Warner Bros. marketers have been too classy (or clueless) to try and sell Bryan Singer‘s Superman Reborns to Christian righties as a kind of Jesus-metaphor movie, the way Disney sold Narnia, etc. But maybe they should have? When those righties come out for a movie, they come out in force.
The marketing execs of Fox Home Video are just as determined to sell Sidney Lumet‘s Find Me Guilty as a dopey-ass lightweight mob comedy as its theatrical distributor, Yari Film Group Releasing, was during its brief theatrical release last March. These guys won’t quit until everyone in DVD-ville is convinced this film is a second-tier wash and probably not worth the rental fee. It is worth it…trust me.
Broadly played at times but meticulous and flavorful and dramatically solid, Guilty is Lumet’s best film since Q & A and before that, Prince of the City. It’s extremely well acted (Vin Diesel, Peter Dinklage, Ron Silver, Annabella Sciorra, Alex Rocco …everyone shines), beautifully shot and edited, and reeking of New York-New Jersey goombah-and-cop culture like many of Lumet’s better films.
I wrote last February that “it’s a tight, no-nonsense court drama that’s not about legal maneuvers or discovering evidence or doing right by the system and justice being served, but mob family values. In a stuffed-manicotti way, Find Me Guilty is as much of a values-based entertainment as The Passion of the Christ, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Thing About My Folks and Madea’s Family Reunion. I’m serious.
These values can be summed up by the words ‘don’t rat’, ‘don’t roll‘ and ‘family is everything’. I’m no goombah but I sympathize with these sentiments, so I guess that’s part of the territory.” Here’s the whole piece.
To judge by news of her casting in Woody Allen ‘s next film (which will costar Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor), British actress Haley Atwell is doing fairly well. But Google her and you get this, and put her name on the IMDB and all you get are some TV credits, her height (5 foot, 6 1/2 inches) and a statement that she went to England’s Guildhall School from ’02 to ’05.
Reading about someone’s obsessive dislike of a film they haven’t seen is pretty damn tedious, I realize, but pieces about Johnny Depp plugging Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest are much, much worse. Depp is mugging and prancing around in tall boots and a loose-flowing shirt and a three-cornered hat so he can get paid….end of story. If I could wave a magic wand that would make all the arts editors at all the big syndicates and big-city newspapers totally ignore this film, I would do so. Beware the commercial gleam in the eyes of Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer because they are seducers, not lovers. They are not interested in the state of your soul or the beating of your heart after you’ve seen their two-hour, 30-minute “entertainment” — they’ll scamper out the rear exit door before the opening credit sequence is finished, laughing like hell. Beware Pirates screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio…beware their machinations. (They wrote both Zorro movies…they wrote the “story” of Godzilla…they’re bad people.) Beware Keira Knightley in all her manifestations, but especially in 18th Century gowns and hair extensions. I for one intend to arise early on July 7th and hike into the mountains and find an isolated spot and beat myself with birch branches like Max von Sydow in The Virgin Spring.
Ridley Scott‘s developing biopic about the famed Gucci family, on which World Trade Center screenwriter Andrea Berloff is now working, will not be any kind of chick flick. To judge by the melodramatic soap-opera basics of the family’s history, it’s going to be Visconti’s The Damned.
Last Thursday night (6.22) as the L.A. Film Festival was unveiling The Devil Wears Prada in Westwood, a quiet research screening of David Fincher‘s Zodiac happened at the Chinese 6 on Hollywood Blvd. (where an all-media showing of Bryan Singer‘s Superman Returns was unspooling as well). The Fincher was shown under the title of The Chronicles (oh, God… we’re back to that one again…don’t ask), and three guys have posted reactions on Ain’t It Cool.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo in David Fincher’s Zodiac (or is it The Chronicles?)
The cut ran just over three hours, and 66 and 2/3 percent of the posters respected and admired it to varying degrees. (A third feels it may get there with further editing and fewer laughs.) Obviously Paramount’s motive for researching Chronicles/ Zodiac is that they want to give Fincher reasons to prune it down and make it shorter. (The eternal distributor mantra.) You may have read here (as well as on the IMDB and Coming Soon)that Paramount intends to bypass a late ’06 release and open Chronicles/Zodiac in January ’07, although that may just be an attention-getting diversion strategy with a plan to open it platform-style in New York and Los Angeles in mid to late December for critical and awards-consideration. Anyway, the most interesting passage of the three reviews is from a guy called “One Time Only”. “I go to test screenings all the time but never write in because I think the filmmakers shouldn’t have to have their rough draft scrutinized on the net,” he says, “but I’m breaking my silence on this one time because I’m concerned the film will get butchered by ‘the process’. As it stands now The Chronicles (or is it just Chronicles?…unsure) is over three hours long. It’s loose, slow, over-ambitious and it may just might be a masterpiece. It’s much more seamless than some of his other films in which the visual style calls attention to itself. What we end up with is a very visually interesting movie that doesn’t attack your senses. The filmmakers did an excellent job capturing the 70’s to the smallest of details as well. I heard someone in the audience gripe that the film felt like a novel, which actually strikes me as a fair assessment. This is a seven-course meal no doubt about it. To call this ‘another serial killer film from Fincher’, as I foolishly did in the past, does an enormous disservice to the film. This is not Se7en 2. This is a serial-killer film the way Heat is a cops-and-robbers film.”
