Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Preston Sturges!

Today marks what would have been, and still is for those who celebrate him and his work, the 110th birthday of cinematic legend Preston Sturges.

I bring him up on this blog as often as I can (if it's even remotely possible to relate something to Sturges, I WILL make the connection, guaranteed), but for those who don't know, Preston Sturges is one of the best writers who ever lived, one of the most gifted and important writer-directors of any time or any medium, an extraordinary human being, and my hero. He occupies a very special, and sizeable, place in my heart.

Preston Sturges is a constant source of inspiration for me. Not a day goes by that I don't look to him for artistic, literary, or personal guidance. Every time I think about writing something, every time I look at a blank computer screen waiting to be filled, every time I place my fingers on the keyboard, and every time I experience the exhilaration that surges through my mind and body when the gears click and the words start flowing, he's there. He is my muse.

Happy birthday, Mr. Sturges, and thank you.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bob Kabob

This upcoming Sunday, August 17th, Comedy Central is airing a roast of Bob Saget (who's looking GOOD, by the way), everyone's favorite obsessive-compulsive, ultra-tidy, oft-hugging, speech-over-sappy-music-giving TV dad, Danny Tanner.

I am ridiculously excited about this.

Harry Potter and the 8-Month Wait

I was half-paying attention to the WGN Morning News today until the words "Harry" and "Potter" caused my head to snap up from the computer. The release date of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, originally scheduled for November 21, 2008, has been moved to July 17, 2009.

Summer of 2009?! Merlin's pants!

I understand the greedy reasoning behind it, and I at least respect that they're not even trying to hide their motive ("Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, said it had decided to make the change to bolster its release schedule for the lucrative summer moviegoing season -- a period that can account for as much as 40 percent of Hollywood's annual box office receipts"), but COME ON. They finally released a legit trailer, and it's SO tantalizing, and now we have to wait a full year from that first glimpse?! That's just cruel.

Eight months is a bloody long time.

How I'm Taking the News: A Photo-Roman in Two Parts

It's Finally Happened

Oddly-named celebrity children are speaking out. First up, Rumer Willis!

"Rumer Willis was taunted by high-school bullies because of her bizarre name.

The daughter of former Hollywood couple Demi Moore and Bruce Willis hated her name, insisting she 'got screwed' by her famous parents' choice."

See, stars? There are repercussions for your bizarre whims. Gwyneth, I'm looking at you...

Sell-Out (n.): see George Lucas

My favorite Metacritic blurbs this morning:

"The Clone Wars is the last nail in a coffin that has been propped up ever since George Lucas sold his creative soul in the quest for a few more pieces of gold." - James Berardinelli, ReelViews

"At what point might animators be arrested for doing work so ugly it causes aesthetic blindness in millions of younglings?" - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

"The whole thing feels like a continuation of Lucas' experiments to see how much sh-- his dwindling supporters will take before finally saying "enough" and moving on to adult pursuits." - Pete Vonder Haar, Film Threat

Don't mistake this next statement as joking or affectionate:

George Lucas, you filthy, filthy whore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hitch!

On August 13, 1899...

...the Master was born.

And cinema could never know what was about to hit it.

So, grab your binoculars, dial "M" for murder, outrun that crop duster, put on your best necktie, do whatever strikes your fancy to celebrate the life and career of Sir Alfred.

You can even take a shower...if you dare.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

She's Got It, Dude

I unearthed a link of this random news article from a month or so back about Jonathan Levine's film The Wackness and the on-screen sexual chemistry between Sir Ben Kingsley...and Mary-Kate Olsen. Bizarre pairing, n'est-ce pas? Well, even weirder than the mere idea of them acting opposite each other, they make out.

From the article: "He's a screen legend – heck, he's even been knighted! But Sir Ben Kingsley isn't above a little kiss-and-tell when it comes to his on-screen smooch with 22-year-old Mary-Kate Olsen in The Wackness. 'She was completely in charge,' the actor, 64, tells PEOPLE of their enthusiastic make-out scene in a telephone booth."

And weirder's kind of hot.

Aww, little Michelle Tanner's all grown up and kissing knighted British actors.

Movie Moods: The Ladykillers

Despite my love for the Coens, I hated The Ladykillers (2004) so much that I walked out on it with about 20 minutes left. I don't EVER do that. Alas, the movie fits my mood for the morning.

Professor G.H. Dorr (Tom Hanks): "Madam, we must have waffles! We must all have waffles forthwith!"

There's a brand-new waffle maker sitting in the kitchen, and I'm about to make me some waffles for breakfast! Mmm mmm.

In the spirit of waffles... it HAS been 4 years - I think it's about high time I gave The Ladykillers another chance.

Monday, August 11, 2008

They Shoot Pretty People, Don't They?

