Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Spielberg/Hanks to Collaborate on Angels and Demons?

From what I have heard, Angels and Demons is a far superior novel to The Da Vinci Cod, the feature film adaptation of which premieres in theatres this May, and anything which brings Spielberg and Hanks together again in an action-thriller is fine by me.

More Spidey/Venom Goodness!

New X-Men: The Last Stand Trailer to Debut

Source: Comingsoon.net

Superhero Hype! reports that Fox just announced during American Idol that the network will debut the new X-Men: The Last Stand trailer during a special two-hour broadcast of 24 on Monday, March 6th from 8-10pm EST.

20th Century Fox will release the third installment on May 26.

One-Sheet Teaser for Poseidon

Film Review - The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes marked a distinctive departure for director Alfred Hitchcock. His prestige limited mainly to the British Isles, the success of The 39 Steps as well as others that followed gave him the opportunity to branch out across the Atlantic and develop a full-fledged directorial career in Hollywood. Following the embarrassing Jamaica Inn, a reluctant concession he made in a fit of desperation after his contract at Gainsbourgh went up and he found himself unemployed as he negotiated his contract in America, he was finally able to achieve his goal. It would be some time however before he made a truly ‘Americanized’ feature film and even longer before he was able to waive the creative control he once held in England.

What makes The Lady Vanishes truly worth while is watching the surprising amount of sexual chemistry between the two leads – Iris Henderson, played by the genteel Margaret Lockwood, and the charismatic Gilbert Redman, sportingly portrayed by stage performer Michael Redgrave (The Lady Vanishes being his motion picture debut) – unfold. Their love-hate relationship throughout the film is awfully renascent of another Alfred Hitchcock British romantic-comedy, The 39 Steps, which starred Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll. Alfred Hitchcock demonstrates his knack for creating scintillating romances in his films even if they have been seen time and again before.

Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, a comedic duo whose popularity in The Lady Vanishes garnered them their own film series as well as a popular radio program, are two English gentlemen obsessed with the game of cricket dashing back to Manchester to catch the big game. While they are played off mainly for laughs, additionally they serve as a bitter commentary on English society of the 1930s whose sole focus was on trivial matters (exemplified in this film through their incessant discussion of cricket) that they failed to notice the evil surrounding them, specifically Nazi-Germany. As Iris searches frantically for Miss Froy, the two gentlemen do nothing to assist her, lost in their discussion of sporting events. Only until one of them is shot in the hand by a foreign conspirator near the end of the film do they come to their senses and take action.

It is a bit difficult to swallow the idea of the elderly Dame May Whitty as a British secret agent to say the least about it but no one ever said Hitchcock films were made on the basis of logic. It is certainly anti-climatic at the end of the film when she appears in the office of the foreign minister having escaped from the train and presumed by Iris Henderson and Gilbert Redman to be dead, but the rest of the film counterbalances this rather flat conclusion.

Although nearly all of The Lady Vanishes, with the exception of the ‘revolving-door’ opening sequence in a European hotel located in the mountains in which the main players are introduced, takes place aboard a train, never once does the limited location seemed confined, either to us, the film’s audience, or its performers onscreen. This truly serves as a credit to Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliance as a filmmaker. His expertise with camera movements and intricate staging of characters and their movements works to his full advantage in this film. It is quite evident from the outset that The Lady Vanishes was made on a strictly limited production budget. Without any extensive knowledge of the director’s relationship with Gaumont Pictures, the little European town and the trains which the camera zooms past immediately following the opening credits are clearly miniatures and its restrictive location make that clear. Surprisingly however this works to the director’s advantage. The idea that a little old lady could mysteriously vanish out of thin air on a train is absurd. And yet the elements of intrigue and suspicion draw us into the film’s story, no matter how preposterous it may seem. It is a formula that has been difficult to reproduce as adequately or as brilliantly as Hitchcock was able to in 1939; a reason why The Lady Vanishes stand out as one of his best films made in Britain.

Censorship boards in England during the 1930s and 40s strictly prohibited British filmmakers from directly attacking the German government, now under the influence of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. British governmental officials did so out of fear that Germany, a key economic partner, would end trading business with England if they were insulted. This however did prevent these same filmmakers from criticizing the British government’s attitude toward Nazi-Germany, unlike the United States in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s which hampered all efforts to motivate the people toward war with Germany. Alfred Hitchcock maintained his political neutrality throughout his career but it is quite understandable that he would exhibit hostility toward Germany in his films of the 1940s, especially in Lifeboat and Notorious. Hitchcock it seems is hardly sly about his political commentary in The Lady Vanishes, although this may be a bit more apparent today in the aftermath of the Second World War then it was when it was first released. The fact that the German government was never directly associated in the film was enough to appease the British government officials even if it made them look bad in the eyes of the British public.