“I will now retire to the green room and the fortification of a drink in order to cope with the inevitable moral pneumonia that always follows a blizzard of praise.” — Leonard Cohen to a live audience at Hollywood’s John Ford Anson theatre on Saturday night (6.24), prior to an L.A. Film Festival screening of Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man.
To the already-formed consensus on The Devil Wears Prada (20th Century Fox, 6.30), I have nothing new or startling to add.
Without Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci’s performances, this very carefully measured girl movie set in the never-jangled world of a big-time fashion magazine — a tale of a young woman getting bruised, and then wising up and finding her way through a very tough racket — would be okay but only that. But with them — because of them — it’s savory as hell at times.
Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep in David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada.
I don’t like chick flicks any more than the next guy, but this is a reasonably sharp and grown-up one with an above-average, big-city IQ.
It could be a little more wicked. I don’t know the fashion industry, but I’m sure it’s a lot darker, druggier, randier and more complex than the way it’s portrayed in The Devil Wears Prada. But this is a 20th Century Fox enterprise aimed at women with certain limitations (cultural, educational), and as such is above average.
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Anne Hathaway’s performance as Andy Sachs, the main protagonst, is fine…but she’s been drawn with a soft pencil and it’s easy to give up on her — the character — early on because she feels too clueless and unparticular…too vaguely motivated as to why she’s working for Streep’s Miranda Priestly, the editor of a hugely successful fashion magazine called Runway.
One particular beef: Andy, we’re told, majored in journalism and edited a school paper, and yet, we’re told, she’s never heard of Priestley or Runway when she first interviews for the job. What would your opinion be of a real-life journalism major from a big school who’s never heard of Vogue or Anna Wintour?
I have some perspective on Adrien Grenier’s performance as Nate, the cute boyfriend whose purpose is to show us how Andy is relinquishing her everyday menschiness in order to perform her job. Nate, I can tell you, was a total drag in the Prada script that I read last year — too mopey, a guilt-tripper — but Grenier has given him extra flavorings and humor and made him more intriguing.
All this is secondary, of course, to Streep and Tucci, Streep and Tucci, Streep and Tucci…
In Lauren Weisberger’s best-seller of the same, Miranda Priestly was a shrieking banshee and a fit-thrower. (She’s based, accurately or not, on Wintour.) But Streep, very wisely, has toned the character down and, to a certain extent, humanized her.
I’ve been telling friends that Streep gives a performance very much like Al Pacino’s as Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II . Everything she says is quiet, muted, almost whispery…but there’s always something ferocious and vaguely malignant going on beneath the surface.
Miranda’s readiness to dismiss, berate or crush her underlings with the slightest facial gesture is a hoot. No one has ever made the words “that’s all” sound so resoundingly like a smart slap across the face. Streep’s final on-screen moment — I won’t describe it except to say it’s all about thoughts she’s having as she sits in the back seat of a chauffeured car — is hilarious.
And yet you can sense Miranda’s desperation and loneliness from time to time, and almost always her apartness. She loves her job and her power and won’t suffer fools, but you wouldn’t call her “happy.” (Or maybe you would.) Either way, this is an instant Oscar-contender performance, probably in the supporting category.
I don’t know many gay guys Tucci has played over the last five years, but he knows this turf and plays it like a champ every time, even when he doesn’t have much of a role, as in Prada. He’s playing Nigel, Streep’s right-hand man who’s also a caring friend of Andy’s, and he’s exactly right in every scene.
Emily Blunt gives a feisty, brittle performance as Emily, Miranda’s top assistant who’s so concerned with inner-office status that she’s always on the brink of nervous collapse. Thing is, I didn’t much like her. Always saying something bitchy or fuming, or acting hurt or shocked, or beset by a cold with sniffles and swollen red eyes. All reaction…nothing centered.
You can certainly detect the influence of director David Frankel’s having directed several episodes of Sex and the City and Entourage.
When I first saw Prada in a suburb north of Las Vegas, I was sitting in the midst of a group of women in their 30s and 40s. When it was over I could feel their reactions. They were okay with it, but the emotional impact wasn’t much. They weren’t lifted out of their seats. I don’t know if this means anything or not.
The weakness, I know, is with Andy and not Miranda or Nigel. It’s not a fixable problem at this stage, so either you roll with it or you don’t.