In Nothing But The Truth, director-writer Rod Lurie “has created female protagonists strong and self-aware enough to question sexism and hypocrisy. He’s created two of the most fascinating female movie characters to hit screens in a long while,” says Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday in a 4.28 review. “And they’ve been brought to life by two gifted actresses — Kate Beckinsale and Vera Farmiga — each working at the top of her game.
“Every once in a while, for reasons as random as a Hollywood executive’s taste or an economic meltdown, a perfectly decent movie slips through the cracks, never receives a theatrical release and is relegated to the purgatory called straight-to-DVD.
“Some worthwhile cinematic gems have experienced such a fate (see Idiocracy and SherryBaby), and today we can add another one to the list. Nothing but the Truth, a taut political thriller, takes some cues from recent events, adds a dash of over-the-top melodrama and comes up with a crafty little pretzel of a movie, given added bite thanks to careermaking performances from Beckinsale and Farmiga.
“Lurie has gotten better and better over the years, and with Nothing but the Truth he’s made the best film of his career, winching the drama steadily tighter as the notion of power and its abuse becomes more murky. He stages a shocking mid-point murder with jolting, ruthless finesse. But by far the most effective sequences of the film are those that feature Beckinsale and Farmiga going nose-to-nose as women trying (and failing) to find common ground.”
It’s my fault that Manhattan-based 20th Century Fox publicists didn’t invite me to the two Wolverine critic screenings happening today. I haven’t been aggressive enough about telling everyone I’m really and truly a Manhattanite. The first screening happened at 10 or 10:30 am; the next starts at 2 pm. I spoke to a critic who attended this morning’s showing and his initial response was (a) there’s too much Hugh Jackman and (b) it’s not as good as any of the three X-Men films (i.e., obviously including Brett Ratner‘s version).
A credible Australian critic wrote yesterday to say he’d “caught a screening of it last night here in Sydney and the bad buzz is spot-on. Clunky script, unfocused plotting, cheesy special effects and terrible production values. Nearly everything looks like a set and what doesn’t look like a set looks like CG. I thought it was Daredevil-bad — equal to or worse than X3. And I loved the first two X-Men films, especially the second one.
“Don’t get me started on the character design for Deadpool (the final villain who comes with all the mutants’ strengths and none of their weaknesses). I was really sad to see it turn out this way because I like [director] Gavin Hood, and because I think Hugh Jackman‘s great (i.e., still the best thing about the movie) and of course a lot of Aussies were involved. Anyway, not a fully formed reaction but just thought I’d pass it on.”
Senator Arlen Specter‘s switch to the Democratic party is obviously an enormous boon to President Barack Obama‘s legislative agenda. Presuming that Al Franken ‘s Minnesota Senate race victory will eventually be ratified, Specter’s vote will bring the Senate Democratic tally to 60, which will enable Dems to cold-cock any Republican filibusters that may arise in response to this or that legislative measure.
In a statement issued about 90 minutes ago, Specter said “he had concluded that his party had moved too far to the right, a fact demonstrated by the migration of 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans to the Democratic Party,” says a N.Y. Times story that went up at 12:13 pm.
“‘I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Specter said, acknowledging that his decision was certain to disappoint colleagues and supporters.” Specter will run as a Democrat in the 2010 Pennsylvania Senate race, and of course there’s the matter of his health, which hasn’t been perfect. But as long as Specter is fit and voting and plugging away, this is great news for Team Obama.
“The news shocked Senate Republicans, who had been hanging on to their ability to block legislation by a thread,” the Times story said. “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, called an emergency meeting of party leaders who had no forewarning of Specter’s plans.”
I didn’t see any harm last Saturday in posting that fake 18-month-old YouTube trailer (originally posted on 10.19.07) for James Cameron‘s Avatar. Especially since I was bouncing off Michael Cieply‘s 4.25 N.Y. Times piece, which explicitly stated in paragraph #7 that “neither a trailer nor even a still photo” from the forthcoming 20th Century Fox film has been made available.