While the identity of the foreign nation in question is never revealed (it is often referred to simply as a Mittel European nation), it is almost impossible not to associate this false nation-state with Nazi-Germany, particularly in light of its German-like language (one made-up especially for this film). Further elements of The Lady Vanishes, specifically the shoot-out with the foreign conspirators at the end, makes the idea that governmental officials did not pick up on Hitchcock’s political message laughable, if not embarrassing on the part of the British government. Again, there is distinctive difference between the people of the times and our perspective today. One of the English passenger shouts amidst the gunfire with the conspirators outside the halted train, “They can’t possibly do anything to us, we’re British subjects”. It is especially disheartening to see how naïve and isolationist people of the 1930s and 40s were toward the evils going on around them. Hitchcock strikes home his political analysis with the Neville Chamberlain-like adulterer who, refusing to be labeled a pacifist but at the same time protesting any violent course of action, storms out of the train waving a white-flag in the direction of the foreign conspirators, only to be shot dead in his tracks. The director’s point is clear – England can not appease Hitler and survive.

The Lady Vanishes stands apart from many of Hitchcock’s earlier British films, with the possible exception of The 39 Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much, as one of the best of the first half of his filmmaking career. And while its basic plotline has been reproduced on numerous occasions (the most recent example being the Jodi Foster blockbuster, Flightplan), none have exhibited the precise level of mystery or suspense that this film has maintained over the decades since its initial release.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A)

Monday, February 27, 2006

One-Sheet for Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector

RIP - Don Knotts Dies at 81

RIP - Darren McGavin Dies at 83

"That son of a bitch would freeze up in the middle of summer on the equator!"
"Sons of bitches! Bumpuses!"
"Don't anybody move! Hold it right there! The fuse is out"

Tyler Perry's Reunion With the Box Office

Source: Comingsoon.net

Just a month after Martin Lawrence reigned over the box office with his crossdressing comedy sequel Big Momma's House 2, playwright Tyler Perry redonned his own dress for the follow-up to last year's surprise hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Based on Perry's successful stage play of the same name, Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion is estimated to have grossed over $30 million its opening weekend, $9 million more than "Diary" made its opening weekend last year, and more than the "Momma's House" sequel made its opening weekend. Opening in over 600 more theatres than "Diary," "Family Reunion" earned almost as much per theatre with an impressive $13.7 thousand average across the board. As hard as it is to believe, Tyler Perry's directorial debut is also currently the biggest opening movie of 2006 so far.

It knocked Disney's sled dog adventure Eight Below down to second place with a respectable second weekend gross of $15.7 million. Starring Paul Walker, the PG-rated film has earned over $45 million in just ten short days.

Also holding up well in third place for the second weekend in a row, Steve Martin's remake of The Pink Panther earned $11.3 million, bringing its total over $61 million in three weekends.

The romantic comedy spoof Date Movie, starring Alyson Hannigan, dropped down to #4 with $9.2 million and a total gross of $33.9 million and the Top 5 was rounded out by Univeral Studio's animated hit Curious George, featuring the voice of Will Ferrell. It continues to bring in family audiences to the tune of $7 million over the weekend, and it has accumulated over $43 million at the box office in three weeks.

Attempting to surpass the box office of its predecessor, New Line's Final Destination 3 is getting there with its third weekend gross of $5.35 million, although it dropped below the Harrison Ford thriller Firewall, which made $6.4 million over the weekend, closing the gap between the two films with its total gross of $37 million.

Although The Weinstein Company was hoping to replicate the success of their hit animated film Hoodwinked, its follow-up Doogal failed to find its family audience, earning only $3.6 million despite opening in 200 more theatres than Family Reunion.

Likewise, Wayne "The Cooler" Kramer's latest feature, the action-thriller Running Scared, starring Eight Below's Paul Walker, didn't do very well, opening with just over $3 million, a disappointing average per theatre of less than $2 thousand.

After a disappointing opening weekend, the Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson drama Freedomland barely remained in the Top 10 with its weekend gross of $2.9 million, a 50% drop from last week, while Martin Lawrence's comedy Big Momma's House 2 finished its run in the Top 12 having grossed $65.6 million in just five weeks.

The South African Oscar nominee Tsotsi, released by Miramax into 6 theatres in New York and L.A., grossed $78 thousand in its opening weekend, an average of $13 thousand.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Venom Pretty Much Confirmed as Villain in Spider-Man 3

Monday, February 20, 2006

One-Sheet for A Scanner Darkly

One-Sheet for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Disney Dogs Date Movie

Source: Comingsoon.net

After Friday box office estimates were reported, it seemed like 20th Century Fox's spoof of romantic comedies, Date Movie, starring Allison Hannigan, was going to win the weekend, but the lack of school on Monday was a big help to Disney's family adventure, Eight Below, which did far better than expected.

Starring Paul Walker, the true-life Antarctic adventure about sled dogs that survived in the wild when they're left behind, earned slightly over $25 million during the four-day Presidents' Day weekend, an average of $8,164 in just over 3,000 theatres. By comparison, Date Movie, promoted as being from two of the six writers of Scary Movie, still did decently, grossing an estimated $22.3 million over the weekend in 170 fewer theatres to settle for second place.

Two of the four movies that opened last weekend held up so well in their sophomore slots, that they ended up making more over the four-day weekend than they did in their preliminary weekend. In third place by just over a million, Sony's remake of The Pink Panther, starring Steve Martin, added roughly $21 million to its box office take of $46.6 million. Likewise, Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment's animated family film based on the children's book favorite Curious George grossed over $15 million in its second weekend, bringing its own total to $33.5 million.

