An antagonistic prick-father-and-pissed-off-son relationship (Jeff Bridges, Justin Timberlake) and a road trip taken with Kate Mara (i.e., Heath Ledger‘s daughter in Brokeback Mountain) in which it all gets hashed out. And with a title like The Open Road (Anchor Bay, 8.28)…well, how can it miss?
Nora Ephron‘s Julie & Julia isn’t half bad for a female-market foodie movie. What doesn’t work then? A baseball analogy obviously doesn’t fit but I’m going to use one anyway. Meryl Streep‘s almost musical performance as Julia Child amounts to a series of ground-rule doubles. Strong swing, crack of the bat but not homer-level. And Ephron’s direction is technically smooth and error-free — she’s a good manager. But Amy Adams has been given a thankless role, that of an agitated and shrewish Child devotee named Julie Powell, and she hasn’t been given the dialogue or the emotional range with which to hit a serious slammer. So what happens is that every time Streep makes it to second base, Adams comes along and whiffs or pops out or hits a fast grounder to the shortstop. So while Julie & Julia doesn’t lose the game, it never really scores.
It won’t help but there’s a save-LACMA’s-film-screening-program petition circulating online that some may want to sign and pass along. The honest truth is that over the last three or four years I’ve gone to see films at LACMA maybe twice a year, if that. If a Los Angeleno with a fanatical film-loving personality doesn’t attend a sophisticated venue like LACMA’s more than that, something’s wrong. When I’ve gone to theatrical screenings of classics films I went to the American Cinematheque theatres in Hollywood and Santa Monica. The last seriously cool LACMA event I attended was watching Rififi and listening to Jules Dassin talk about it.
It was announced today that Jean-Marc Vallee‘s The Young Victoria, in which Emily Blunt portrays the twentyish 19th Century queen-to-be, will close next month’s Toronto Film Festival. Atom Egoyan‘s Chloe, a hothouse drama about marital infidelity with Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried and Julianne Moore, will also unspool at a TIFF gala.
Bill Clinton‘s feat in getting those two journalists released from prison in North Korea is one of the most admirable things he’s ever done, either during his Presidency or following it or whenever. It almost erases all the cheap b.s. he was spewing around on Hilary’s behalf during the ’08 Demcratic primaries. Let’s say it balances them out. 11:30 pm Update: Clinton and the two journalists left Pyongyang on a jet to Los Angeles at 8:30 am North Korean time, or about four hours ago.
HE’s Moises Chiullan is reporting that 101 Distribution, a Canadian DVD outfit, is releasing both parts of Steven Soderbergh’s Che on Region 1 DVD tomorrow (i.e., @Wednesday, 8.5) for $27.99 each. Here are Amazon links to Part 1 and Part 2.
The East German Stasi agents running the marketing for the Criterion Co. are still keeping their plans for issuing their Che Blu-ray disc[s] under wraps. Not a hint, no mentions of a possible month or season for release, not even a wishin and hopin’ statement…zip.
A guy I’ve known for a while and who knows how to write — he calls himself Marlowe — has seen Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air (Paramount) at a recent test screening. (Two weeks ago in the L.A. suburb of Westlake Village, he says.) I’ve spoken to him and believe he’s real. The George Clooney-Vera Farmiga film will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival and open I-don’t-know-when in the fall. Here’s his review:
“Let me begin by saying that this summer has been a bust. The only highlights being smaller films like Moon and The Hurt Locker. The major tentpoles have all had problems. Even one of the better ones like Star Trek has some glaring plot problems. So when something like Up In The Air comes around it restores my faith in film.
“This is only Reitman’s third film and he’s showing such a level of confidence here that it’s almost scary. Where does he go from here? UITA is going to be on everyone’s Ten-Best list, and Clooney will be nominated for Best Actor. Clooney has never been so good. In fact, I feel he was born to play this character, a charmingly aloof business-track smoothie called Ryan Bingham.
“This is the Clooney who dashes around Italy on a motorbike with an Italian lap-dancer strapped to his back. This is a character Clooney was born to play, always impeccably dressed, meticulous in his words, basically a throwback to the great stars of yesteryear. In the film he plays a professional whacker…yup, the big companies fly Clooney around when they don’t have the balls to fire a long time employee and he’s good at it. He’s got it down to a science.
“And he lives his life up in the air. He has no attachments, he has an empty apartment, he’s a stranger to his family, nothing tethers him to this world… and that’s the way he likes it. His only goal in life is to accumulate enough air miles so he can get the top secret super-platinum card given to you by the pilot himself.