In short I made no claims about the trailer’s authenticity since I thought the lack of authenticity was obvious. At the same I liked the way the trailer plays and figured “where’s the harm?”
Except late yesterday the Wrap staff posted the same fake trailer with a headline that says “A Sneak Peek at Cameron’s Avatar” and a subhead that says “Watch the trailer for James Cameron’s highly anticipated sci-fi adventure, due out Dec. 18.” I figured they’d take it down right away after someone pointed out the error, but here it is the next day — Tuesday, 4.28 at 12:45 pm eastern — and it’s still up. Update: It’s 4:12 pm eastern, and The Wrap has finally posted a correction.
As gender transformations go, Larry Wachowski‘s — she’s now called Lana — hasn’t turned out too badly. Not drop-dead ravishing but moderately appealing in a no-big-deal, sitting-around-Starbucks sort of way. The shot on the right (posted by Us Weekly) is the first time I’ve seen Larry/Lana looking 100% female. If a sense of fulfillment and/or happiness is part of the dividend then it’s all to the good, right?
(l. to r.) Geeky heavy-cat Larry about a decade ago; transformative Larry about six years ago; Lana snapped at LAX on 4.17.
To be totally honest, if I saw Lana coming towards me in an airport corridor I’d probably say to myself, “Wow…no hips. And her feet are too big.” I need a kind of hippy-breasty hourglass thing or it doesn’t work for me. But she looks relatively normal. Just another hard-working girl.
Early last October it was revealed that Jim Sheridan‘s Brothers, a remake of Susanne Bier‘s original 2004 film, was being bumped by distributor MGM out of its 12.4.08 slot to either a late summer or fall ’09 release. Producer Mike DeLuca confirmed this and also told me that the plan was to take the domestic drama to the ’09 Cannes Film Festival.
Then I ran into Sheridan several weeks ago in Manhattan and he told me Cannes was a no-go, due to one or more of the actors (the costars are Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman) either being against promoting the film there or being unavailable for same. And then yesterday came the news that Ryan Kavanaugh‘s Relativity Media has cut a deal to supply Lionsgate with five films annually, and that Brothers will be the first to open under this new pact. Dave McNary‘s 4.27 Variety story said only that Sheridan’s film would be released “later this year,” which doesn’t sound like summer to me.
David Benioff‘s script is about a younger “bad” brother (Gyllenhaal) stepping into the familial shoes of his older “good” brother (Maguire) after the latter disappears during an enemy skirmish in Afghanistan. Portman plays the wife-mother whose loyalties shift, or at least adapt to new realities. Sam Shepard plays Gyllenhaal and Maguire’s dad.
I’m not saying IMDB reader comments can be trusted, but a few correspondents have claimed to have attended research screenings of Brothers in recent months and found it satisfying. This plus the quality of Bier’s film plus Sheridan’s pedigree tells me it must be at least a moderately decent if not better-than-decent film. But there’s always a reason when a movie gets repeatedly postponed and kicked around. Here’s hoping otherwise.
Yesterday morning a 747 Air Force One and an F16 fighter jet buzzed lower Manhattan at low altitude, causing thousands to fear the worst. The reason for the flyover was a photo op. This prompted Darth Mojo to write this morning that “not only was this stunt thoughtless and cruel — it was totally unnecessary. Hasn’t the government heard of CGI? Why didn’t the guys who wanted shots of a Manhattan flyover just call Hollywood? They can do fake planes like nobody’s business.”
Well, I’ve seen Marshall Curry‘s Racing Dreams (i.e., having been urged to do so by L.A. Times columnist Scott Feinberg) and I have to be honest and say that despite it being a well-crafted portrayal of a world I didn’t know (and have never wanted to know), it alienated and creeped me out because of the NASCAR culture and lifestyle issues it brings to the fore.