New Line's horror threequel Final Destination 3 didn't hold up nearly as well, dropping down to fifth place with $12.5 million over the four-day weekend. It has grossed just over $38 million and should be able to earn more than the sequel did three years ago.

In sixth place, the Harrison Ford thriller Firewall found itself a solid audience in its sophomore slot, grossing $10.3 million, a slight 24% drop from its opening weekend.

The third new movie in wide release, the urban crime drama Freedomland, starring Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, failed to find much of an audience, opening in seventh place with $7 million over the four days, an average of less than $3,000 per theatre.

Currently the top grossing movie to open in 2006, Martin Lawrence's sequel Big Momma's House 2 dropped down two more spots, adding $5.8 million to its impressive box office gross of $62.7 million.

Screen Gems' remake of When a Stranger Calls took another tumble down to #9 with its third weekend earnings of $5.8 million. It has grossed $42 million to date.

Rounding out the Top 10 was Univeral's Nanny McPhee, starring Emma Thompson and Colin Firth, which made $5.1 million to bring its total over the $39 million mark.

The top 12 was filled out by two Oscar favorites. Focus Features' romantic drama Brokeback Mountain, the winner of four BAFTAs (British Oscars) over the weekend, has now grossed over $72 million, helped by an additional $3.8 million from the extended weekend. Although it was robbed of a Best Picture nomination, the Fox biopic Walk the Line, starring the Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, moved up a notch to #12 with $1.8 million over the weekend and over $116 million after 14 weeks in theatres.

If getting the #1 movie of the weekend weren't enough of a feather in the cap for Walt Disney Studios, their fantasy epic The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on C.S. Lewis' novel, is now less than $300,000 away from overtaking Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire as the second-highest grossing film to open in 2005.

Opening in three theatres in New York and L.A., the Russian blockbuster Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor), released here by Fox Searchlight, grossed over $100 thousand its opening weekend, a decent average of $36.7 thousand. It will expand into more cities over the next few weeks.

On the other hand, the spiritual film The Second Chance did very poorly, averaging less than $3,000 per theatre in almost 90 theatres.

A Little Behind

I apologize for being so far behind. It happens when you concentrate your efforts toward less important things – education, work, taxes, a personal life, etc. I promise it won’t happen again.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hilton To Play Mother Teresa?

This has to be someone’s idea of a sick, twisted joke. I mean, no one in their right state of mind would be serious saying something like this, right? They must have some common sense in them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Film Review - The 39 Steps

British film director Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps is a significant piece of cinema history for several reasons. It is generally considered to be his first spy-chase suspense-thriller, a genre he would return to, successfully, time and again throughout his motion picture career, most notably with Carey Grant in North by Northwest. More importantly however it was his first movie to find success among American audiences. More importantly however The 39 Steps would be his first movie to find success among American audiences. Few of his earlier black-and-white silent features made their way to American movie theatres and those that did, among them the sound-version of Blackmail, were dismal failures in terms of box office revenue. With the success of The 39 Steps he was at long last able to successfully make a name for himself in the United States. This in turn peeked the interest of studio executives searching for fresh talent and vision within the motion picture industry, although it would be several more years before he actually filmed his first American film. In part to this film he was able to achieve a level of success and acclaim he would never have been able to acquire simply a successful film director in England.

Based on the novel of the same name by Scottish author John Buchanan, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 feature film adaptation bears little resemblance to its source. For one thing, the title, The Thirty-Nine Steps, is an allusion in the novel to physical steps along the coastline of Kent, England. In the film however they are instead used as a reference to the conspiratorial organization plotting an assassination attempts on a governmental official of a foreign nation. Another critical alteration from the novel is the character of Pamela who serves as a love interest to the hero of the picture, Robert Hannay. Pamela, or, more importantly, no love interest for that matter, exists in Buchanan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps. Her inclusion then significantly alters the theme of the story from an intense spy-thriller into a light-hearted yet still captivating romance. Literary purists will undoubtedly disapprove of such revisions but Hitchcock and playwright Charles Bennett actually strengthen Buchanan’s rather sluggish (at least as far as the middle section is concerned) novel. However, reaction may not have been as reputable as it was if it were not for the mesmerizing chemistry exuded between Robert Donat and Madeline Carroll. Audiences instantly notice a spark between the two from the moment they first encounter each other. In order to achieve such an effect, Hitchcock reportedly chose to film the handcuff scene first. After he had shackled the two together, he pretended to lose the keys which allowed the actors to feel each other emotionally and make their roles are the more believable and coherent.

The most striking transitional sequence in the film, arguably one of the more fascinating of his early career, is the scream of the chambermaid as she discovers the body of Annabelle in Hannay’s flat seamlessly transforming into the screeching whistle of a moving train. A brilliant example of director Alfred Hitchcock’s continuing apt experimentation with the blending of sounds and images. Such an effect would often be replicated throughout cinema history, most recently in director Steven Spielberg’s The Lost World in 1997.