“Of course, a complication arises. Clooney/Bigham’s way of life is threatened when a young female whipper-snapper (Anna Kendrick) strolls into the office and comes up with a way to save the company loads of money by grounding Clooney and the staff of flying assholes whose job it is to fire you. The solution: fire people by web-conference, which is the next level of demeaning. Clooney freaks at the notion of not being able to accumulate his air miles and, in a great scene, he completely schools the young Ivy-league girl on why firing people over a web camera will not work.
“Clooney is masterful in this scene. Cary Grant crossed with Warren Beatty. He’s amazing to watch. At the heart of the film is the notion of what drives us in life and what’s most important to us as human beings. Clooney is a superficial jerk who meets a superficial lady (Vera Farmiga), and they strike up a very modern relationship. They have palpable chemistry in the film. They meet all over America in swanky hotel rooms with no strings attached. I don’t want to spoil the film but by the end Clooney’s character wants more from life and from the girl. Although he may be too late in making these needs known.
“I saw the film two weeks ago, and I still haven’t been able to shake it. It was a test screening but it was a near perfect film, except for one minor dream sequence which was a little on the nose. In the film, Clooney says he’s crisscrossed the world so many times that he could’ve gone to the moon. Well, you can guess what the dream sequence is: Clooney dressed like an old-timey astronaut floating up through buildings in downtown Omaha. It’s trippy but felt out of character for the film.
“The film tackles all the big questions of life, prime among them: What is the meaning of life? It’s relevant because it deals with corporate downsizing. There’s so many levels to the film and I don’t want to spoil to much. Basically, UITA is an absolutely amazing film. Love it and can’t wait to see it again. As a former Montrealer, it’s great to see the Montreal-born Reitman hitting it out of the park or, in hockey parlance, ‘scoring a hat trick.’
“Oh, and there’s a great ass-shot in the film….astounding.”
Update: As I told Drew McWeeny a little while ago, I trust that this review is legit. I know the name of the guy who wrote the review, I have his phone number and I’ve spoken to him. He’s told me he’s a screenwriter and he sounds cool over the phone. I know him for having liked his writing before and especially enjoyed a savage review he sent me last year of Hancock. I don’t think he’s a plant. On top of which I’ve read about half of the Up In The Air screenplay and thought it was quite good.
If you want to be liberal and mild-mannered about the comme ci comme ca/hoi polloi/easy lay response to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Paramount, 8.7), you could say that the word has gone out that it’s cool to drain your brain pan and regress into your 13 year-old self and just popcorn-munch your way through this heavily CG’ed, down-on-your-knees Stephen Sommers film. And if enough people decide to snort and scratch and show primitive love then fine, whatever, it’ll make some dough.
But it’s still looking like an opening weekend gross in the mid 20s to me. Okay, maybe a notch higher. Today’s average first choice rating is 18% with 25% of the under 25 males and 29% of the over-25 males leading the pack. Not bad but not wonderful either. Not enough, certainly, for a film that cost a reported $175 million to make aside from marketing.
The full-length trailer of Peter Jackson‘s The Lovely Bones (Paramount, 12.11) will be unveiled, I suspect, sometime Thursday night. Here’s an Entertainment Tonight teaser, courtesy of Trailer Addict and In Contention. No matter how good, period-perfect, overbearing, great or commercially problematic the film turns out to be (and I’m mentioning the last possibility due to alleged concerns in this realm), it will certainly bear the Jackson stamp. And you know what that means.
It means that The Lovely Bones will try to dazzle, caress, smother, cajole and generally work you over like Lou Ferrigno until you drop to your knees in submission. Or until you rebel. Or — this is what I’m hoping for — audiences are won over by a poetically sad and elegant human drama that has the integrity not to try and sell its immaculate sensitivity.
It seems as if CHUD’s Devin Faraci is ready to surrender, and that’s fine. I’m a declared Jackson hater and that’s fine too, but I’d love to get off that train and start hearing/playing another tune. I’d be delighted if the lighter-touch Jackson of Heavenly Creatures would make a return. I would love to move on and give up the hate. Which, I realize, is boring to read about.
“Jackson surprised everyone [at a small ComicCon presser] by showing a four minute sizzle reel for The Lovely Bones,” Faraci writes. “What we saw was essentially an extended trailer, but it offered a serious look into the world Jackson had created — not just the main reality of the book but also the afterlife which main character Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) visits after being brutally murdered.
“The footage was simply sumptious. Jackson’s eye for period detail was right on (the story is set in 1973); he successfully evokes the era without ever rubbing your face in the 70s aspect of it. The real world was filled with rich, dark hues while the afterlife was brighter, often candy colored. We saw moments in the afterlife without context, and the scenes were fantastical, including a shot where huge ships sail into giant bottles. Susie walks across a lake to come to a lavishly lit floating gazebo. She stands in the middle of speeding traffic on a busy night road. A hippy girl dances gaily at the very curvature of the green Earth.