I saw Shoot 'Em Up in theaters last year and absolutely loved it. It was a blast (no pun intended, but I'll take it). Most critics hated it. They thought it was too violent. Well, yeah, that's the point; however, it seems like they all missed it. Writer/director Michael Davis exaggerates the violence and exploits the clichés of the action genre for comic effect. It's clear that Davis loves the genre that he's mocking, so it's an affectionate homage as well as being a very intelligent, entertaining movie in its own right.

I think Shoot 'Em Up is the movie that Wanted aspired, and failed, to be. I saw Wanted, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, a long time ago (opening weekend, actually), and as I predicted then, I have mostly forgotten it. From the trailer and the ads, Wanted seemed to be in the same parody vein as Shoot 'Em Up. I mean, obviously, the massive quantities of curved bullets and the ridiculous scenarios couldn't be serious, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong, anyway. There were moments that were downright farcical, as well as some playful "breaking the fourth wall" stuff that I liked a lot. But ultimately, Wanted takes itself too seriously, and that's the fatal blow.

Oh, sure, Wanted is entertaining enough sporadically. The special effects are pretty cool...the first thousand times or so. Really, does everything need to be in slow-mo? It's too show-offy, and since Wanted kind of drags, maybe it's not the best course of action to prolong that feeling. And WE GET IT - the bullets curve! Learn a new trick!

The acting is enjoyable. Morgan Freeman gets to play a badass bad guy for once (whoops, spoiler? I can't remember if that's a huge secret, but trust me, it doesn't matter) and has some hilarious lines. Angelina Jolie is back in badass form herself. She's hot, sexy, aloof eye candy, but not much else, although to be fair to Jolie, who I respect a lot, her character isn't really required to be more than that.

On that note, Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy are beautiful, beautiful people. They're hot. Easy on the eyes. So, let me pause to include some gratuitous pictures:

Pretty people with guns. God bless America.

[Insert segway back to the review here.]

James McAvoy stole the show for me. I loved seeing him playing an assassin-in-training so soon after seeing him in a weepy melodrama (Atonement). His character in Wanted is Wesley, a corporate cubicle drone (the Office Space vibe is perfect because he really sells it). McAvoy brings nuance to the role and actually made me care (a little) about Wesley's conflict - should he stay at his humdrum job and be a nobody all his life, or, don't laugh, should he follow his destiny, become an assassin, and be a part of something bigger?

The fact that McAvoy made me care at all is a triumph for him as an actor, because the plot is rather stupid and unremarkable. This fraternity of assassins, which is centuries and centuries old, was started by, I guess, weavers. They take their orders from the - are you ready for it? - Loom of Fate. The Loom...of Fate. Sigh. The loom literally weaves out a name, and they kill that person. Right, I'm sure fabric is never wrong. The Loom of Fate is perhaps the lamest plot device/prop ever. Stick a curved bullet in this movie. It's done.

Pop quiz, Hot Shot: what do you get when a movie isn't smart, thrilling, or inventive enough to be a great action film, cleverly over-the-top, insightful, or committed enough to be a parody, and has no substance or story to fill in the gaps?

Answer: Wanted.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

P.S. The Loom of Fate has just produced a name for me: Danny Elfman.

How I could have neglected to mention him in this review confounds me. Danny Elfman composed the score for Wanted, which, honestly, I don't remember one bit. And I don't plan on refreshing my memory. Sorry, Danny. I wasn't really paying attention to the score because I didn't know it was him until the end credits rolled. When his name popped up, I was stunned. I guess the score's adequate for what it needs to be. Whatever, though. I highly suspect that this was a paycheck movie for him and the main actors.

That being said, I somehow found my way to the score on iTunes because I did recall a killer song over the end credits. To my surprise and considerable delight, the song, entitled "The Little Things," one of the best alt-rock tracks I've heard in years, was written and performed by...Danny Elfman! Songwriting, in the lyric-y sense, is rare for him since he gave up his music career to focus on compositional work, so I cherish this song because I know how special it is coming from him now. His voice is smooth, melodic, commanding, sexy, catchy perfection. He hasn't lost his rocker touch one bit over the years.

This song is the best part of Wanted. Download it.

Phew. I'm glad the Loom of Fate had my back on that one...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Windy City Tragedy

Bernie Mac died this morning at age 50. I'm not a huge fan of his by any means, but I was struck by the news and felt compelled to write something. I respected him as a performer, I always thought he was funny, and he was a good guy (good guys wear black - right, Mr. Mac?). I feel really sad losing one of Chicago's own so abruptly, and so young. The gloomy day outside is fitting.

Bernie Mac, you're a fellow Obama supporter (sorry you won't be around to see how it plays out), a fellow White Sox fan (hell yeah!), and a fellow Chicagoan. You will be missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Mac.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I Sold My Soul for $3.99

Yes, Lady in the Water was on sale at Best Buy for $3.99, and I bought it.