A perpetual theme in The 39 Steps is the sexually-frustrating institution of marriage, a motif Hitchcock would return to on numerous occasions later in his career. Although this argument can be assigned toward all three examples in the film, including the ‘professor’ and his wife and the innkeepers, its authentication is shown through the shotgun marriage of Margaret and her abusive Calvinist crofter husband, John. Hannay and the audience take pity in the young girl who longs for freedom outside the shackled confinement of her maligning home. This can’t be exemplified any better then through her hanging onto every word Hannay speaks in regards to his journeys in London and Montreal. Both enjoy each other’s company, no more so then Margaret who is trapped in an unhappy marriage with no sign of escape. Her vehemence to help Hannay in his hour of need without so much as a question in regards to his true identity or his innocence in the crime he is implicated in demonstrates her thirst for company.

While Donat plays the character off mainly for laughs (the scene in which he quickly improvises a speech introducing a candidate for British Parliament, having no knowledge about either the candidate or the politics of Britain, is one of Donat’s more memorable moments in the film), he is easily able to slip in and out of reflective consciousness without offsetting the flow of the picture or the intensity of the drama which unfolds before our eyes as the story draws to a close.

It is a bit difficult today to take Lucie Mannheim’s Miss Annabelle Smith seriously, partly because of her heavy foreign accent, a cliché which has become a staple of parodies of spy films. Nonetheless, interactive dialogue between her and Robert Hannay and the character’s own mannerisms are pure Hitchcock spy-thriller material. In the aftermath of the mass confusion at the music hall, she begs Hannay to accompany him to his bachelor flat apartment. Slyly, almost prophetic really, he responds, “It’s your funeral”. Dark Hitchcockian humor at its best. In yet another example of Hitchcock cruel irony, the scene in which Smith collapses on Hannay’s bed as he lay in it with a knife stabbed in her back shows that she was killed with the same kitchen knife Hannay used to cut her last meal just a few short hours ago.

The scene in which Richard Hannay remembers the tune which had been stuck in his head for the past two days (this of course being the musical accompaniment for Mr. Memory’s act) is one of brilliant craftsmanship on the part of the director Alfred Hitchcock. The composition reveals that there were no papers missing from the Air Ministry in regards to their top secret weapon because Mr. Memory, an agent of the 39 Steps, memorized every single word of the document and kept the valuable information inside his head, leaving no incriminating evidence which would point toward him or the secret organization he worked for. It was almost the perfect crime. Sadly, Mr. Memory, a man ‘doomed by his own sense of duty’ as the famous director himself once put it, can not help but uphold his reputation as a cistern of information, whether it be trivial or valued. So when Hannay, being dragged from the theatre by the police who have finally caught up with him after his escape from the police station, shouts, “What are the Thirty-Nine Steps? Come on! Answer up! What are the Thirty-Nine Steps?” he hesitantly but accurately answers the question, or at least he tries to before the ‘professor’ who had been lying in wait in the balcony to take Mr. Memory to the home base of the secret organization shoots him and attempts to flee the scene before being cornered by the police. As Mr. Memory lays dying on the floor, having just gotten the secret information he ‘stole’ from the Air Ministry off his mind at long last, in the foreground Hannay and Pamela hold hands, this time voluntarily (laughably as the handcuffs still tangle from Hannay’s wrist), as in the background chorus-line dancers kick to the tune of ‘Tinkle, Tinkle, Tinkle’ on the air. Easily one of the director’s most captivating and elaborately complex scenes in his distinguished career.

Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful adaptation of John Buchanan’s The 39 Steps truly stands the test of time as one of the director’s most stimulating spy-thrillers from his early film career in spite of its numerous imitators over the decades.

My Rating: **** ½ out 5 (Grade: A)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Film Review - Capote

The competition for this year’s Oscar for Best Picture of the Year is fierce. Four of the five contenders bears a partisan political message, a clear demonstration that the whiny liberal Hollywood elitists, the very same who two years ago stood as the face of their uncharismatic candidate, are not taking the second term of the Bush Administration sitting down. First we have Crash, a low-budget drama which trots out the age-old cliché that America is an inherently racist society, making life a veritable Hell for anyone who is not white or Catholic in this post-September 11th environment. It serves as a certifiable guilt-trip, pressuring its audience to praise it lest they be accused of being racist. Ironically, the second Best Picture nominee, director George Clooney’s ‘historical’ drama, Good Night and Good Luck, assumes all Republicans are paranoid bigots who irrationally assume the federal government of the United States will be infiltrated by Communists. Regardless of the fact that Senator Joseph McCarthy, the partisan picture’s primary target of ridicule, was right in his assumptions, Clooney’s black-and-white drama stands to serve as a reflective commentary on the ‘resurgence’ of ‘McCarthyism’ in post-September 11th America.

The third candidate is Ang Lee’s critically hailed romantic-drama, Brokeback Mountain, a film which has been condemned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting as ‘morally offensive’ for promoting homosexuality as emanating from a ‘deep-seated human love’, while others still contend that the way in which the two leads treat each emotionally reflects poorly on the gay community. And Munich, a commentary on the continuing Israeli-Palestinian Middle East crisis, is the most surprising nominee of them all. Having been snubbed by both the BAFTA and the Golden Globes earlier this year, it is safe to assume Steven Spielberg’s name may have played a vital role in the selection of this film. However, it may also have to do with the picture’s message, one which some critics insists advocates a pro-Palestinian agenda. What sets Barrett Miller’s directorial debut, Capote, apart as the dark-horse favorite is that it is the sole contender without a political motive.