“The idea, which is in the book, is each person experiences [heaven] based on what their life experience is,” Jackson said. “What Susie experiences in her afterlife is based on being a 14-year-old in 1973 and…the pop culture that she’s grown up with and the life experiences she’s had. For our research in the afterlife, we actually looked at episodes of The Partridge Family. Which is not where you normally go for the afterlife.”
“While the afterlife material was visually intriguing, I was most interested in the real world scenes. This will be where the meat of the film happens. 14-year old Susie, is lured into an underground room by neighbor George Harvey (Stanley Tucci), who rapes, murders and dismembers her. Susie’s family must deal with the loss of the daughter and the open-ended nature of the case, all while Susie watches – and tries to communicate — from beyond.
“Tucci is almost unrecognizable. It took me a minute to figure out who the guy was under the make-up.
“‘Stanley liked the idea of playing the part, but I think he was terribly worried about being spat on in malls because he’s a very, very evil character,’ Jackson said. Luckily for the actor his director envisioned a very different appearance for him. ‘Stanley also liked the idea of looking the least like Stanley Tucci as he possibly could.’
“It was Tucci who really stood out; in just a couple of snippets he was utterly convincing playing a cold-hearted evil man, and also a guy who was hiding in plain site, just out of the reach of the law. There’s a scene where Tucci sits on his couch being interviewed by a police detective that will, I think, be electric in the final film. What I saw was impressive, and if voters can get past the evil of the character, I think Tucci could be looking at an Oscar nomination.
“The big question mark for me remains Mark Wahlberg, who came in at the last minute (Ryan Gosling had originally held the role) and who seems to be wearing a cheesy wig. He plays Susie’s dad, a role requiring lots of pain, grief and anger. We didn’t see enough to really get an idea of how Wahlberg plays it, but Jackson did tell us what surprising film won the actor the role.
“We really liked his comedy that was in I Heart Huckabees, and one of the things with the character of Jack Salmon is he’s an obsessive. I mean, he’s kind of an obsessive in a gentle, comedic way, and he’s an obsessive in his relationship with his daughter. And then when she dies and he’s wracked with guilt, but he’s also thinking, ‘Who did this? Who did this?’ And he becomes obsessed with finding the killer. So we wanted somebody, but we didn’t again want to play that heavy and make it maudlin.”
“The entire project is a tricky one; Jackson himself said that the book doesn’t lend itself to a cinematic structure, and the tone of the story is tough to nail. One moment we’re in a strange afterlife with Susie and the next we’re with her grieving, destroyed family. And in the end the film is the story of the brutal slaying of a teenage girl, not the easiest subject. I don’t think that the visuals of the film were ever in doubt, and if they were the four-minute extended trailer removed all of it. But how will the film itself play?”
Keith Olbermann‘s “special comment” last night about rampant Congressional corruption in the face of proposed public-option health care reform was/is a classic. He stated the basics, which is that Republicans are paid big money for serving the insurance industry, Big Pharma, hospitals, HMO’s and nursing homes. Same deal with Blue Dog Democrats. He named names, ripped them thoroughly and warned these lying nobles with impending job loss.
“I could bring up all the other Democrats doing their masters’ bidding in the House or the Senate,” Olberman said. “All the others who will get an extra thousand from somebody if they just postpone the vote another year, another month, another week, because right now without the competition of a government-funded insurance company, in one hour the health care industries can make so much money that they’d kill you for that extra hour of profit, I could call them all out by name.
“But I think you get the point. We don’t need to call the Democrats holding this up Blue Dogs. That one word ‘Dogs’ is perfectly sufficient. But let me speak to them collectively, anyway.I warn you all. You were not elected to create a Democratic majority. You were elected to restore this country. You were not elected to serve the corporations and the trusts who the government has enabled for the last eight years.
“You were elected to serve the people. And if you fail to pass or support this legislation, the full wrath of the progressive and the moderate movements in this country will come down on your heads. Explain yourselves not to me, but to them. They elected you, and in the blink of an eye, they will replace you.
“If you will behave as if you are Republicans — as if you are the prostitutes of our system — you will be judged as such. And you will lose not merely our respect. You will lose your jobs.
“Every poll, every analysis, every vote, every region of this country supports health care reform, and the essential great leveling agent of a government-funded alternative to the unchecked duopoly of profiteering private insurance corporations. Cross us all at your peril.”