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