The story for Capote is nothing short of sheer brilliance. Dave Futterman’s vibrant screenplay, surprisingly his first, only covers a narrow period of the writer’s life, specifically the five years or so he spent tirelessly constructing his non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood, but this solitary event would forever change his life. It relies heavily on comprehensive dialogue rather then conventional imagery to portray the conflicting personalities of Truman Capote. As the picture’s title and one-sheet befittingly suggest, the sole focus of the screenplay is on one man and one man alone, Truman Capote. From the very beginning audiences are presented with a frank, no-holds-bar encounter of the brilliant yet incessantly self-absorbed author. With the exception of a few select scenes scattered throughout the picture, there is not a moment in which Truman Capote is not front and center of the camera. Essentially Capote is Oscar-nominated performer Philip Seymour Hoffman’s picture to command which he proceeds to do with startling refinement and pose. However, Hoffman’s ingenuity in bringing the celebrated author back to life, this time on the silver screen, would have been an entirely fruitless effort if not for the poignantly crafted screenplay by Dan Futterman based on the biographical novel by Gerald Clarke. Hauntingly brilliant, Capote leaves audiences aghast long after the movie has ended.

Philip Seymour Hoffman who has amassed a prodigious amount of both critical and public acknowledgment in recent months for his performance as the accomplished and narcissistic writer, Truman Capote, is decisively deserving of recognition, giving a truly Oscar-caliber performance unlike any other performer in recent Academy Award history. Hoffman gracefully balances the two seemingly diametric personalities of Truman Capote – the ostentatious New York City night owl who regales his fellow club-hoppers with tales of gossip and dirty humor and the assiduous journalist who twists and contorts the minds and feelings of others to achieve the result he so desires. This of course comes to a head when he interviews Perry Smith, a convicted murderer on death row who has the exact same duplicitous intentions with the writer as he does of him, for his non-fiction novel. Squaring off in a soaring battle of competing egos, this is a true highlight of the picture. Truman Capote was a devotedly pretentious individual, arguably one of the most pontifical journalists in American history. Although his novels, particularly Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood, are world renowned, he himself remains an allusive and necromantic figure to this day. It is his self-dilated ego which ultimately leads to his very downfall at the hands of drug and alcohol abuse.

Relative unknown actor Clifton Collins Jr. gives what can best be described as the paramount performance of his career as convicted murderer Perry Smith. In practically every way, Smith serves as a near-mirror reflection of author Truman Capote, a discovery which when confronted frightens him and leads him to a life of alcoholism and drug abuse. So much like Capote, Smith wears a distinctive mask shielding his true identity which varies depending on the situation at hand and with whom he is speaking to. From their initial encounter, Capote sees in Smith a sympathetic, artistic soul, not all that different from his own, forced unwilling into a life of crime and murder stemming from a lifetime of neglect and abuse growing up. However, we soon come to realize as we eventually do with Capote himself that this is merely an abject façade used to further his own ends. Even at the point where he details the events which led to the killing of the Clutter family, he exudes an aura of pretension deceptively portraying him as a caring soul. He heralds how he prevented his partner-in-crime Richard Hickock from raping the family’s sixteen year-old daughter, Nancy, and cut down Herbert Clutter who was hanging against the wall with his hands above his head because he looked ‘uncomfortable’. “I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman”, Smith relates to the author, “I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat”. The graphic depiction of murder of each of the four family members which soon follows reveals to us the true identity of the monster, apart from the manipulations and lies.

Regardless of who is the true focal point of Capote, it is author Harper Lee, demurely portrayed by Academy Award-nominated actress Catherine Keener, with whom audiences epitomize with the most. As we all might well have done in her shoes, Lee takes Truman’s rather dampening and swaggering mannerisms with a sense of humor about her, wittingly playing off his egocentric persona. However, audiences will perceptibly notice a protracting shift in Lee’s attitude toward her childhood friend as the picture goes on. As her own stock rises in the literary community with the publication of her first and only novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, she becomes increasingly emotionally distant from him. She is less receptive of his cynical nature, candidly confronting him in their continued conversations. For example, in one of their last conversations together, Truman, immobilized in a fit of depression as he awaits the execution of convicted murderers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, professes to Lee that he “couldn't have done anything to save them”. She in turn replies, “Maybe not, Truman. But the truth is, you didn't want to”, accosting him about his self-perpetuated obsession with his book and his own celebrity and not his subject matter.

And Academy Award-winning actor Chris Cooper gives an articulate performance, albeit a limited one, in the role of Alvin Dewey, sheriff of Holcomb, a small rural Kansas community where the four members of the Clutter family were murdered.