Racing Dreams director Marshall Curry (second from right), exec producers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (left), Dany Garcia (left of Curry), and Bristol Baughan (right of Curry), as well the subjects of the doc (l. to .r) — Annabeth Barnes, Brandon Warren, Josh Hobson. Taken outside Tribeca Film Festival screening on Saturday.
Curry shoots and cuts like a pro and knows how to charm and engage and make it all come together within the confines of the material, but if you see NASCAR world as a ghastly cultural prison, as I and Will Ferrell certainly do, then it’s hard not to see Racing Dreams as a mixed-bag thing, at best.
It’s about three nice kids — Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson, Brandon Warren — going through a year of NASCAR Little League, and the various issues and challenges they and their parents are confronted with along the way. It’s mainly about positive and dedicated parenting and the teaching of solid values. I admired and identified with the parents (and in one instance a grandfather and grandmother) doing everything they can to help their kids make it in a very tough realm, and within these limits Racing Dreams is fine, I suppose, as a junior-sized Hoop Dreams on wheels. It’s well-cut, well-ordered, and stirring as far as it goes.
But I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the kids all through it. Here, I thought to myself, are three good drivers with skill and desire but doomed to live in NASCAR world for the rest of their lives. They’re in a cultural Devil’s Island and they don’t even know it, and they probably never will.
I trust I’m not the only urban-residing blue-state guy who despises the whole blue-collar NASCAR thing — muscle cars, all-over machismo, burning oil like there’s no tomorrow and certainly no global warming, a culture that loves its barbecued ribs and cans of beer and chili with ketchup and is totally about fortifying its own bullshit while keeping the outside world out, all the guys wearing Van Dykes and Fu-Manchu moustaches and everyone just enjoyin’ the noise and the exhaust fumes and the fast drivin’ and occasional wipeouts and rollovers and the everybody puttin’ on the sunscreen in the bleachers….hell, man… yeehawww!
Indiewire reported yesterday that Racing Dreams got a “five minute standing ovation at the end” and that “execs from Fox Searchlight, Magnolia, and Sheila Nevins from HBO were all in the audience.” It might play in shitkicker country but I don’t see it working out all that well in blue territory because it’s just too damn strange and alienating. Where’s the upside in succeeding in a world like this? At the end of the day it’s still a culture that pours blobs of ketchup into bowls of chili. If by clapping my hands three times I could eradicate NASCAR and the NASCAR muscle-car mentality, I would clap my hands three times.
Feinberg told me it’s “definitely gonna be nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar and could well win.” Well, I don’t think it’s a shoo-in at all. I know for certain I will never sit through it again.
I’ve just reminded myself of another under-valued ’70s film — Bob Rafelson‘s Stay Hungry (1977). An eccentric Southern-style comedy about family wealth, corruption and the body-building world, it starred Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, R.G. Armstrong and — in his first significant acting role — Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Charmingly oddball comedies of this sort, the socially observant kind about values and growth arcs that began with Preston Sturges in the ’40s, have all but disappeared from the landscape. Robert Zemeckis‘ Used Cars is another comedy of this type. What do we have today? Big corporate CG comedies directed by guys like Shawn Levy. How many comic directors with a semblance of edge and attitude and social conscience are working today besides David O. Russell?
“Quirky is the keyword here — but quirky in a highly entertaining way,” critic Marshall Fine wrote about Stay Hungry. “Bridges is a not-so-good ol’ boy. Wealthy and aimless and involved in a real estate deal with a group of high-powered partners, his only responsibility is to evict the tenants of one building that needs to be torn down and has a gym filled with body builders.
“Disconnected from everything in his life, he feels a bond to these outsiders, particularly the surprisingly articulate, fiddle-playing Schwarzenegger. He also finds himself attracted to the blue-collar gym employee played by Field and in so doing becomes an impediment to his own business partners.
“Oddly funny and affecting — a sleeper that never had much of a release.”