Every time I use a big bath towel in a hotel or a rented home, it’s very natural-fibre feeling and nicely absorbent. I love it. And every time I try to buy a nice high-quality bath towel for myself at Nordstrom or Bed, Bath and Beyond, I come home with something that’s a little too soft and smoothly pampered — not natural feeling enough with that 100%, slightly rough cotton touch. It’s infuriating.
L.A. Times guy Steven Zeitchik is calling the currently-rolling Playing The Field, a Gerald Butler film directed by Gabriele Mucchino, “a dramedy about soccer, the suburbs and sexual attraction” and “a kind of Shampoo set amid American manicured lawns.”
It’s about a Beckham-like soccer star (Butler) who returns to his estranged American wife (Jessica Biel) and child to try to redeem himself after tom-catting around Europe for a long spell. He starts coaching youth soccer to show he means it, but various local women convey a certain moist receptivity, including characters played by Uma Thurman (the wife of Dennis Quaid‘s character), Catherine Zeta Jones (a local newscaster) and Judy Greer (a hot-to-trot housewife).
Zeitchik reports that The Kids Are All Right co-screenwriter Stuart Blumberg has been brought in to punch up (or deepen or whatever) Rob Fox‘s script. The key, I think, to making the film connect is to make Butler’s character as honest and personal and even confessional as possible. In other words model his ways and attitudes on Butler himself, who is quite the hound himself. This self-reflecting quality is what made Warren Beatty‘s womanizing hairdresser character in Shampoo so interesting.
Zeitchik reports that the half-comedy “has distribution around the world and will be seeking a U.S. home.”
Three years ago the word went out among a rarified strata of film critics and feature writers that seriously praising House Bunny star Anna Faris was a hip thing to do. And now New Yorker writer Tad Friend is calling her “Hollywood’s most original comic actress” — sorta kinda Judy Holliday in a coarse-obvious-stoner vein.
Maybe, if you say so, but Faris, I swear to God, is never very funny. Puckish and animated but…huh? Always playing highly spirited, slow-on-the-pickup (okay, semi-stupid) women who are parked (or driving around in circles) in their own cul de sac. Honestly? The only thing she’s done that I’ve even half-liked is when she played herself in three Entourage episodes in 2997. Okay, I half-enjoyed her Cameron Diaz imitation in Lost in Translation but…well, let’s get down to it, shall we?
Faris isn’t bad and could perhaps someday be special, but so far she hasn’t worked with top-drawer directors and writers. She’s been more or less scrounging around with second-raters. Her next movie is Mark Mylod‘s What’s Your Number?, about a girl wondering if one of her 20 lovers was the one and she somehow missed that. Are you going to tell me this isn’t going to be another perky piece-of-shit girlie comedy? With a premise like that?
“Onscreen, Faris is fearless,” Friend writes in his article, “Funny Like A Guy.” “Her trademark is the power-through: after her character has done something incredibly stupid or embarrassing, she doubles down. Mentions Mark Mylod, Ryan Reynolds, Amy Pascal, Seth Rogan.
“The Bechdel Test is a way of examining movies for gender bias. The test poses three questions: Does a movie contain two or more female characters who have names? Do those characters talk to each other? And, if so, do they discuss something other than a man? An astonishing number of light entertainments fail the test. This points to a crucial imbalance in studio comedies: distinctive secondary roles for women barely exist. For men, these roles can be a stepping stone to stardom.
“On the other hand, relatively unraunchy female-driven comedies have all done well at the box office. So why haven’t more of them been made? The answer is that studios, as they release fewer films, are increasingly focused on trying to develop franchises. Female-driven movies aren’t usually blockbusters, and studio heads don’t see them as repeatable. Men predominate in Hollywood, and men just don’t write much for women.
“Relatability for female characters is seen as being based upon vulnerability, which creates likability. So funny women must not only be gorgeous; they must fall down and then sob, knowing it’s all their fault. Ideas for female-driven comedies are met with intense skepticism, and it’s even more intense because Faris isn’t aiming at the familiar Type A roles played by Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl. She said, “I’d like to explore Type D, the sloppy ones.” Mentions The House Bunny and Observe and Report.”
David Gordon Green‘s Your Highness (Universal, 4.8) is so poorly written, so uninvested in genuine stoner humor (a la The Big Lebowski and Wonder Boys), and so appallingly unsuccessful that it’s a bit of a challenge to accurately describe it. But it’s definitely not funny — that you can take to the bank.
I’m not exaggerating in calling this a landmark in the annals of crapitude and dick jokes and the fine corporate art of farting in the audience’s face. It’s easily one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. But I stayed to the end! And I’m almost proud of this because everything in my mind was saying “go…escape…free yourself!”
Your Highness is a mixture of a kind of 12th Century, Lord of the Rings/Robin Hood-y backdrop atmosphere, showoff CG and action scenes with eye-filling cinematography and a full-blast orchestral score, a completely moronic and non-cohesive genre-spoof story with — this is the core marketing element — unregenerate pig-slob-lameass-burp-stoner dialogue and attitudes as performed by Danny McBride, whose dirtbag prince character, Thadeous, can be seen as a kind of time-travelling emissary from degraded 21st Century culture.
