and all. It's a film that will make you think as well as entertain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

World War One

As director Steven Spielberg's 2005 version of War Of The Worlds makes its debut on DVD (review coming soon), I decided to share my thoughts on the original film from 52 years ago, and its recently released special collector's edition DVD .

The first time I saw film producer
George Pal's 1953 version of author H.G.Wells War Of The Worlds, I was in film school, studying the movies of the decade. While the acting in the film is certainly overwrought by today's standards, that it made it seem like a parody in some circles, even back then. Its visual style though remains stunning and relevant today, still influencing generations of filmmakers, including the man responsible for the 2005 remake.

As a tribute to Orson Welles legendary Halloween radio broadcast of 1938, the film opens as a mock newsreel narrated by Paul Frees. Director Byron Haskin then switches to a documentary style format. Actor Cedric Hardwicke takes over the narration, explaining the Martians' reasoning in choosing Earth as their invasion target though a series of animated matte paintings, before getting into the actual story. We follow the action as the first Martian cylinder lands - not in England as told in the novel, or New Jersey as depicted in the radio drama, but in California. Astronuclear physics professor Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) is asked to examine the the cylinder meteor. Even as Forrester really concerns himself only with his square dancing partner, beautiful librarian Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson), the cylinder unloads an elegant looking Martian war machine, which immediately begins incinerating locals with its high-powered heat ray. Soon after, we learn from military commander Major General Mann (Les Tremayne), the machines have landed all over the planet, and are destroying everything in their path.

As the director, Haskin had two things going for him, helping the film ensure classic status. Bold (for its time) imagery, enhanced by the Technicolor process, and brilliant sound mix. Even if you've never seen the film, once you hear the thrum of the martian weaponry, you'll recognize it. As I said, the film has had a lasting impact. From Independence Day, to Mars Attacks by director Tim Burton, and even the indie The Blair Witch Project, with its faux documentary style, all were inspired by this film. The film's pro-christian only message comes off as a bit contrived by today's standards, there's still lots to enjoy on a basic level, fluff and all.

With all the hoopla surrounding the remake, Paramount finally re-released the film on DVD, as a special edition. First up is a commentary by stars Gene Barry and Ann Robinson (who both have cameos in 2005 version). I was delighted with this track--it's full of anecdotes and other behind-the-scenes details that give you a sense of filming must have like. A second commentary features director Joe Dante, film historian Bob Burns, and author of the great book
Keep Watching The Skies!, which examines sci-fi films of the 50's, Bill Warren. This is a more technical track, for film "geeks" like me, who get the lowdown on how the effects and miniatures were created. "The Sky Is Falling" is a newly produced 30 minute documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew members, as well as people familiar with the production. It provides for a fine look at the making of the film and its lasting impact. Next up, is a featurette on H.G. Wells that examines his life and work. As a fan of the the author, I enjoyed this extra feature a lot. The crown jewel of the bonus material though, is the aforementioned, Mercury Theater radio play of the story by Orson Welles. This is the original broadcast from Halloween of 1938 that sent many folks into a panic, as they believed that Earth was being invaded by martians. The radio drama is a real treat! The play is presented while still images featuring Welles at the microphone are on screen. The video and audio transfer has also been improved over the original DVD. The vintage theatrical trailer tops things off.

The DVD is a must have for fans of the film.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Harry's Gold

Big surprise. The latest Harry Potter flick,"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" cast quite a spell over moviegoers this past weekend and made all of its competition disappear with an estimated $101.4 million -- a new franchise high -- according to Box Office Mojo while the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line sang to the tune of a solid $22.4 million estimate.


I was very right with my assessment of the TV remake of The Poseidon Adventure that aired last night. It took forever to get going and still felt far too padded even during the good stunt sequences. The characters were nothing but empty shells, save for Adam Baldwin, who gave a great performance as Mike Rogo. Pretty silly dreck if you ask me.

"Mission" Ops

I came across these photos of the filming of Mission Impossible III due out next year. Despite having the creator of TV's Alias and Lost, (both of which I watch every week), J.J. Abrams behind the camera and co-writing the script, after looking at those pics, I don't know what to think. Sheesh!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ship Shape

As far as film trends go, the 1970's could have easily been called, The Decade Of The Disaster. For my money, the crown jewel of the genre is 1972's The Poseidon Adventure. Produced by the king of "disaster film" Irwin Allen, Poseidon boasts an all star cast, led by Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Shelley Winters, great special effects (for its time at least), and lots of excitement.

When an earthquake at sea causes a cruise ship to capsize on New Year's Eve, a group of passengers must band together, overcome incredible obstacles and find a way to survive. The ship is now upside down, so that makes getting to the engine room imperative. For me, the fun of the film is watching Hackman and Borgnine butt heads, as the rest of the group looks for a leader to take them to safety. Hackman makes you believe the material, this despite, some unbelievable circumstances. Director
Ronald Neame created a peril at every turn fun-fest that pulls you in and you become invested in each of the character's fate. The current DVD of the movie has no extras on it, save for the vintage theatrical trailer.

While fans of the movie wait for a "special edition" release of the film a three hour made for TV remake airs tonight on NBC from 8-11 P.M. While I doubt it will hold a candle to the original, I have to admit that I will be checking out the tele-film at some point during the broadcast. Curiosity and all that... In the end, I have a feeling the remake will land somewhere far behind the'74 version, yet slightly ahead of the pointless 1979 sequel. Meanwhile, TV critic Tom Shales shares his thoughts on the TV remake.

In case you have any doubts about just how popular the '72 film is, one
click here should change your mind. Oh, before I forget, there's also a big screen remake called Poseidon set for May 12th 2006, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

You Are Such A Tease(r)

Have you seen the teaser trailer for Superman Returns yet? I must admit, the first time I watched it during last night's Smallville, I was left rather unimpressed by it. And then I watched it again online...several times...slowly changing my mind about it...

It offers just enough to whet your appetite. Brief snippets of footage, accompanied by composer John Williams classic score from the first film, specifically The Theme From Krypton. There is no dialogue from the new film--rather lines spoken by the late Marlon Brando in the original film can be heard. To find out how Brando's Jor-El will be resurrected for the new film, read this.

The more I watched the 94 second trailer, the more excited I got...What can I say, it certainly grew on me.

In related news...director Bryan Singer talks about some super cameos for the film, by some well known members of the classic 50's television series cast.