Overall, Barrett Miller’s major directorial debut surpasses nearly every expectation the American movie-going public has come to expect from journalistic crime-dramas and the biopic genre in general, setting a new standard in independent motion picture filmmaking. Unlike its four other Best Picture contenders, each vying ambitiously for the golden statuette at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, Capote is the least politically charged of them all. Yes, the Barrett Miller picture does confront the issue of the death penalty, but rather then deliver a lopsided opinion it instead leaves the question of capital punishment open-ended. It should be noted however that with the graphic depiction of the violent murders any argument against the death penalty in this regard is relatively mute. Although in the case of the recent execution of ‘Tookie’ Williams, stranger things have happened. Surprisingly Truman Capote’s homosexuality, an issue the American media has specifically taken up in labeling the film a politically motivated picture, is firmly downplayed. While the movie does acknowledge his partner Jack Dunphy’s confidential role in the author’s life at this critical juncture in his career, a role which becomes increasingly isolated as his alcohol abuse escalates, not once does the screenplay in fact directly recognize his sexual preference. Even with no previous knowledge of the journalist’s lifestyle, scenes in which Truman Capote’s mannerisms are flamboyant and effeminate, like when he calls his lover from a Kansas hotel wearing a female linen bathrobe, his sexuality is rather blatant. Capote’s sexuality is not nor should it be an issue in this film. And even if it were, as the partisan American media would like it to be, Truman Capote’s unscrupulous journalistic tactics are not the sort of principles and values the gay/lesbian community would likely epitomize. If anything in relation of politics, Capote reflects badly on the seemingly profiteering nature of the journalistic community and seedy tactics of the media in general. Dynamically scored, artistically choreographed, and rich dialogue, Capote is without question ‘the’ movie to beat this year for Best Picture.

My Rating: ***** out of 5 (Grade: A+)

World Trade Center One-Sheet

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Girl's Rendition of Anthem Lip-Synched

First Britney Spears at the Super Bowl then Ashley Simpson on Saturday Night Live, and now nine-year-old Eleonora Benetti at this year’s Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony … I don’t know who she exactly either but stick with me here because I’m trying to make a point – Stop lip-synching! As much as I have issues with U2’s politics, I have deep respect for their fight against lip-synching pop artists within the music industry.

Friday, February 10, 2006

DVD Depot Update

My apologies for not posting this update sooner. Work has been a pain (you’d think they would get my schedule right at least once) and homework has been pilling up at school, so I haven’t had the time lately to do this. I was finally able to get around to updating the DVD Depot this weekend. There are quite a few notable additions to the page, including Saw II, Tony Scott’s Domino (Keira Knightly doing a lap dance – what’s not to love?), the Chris Columbus musical ‘We All Have AIDS’ … I mean, RENT, Pride and Prejudice, three versions of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the two-disc special edition, the one-disc widescreen version, and the eight-disc box set of all four films in the series), director George Clooney’s anti-McCarthy rant Good Night and Good Luck, Best Picture nominee Capote, Disney’s Chicken Little, and two version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (the two-disc collector's edition and the regular one-disc version).

Kanye West, Shut Up!

"I changed the sound of music more than one time... For all those reasons, I'd be a part of the Bible. I'm definitely in the history books already"
I can guarantee you that if a white musical artist said something like this, he would be relentlessly lambasted by the media and the public in general. The double-standard of race in the United States.

Oldman Axed from Harry Potter Film?

I am not one to be a nit-picker when it comes to feature film adaptations of novels, but how could Warner Brothers possibly exclude Gary Oldman’s Sirius Black from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when he plays such a crucial role in the development of the main character? There will undoubtedly be a huge uproar about this.

Hernandez Aboard J.J. Abrams' Six Degrees

Source: Comingsoon.net

Hostel star Jay Hernandez has been cast in ABC's drama pilot Six Degrees, says The Hollywood Reporter. Six Degrees, from Touchstone TV and J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot, is an ensemble soap about the intertwined stories of a group of strangers in New York from different walks of life.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Birds Discharge on Katie Couric

Some will argue that this is cruel but if you despise Katie Couric as much as I do then it is just pure gold!

McAdams Backed Out of Naked Vanity Fair Shoot

Another reason I despise Hollywood. Adorable actress Rachael McAdams (The Notebook, Wedding Crashers, Red Eye) backed out of a naked photo-shoot for the cover of Vanity Fair magazine’s annual Hollywood issue and now they are giving her a bit of a hard time about it.

Actress Rachel McAdams lost her nerve when she turned up to pose naked for a new Vanity Fair photo spread - and it cost her a spot on the cover of the provocative new Hollywood issue. The Notebook star was invited to pose with British beauty Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson by the issue's artistic director, designer Tom Ford, but pulled out at the last minute. Ford explains, "She felt that she'd be fine with it and then she got there and she realized that she really wasn't, and that was fine... She just asked if she could be excluded from the cover." Ford himself replaced McAdams for the Annie Leibovitz cover shoot - and posed with naked Knightley and Johansson, who were also nervous about baring all to the world. He adds, "I said to them, 'When you're 70 you're gonna look back and say, 'Thank God for this picture - look how amazing I was.'"
Lost her nerve? I’d say it was classy what she did. Keira Knightly is fine, but quite honestly Scarlett Johansson is a slut from what I’ve heard. It’s not a surprise she jumped at the chance to pose nude for a magazine.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Super Bowl XL Commercials (Minus the Movie TV Spots ... Those Come Later)

While I did not watch the Super Bowl myself (I had no real interest to), I did catch the advertisements which ran during the game online this morning. Far and away, these were the best …

The FedEx ‘Caveman’ ad – you can’t watch this commercial and tell me cavemen being crushed by dinosaurs isn’t funny.