Thadeous is a boorish, unrefined, masturbating, overweight slob forced by his king father (Charles Dance) to accompany his heroic, big-hearted brother Fabious (James Franco) on a quest to save Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), fiancee of Fabious, from the clutches of Leezar (Justin Theroux), a standard-issue demonic wizard who’s kidnapped her and who poses a general threat, etc. Natalie Portman is some kind of wandering samurai bow-and-arrow girl who jumps into the story in Act Two.
It’s one of those inert exercises in ironic distance — another SNL skit stretched to feature length and amplified, wide-screened and CG’ed to a fare-thee-well. “We’re just kidding, nobody’s in this stupid thing, we’re all getting paid,” etc. At best the crowd at last night’s Arclight screening was smirking and tittering now and then. There were no laughs to speak of and for damn sure no belly laughs.
Take out the oppressive action scenes and nudity titillation and production values that Universal execs probably insisted upon — the CG, costumes, eye-filling landscapes, sweeping score, etc. — and you’re left with a dopey story that’s basically about a selfish low-life swearing and dick-joking his way through a series of unconnected sketches about supernatural threats that aren’t even fake-real, and nothing that anyone (in the film or the audience) really cares about.
Question: If Theroux and his three old-witch allies have the power to throw electric flash-bolts at their adversaries and throw them against walls and knock them cold, why don’t they have the power to slice their heads off? Or change them into farm animals? Or wound them so badly so they’re left unconscious, or can’t do anything except lie on the ground and groan? We all know the answer, and I think we’re all sick of these rules.
There’s one bit — one! — that I half-smirked at. It’s performed by Theroux and involves the fate of a tiny Tinkerbell-like fairy. That’s all I’m going to say.
I was 90% delighted with Green’s Pineapple Express, but this thing is a disaster. Green is a longtime pally of McBride’s, who wrote the script with Ben Best, and their friendship (along with the stunning cluelessness of Universal executives) is apparently the key reason why audiences will be grappling with Your Highness this weekend.
Has there ever been a more radical transformation…corruption, I mean, in the style and tone of a once-respected director than what has happened with Green? Some day the New Beverly Cinema will show a double bill of Your Highness and George Washington, Green’s small-scale 2000 film that struck almost everyone as being Terrence Malick-y. And the people that experience that double-bill are going to come out staggering and saying, “What kind of sell-out kool-aid did Green drink?”
Michael Fleming‘s 4.4 interview with civil-rights activist and Martin Luther King confidante Andrew Young, posted last night, is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Deadline.com — a thoughtful, highly revealing discussion with a respected, well-meaning historical figure who’s nonetheless an apparent obstructionist-in-denial when it comes to two proposed MLK biopics — Scott Rudin and Paul Greengrass‘s Memphis and Lee Daniels’ Selma.
Fleming reported last Friday that Universal Pictures had scuttled Memphis after Young and “the King estate” applied pressure. Young confirmed to Fleming in the interview that he did indeed contact Universal and objected to a Memphis script draft that, among other things, depicted marital infidelity in Dr. King’s final days. Fleming also learned that Young was told by Universal that “it would not move forward with Memphis in response to his claims of factual inaccuracies.” A studio spokesperson told Fleming that Universal’s decision was “based on scheduling.”
“Young is admittedly protective of the reputation of his close friend,” Fleming writes, “and said he pines for someone to do for King what Richard Attenborough did for Gandhi.” Young tells Fleming that when he read the script for Memphis, “I thought it was fiction.” As for the depiction of infidelity, Young says: “There is testimony in congressional hearings that a lot of that information was manufactured by the FBI and wasn’t true. The FBI testified to that.”
Listen to what Young is saying here — “a lot” of the FBI information about King’s extra-marital trysts is possibly bogus, but not all of it.
“My only concern here is honoring the message of Martin Luther King’s life, and how you can change the world without killing anybody,” Young explains. “You’ve seen glimpses of that in the fall of the Berlin Wall, in Poland, South Africa, in a movement in Egypt that began with prayers, where even mercenaries and the most brutal soldiers have trouble shooting someone on their knees. These regimes crumbled before non-violent demonstrations, and that is a message the world needs.”
Fleming suggests that “when films canonize subjects, audiences can sense it, and that is why good biopics mix reverence with warts-and-all treatment.” Young replies: “It’s not wrong if the warts are there. But we had the most powerful and understanding wives in history, Coretta, my wife Jean, and Ralph Abernathy‘s wife Juanita. These women were more dedicated and enthusiastic in pushing us into these struggles than anybody, and the inference Coretta might have been upset about Martin being gone so much or them having marital troubles, it’s just not true.”
Listen again — Young isn’t addressing the accuracy of the allegations about King’s poon appetites, or asserting that King’s wife was or wasn’t aware of same. But to suggest that the late Coretta Scott King might not have been upset if (I say “if”) she was aware of her husband’s alleged extra-marital activities, or that she may have been “understanding” in this regard, is flat-out absurd.
Young tells Fleming “he offered input” on Memphis but hasn’t heard back. “I said I would pay my own way to LA to sit with the writers, tell what really went on, and give them names, but nobody took me up on it,'” he says. It would a respectful gesture for any MLK biopic filmmaker to consult with Young, but given the levels of Young’s denial about King and his commitment to hagiography in defiance of reported fact, what self-respecting creative would want to go there?