The Budweiser ‘Bear Attack’ ad – nothing says the Super Bowl like beer and senseless violence, right?

The Budweiser ‘The Game’ ad – these just keep getting better and better every year. Now why can’t that be the same for the game itself?

The Mastercard ‘MacGyver is Priceless’ ad – you just love to make fun of the guy because of how ludicrous it is for him to make all the contraptions he does with ordinary household items and that is what makes this advertisement all the more enjoyable.

Check out the advertisements yourself at Fox Sports Online.

Stranger Calls, Box Office Answers

Source: Comingsoon.net

For the fourth time in four years, Sony's Screen Gems division released a movie the same weekend as the Super Bowl, and for the fourth time, it proved fruitful, as the thriller When A Stranger Calls earned more money than any other movie in theatres this weekend. The remake of the 1979 B-movie grossed an estimated $22 million its opening weekend, bringing in more business than Screen Gems' remake of The Fog, last year's Boogeyman and 2002's Darkness Falls.

Dropping down to second place, Martin Lawrence's comedy sequel Big Momma's House 2 earned $13.3 million in its second weekend, a huge 51% plunge from its impressive debut, although it has already grosssed a respectable $45 million total.

Adding more theatres from its own inaugural weekend, Universal Pictures' family comedy Nanny McPhee, starring Emma Thompson, held up much better, earning just under $10 million in its second weekend while dropping down to third place. It has grossed $26.6 million.

In its first weekend after receiving more Oscar nominations than any other film, the Ang Lee drama Brokeback Mountain added 400 more theatres and maintained interest in its 9th weekend, moving into the Top 5 for the first time since its debut and earning an additional $5.7 million for a total of just below $60 million.

The Weinstein Company's computer animated comedy Hoodwinked stayed in fifth place for a second week, grossing $5.3 million over the weekend to bring its total up to $44 million.

Sony/Screen Gems' other film in theatres, the action sequel Underworld: Evolution, dropped down to sixth place with $5.1 million, for a total of $52.7 million, the highest gross for a film released in 2006.

Focus Features' urban romantic comedy Something New, with Aliens vs. Predator star Sanaa Lathan, opened in seventh place with an unimpressive weekend take of $5 million in 1,266 theatres, an average of less than $4,000 per theatre.

At #8, Touchstone Pictures' military drama Annapolis, starring James Franco and Tyrese Gibson, also took a tumble in its second weekend, earning $3.5 million.

With two Oscar nominations under its belt for lead actors Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, the Johnny Cash biodrama Walk the Line moved back into the top 10 as it rounded out its third month in theatres. It grossed $3.4 million in 1,577 theatres, bringing its total to $110 million, despite being snubbed for a best picture nomination on Tuesday.

Walt Disney's basketball drama Glory Road, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, rounded out the Top 10 with $3 million and a running total of $39 million, while the studio's fantasy epic The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe continues to hold up well on its potentially vain attempt to reach $300 million. It earned just under $3 million in its ninth weekend to reach a total gross of $281 million.

Opening in select cities after a December Oscar run, Roger Donaldson's biodrama The World's Fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins as New Zealand speed demon Burt Munro, made $460 thousand in 114 theatres, a per-theatre average of just over $4 thousand in each. The Magnolia Pictures release will be one of the few independent films to receive a Super Bowl spot today.

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut, the drama The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, opened in 33 theatres, where it earned $248 thousand, an average of $7.5 thousand per theatre, while the Lionsgate period comedy A Good Woman, a throwaway project based on the Oscar Wilde play starring Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johanssen, earned an unremarkable $105 thousand in 35 theatres its debut weekend.

Scary Movie 4 One-Sheet

Monday, February 06, 2006

Toy Story 3 Still Moving Forward

Source: Comingsoon.net

It was previously reported that Disney's acquisition of Pixar also meant the end of production on Toy Story 3, and that if the film was ever made it would be done by the creators of the original film. Now it looks that is indeed the case, as Bloomberg reports on Walt Disney Company's First Quarter Earnings:

Iger said Disney would release about two Pixar films each year, an increase over Pixar's earlier goal of about one per year. Pixar will take over production of "Toy Story 3," a sequel that Disney's in-house animators had been working on, Iger said.
The version Disney was going to make, before now handing it over to Pixar, would have had Buzz Lightyear being recalled to Taiwan after a series of malfunctions. Learning of a productwide recall, all the toys in Andy's room, under Woody's leadership, were to head to Taiwan to save Buzz from doom.

Brokeback to the Future

The trailer you didn’t see!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Disney & Pixar Extend Distribution Deal

Source: Comingsoon.net

The Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation Studios have agreed to extend their current distribution agreement to include Pixar's 2007 release, Ratatouille, a deal that will be moot if Disney's proposed acquisition of Pixar closes this summer as expected.

The two companies negotiated what amounts to a one-picture extension as a fail-safe measure in case the acquisition doesn't happen.

"This is a deal that Disney and Pixar negotiated independent of the proposed merger to handle the distribution of 'Ratatouille' until such time as the transaction closes," Pixar said Thursday.

Pixar would finance all the production costs of Ratatouille and pay Disney a straight distribution fee under the new deal, according to a regulatory filing. Pixar would also own the film.

The extension differs from the current arrangement, where Disney and Pixar split the production costs and the profits, and share ownership of the copyright.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Film Review - Blackmail (1929)

The vibrantly beautiful Anny Ondra, yet another spinster in the long line of Hitchcock blondes, is spectacularly breathtaking. The aura of elegance and innocence which emanates from her gauzy figure make her downward spiral into guilt all the more grueling to watch. Due to her heavy Czech accent, an example of which can be viewed in sound test Hitchcock made with the young actress that has now been archived by the American Film Institute, she never actually speaks a word in the film. Her dialogue instead is voiced by British actress Joan Barry. It is however the scenes in which she expresses no dialogue whatsoever that are perhaps the most memorable. The impression of fear, horror, shock, and self-resentment in Alice’s eyes moments after she kills Cyril Ritchard is a perfect example of this. This in turn is followed up with the more famous ‘knife’ scene in which Hitchcock uses a dialogue sequence involving a caustic British neighbor repeatedly uttering the word ‘knife’, drilling it not only in our minds but Alice’s as well until she can stand it no more and throws the bread-knife she is holding out of her hand in shock. It is this scene alone which makes the sound-version of Blackmail all the more memorable then its silent counterpart.

Sadly, whether it is due to the inferior sound technology of the time or her own voice, Joan Barry’s overlay of Alice’s lines of dialogue are too squeaky and high-pitched. They don’t quite match up with Ondra’s mouthing of her lines, with the exception of one or two scenes. This, again, is no fault of Hitchcock who at the time of casting Czech actress Anny Ondra was making a silent picture. Since he was close friends with the actress, he couldn’t bear to let her go once British International Pictures decided to make Blackmail a ‘talkie’, so he came up with the best solution he could think of that wouldn’t involve firing Miss Ondra. It’s a mixed bag. It works in some respects, but on the other hand it doesn’t in others.

Cyril Ritchard is particularly captivating as the villain of the picture. This is viewed as one of Hitchcock’s famous ‘against type’ casting decisions which works splendidly. Upon first meeting the man, audiences, like Alice, never suspect him of being a malefactor. However, the longer Alice remains in his apartment, the more we, along with her, develop a growing suspicion of his character until it climaxes with him forcefully grabbing her and advancing himself on her.

Blackmail contains at least two especially notable ‘slight of hand’ moments cultivated by Alfred Hitchcock. First, the film contains one of the director’s more memorable cameos in which a boy on a subway train pulls the hat of the director over his head, leading Hitchcock to berate the boy and his family. The boy confronts the man again, this time leaving the two engaged in a staring contest until the scene ends. Although the witty scene does end rather abruptly, perhaps even a bit clumsily, the levity of the moment works nonetheless. The other fleeting gesture of Hitchcock’s is considered to be his lasting tribute to the silent picture-era which, now with the invention of ‘talkies’, he was now embarking from in his filmmaking career. Right before Clew is about to advance on Alice, a shadow is imposed on Ritchard’s face making it appear as though he had a curly mustache much in the same vein as the clichéd villains of the silent films.

The rape scene in particular is especially mesmerizing. Nothing is shown however but not because of government censors. The lack of visual imagery is of Hitchcock’s own volition. The eerily penetrating silence of the moment and what is not seen, leaving the diabolical deed to the device of our own imagination, is what makes this scene all the more fascinating to watch.

Though certainly engaging to a point, Blackmail, as it winds down towards its conclusion, does become rather predictable. The ending however is not so much the problem. Frankly this ending is a far superior one to the original Hitchcock developed which would have had Alice, ridden with guilt, turning herself in. Instead Alice is made to rot with guilt, possibly for the rest of her miserable life. A more diabolical ending for Mr. Hitchcock then one would expect so early in his career. Audiences are made to confront the fact that Alice would have been better off having confessed to the murder and conceivably gotten off on the argument that she was acting in self-defense, which she was, rather then relying on Frank to cover it up for her and in the process causing the death of another man, whether he deserved it or not. Blackmail hits upon a common theme of Hitchcock’s films; this of course is the fear police invoke in the mindset of the general public and why it is so hard for people to confess to a crime even if they were acting in good judgment.

Although the ending to the film suggests that Alice is off the hook and the now deceased blackmailer has been accused of the murder, the fleeting image of Crew’s last painting, a clown-like figure laughing mockingly, leaves one to assume that Alice’s conscience will never be freed of the burden of her guilt. If Frank and Alice do end up getting married and live the rest of their lives together, it is understandable to suspect that it will not be a happy life in part to these events. However, on the other hand, it is just sensible to suggest that they will never end up together.

My Rating: **** ½ out of 5 (Grade: A-)