Shocked and/or confused? Does reading this review make me seem like a hypocrite?

Well, I did it, I'm admitting it publicly, and that's that.

I just love Paul Giamatti THAT much, and I think he's THAT damn good in it.

Case closed

Meet Brad as Chad

Here's a brief yet great introduction to Brad Pitt's character in the Coens' Burn After Reading. Oh, and after that video, there's an intro to George Clooney's character, too, if you want to watch that. While George is great with the Coens, my focus here is totally on Brad.

I predict that this is going to be an epically iconic performance. Caliber-wise, we're talking Jeff Bridges, a.k.a. The Dude. Brad Pitt's character Chad also answers to His Chadness, El Chaderino...

Ooh, I can't wait! I heart Chad already. And I really, really, really heart Brad.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I was lazily scanning the "news" (I hardly think Desperate Housewives' James Denton not wanting more children constitutes as news, nor does the story I'm about to mention, really, but I'm fascinated by it nonetheless) articles on IMDB yesterday, and I came across this:

Blair Wants Acid Trip
6 August 2008 9:06 AM, PDT

Actress Selma Blair has confessed she wants to travel to Amsterdam and take acid - to feel better about herself.

The Hellboy star admits she is always criticising her looks, and the only thing she likes about her body is her hands.
And when filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro suggested that taking drugs would boost her confidence, she agreed.

Blair says, "You know what Guillermo thinks? That I should go to Amsterdam and take an acid trip and it would fix my head. I think he could be right you know.

"You know, I've done some things to excess but I hate pot and I've never done acid or ecstasy. But if I was in the right frame of mind, in a pleasant, creative, chilled-out space, with just the right amount delivered by an Amsterdam technician, that would be incredible."

And, asked about her plans for the future, Blair adds: "I'll be happy and say something nice about myself for a change, I'll have gone to Amsterdam, done acid, done some amazing theatre in London. Beautiful!"


Okay, Guillermo del Toro promoting acid trips - that explains a lot.

But seriously, Selma? SERIOUSLY? I know it's legal in Amsterdam and all, but is this really something she wants to tell the whole world about? Doesn't she have a filter for this stuff? Isn't this what publicists are for?

Perhaps she should try therapy or psychoactive drugs first. But, I guess therapy is for schmoes, right? Why be that constructive? If you have the money, by all means, fly to Amsterdam on a whim to take an acid trip and possibly fry your brain even more. If she's suffering from mental illness (like her dangerously low self-esteem, desperation to share this information, and general manner of speaking seem to indicate very strongly), I really don't think the best idea is to play around with brain chemistry like that. It could potentially make her problems worse, not solve them like she believes it will.

Sheesh, when did I turn into Nancy Reagan?

Anyway, I'm really quite open-minded about life and the things people do (it's their business, after all), and I'm extremely reluctant to pass judgment, but come on, this was stupid of her. It's not something you should tell the press, and she sounds like an idiot to boot. And it's not news-worthy either.

TMI, Miss Blair. TMI.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feminine Intuition

Quite a few months back, I wrote a rather cheesed-off post about the remake of George Cukor's The Women (1939), in which I basically condemned the new movie and called it a bitch slap to the face of the original. This was perhaps a premature judgment, but come on, going off of that cloying, condescending initial poster and what I believed then was uninspired casting (or, at least, my difficulty imagining these contemporary actresses trying to fill those stylish classic shoes), can you really blame me? But, I can admit when I'm wrong, and I think I was wrong about The Women, version 2008. This is very much a foot-in-mouth moment for me. Granted, the movie could still turn out to be a complete disaster, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt (it's a new thing I'm trying these days).

The trailer is what converted me:

It was after viewing this the first time that I said to myself, "Hey, this actually doesn't look totally repugnant." And believe me - that, at the time, was the highest compliment that I could possibly give it.

Eva Mendes looks delicious, Annette Bening could very well do Rosalind Russell justice, and Meg Ryan already looks a hundred times better than whiny, doe-eyed, nobody-can-really-be-that-earnest Norma Shearer. I also dig the racial diversity, something that wasn't exactly peachy keen in 1939.

They've also wisely adopted a new poster. They went from this gag-inducer... this fun and much more tolerable model:

So, here's to the original film, to the memory of the glorious George Cukor, to Roz and Joan (Crawford, not Fontaine), to a new generation of women, and to the possibility of some intelligent feminist satire in the seriously-lacking present day.

I'm on board now, ladies. Don't make me regret it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Brain Revisited

I don't remember when it was exactly, but the first time I became aware of the existence of the now-playing Brideshead Revisited, a British period melodrama, I thought it was a horror film. Yes, it stars Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon, not innately scary actors in the slightest, but I didn't know they were involved then. For some reason, the name alone made my mind go there, to the horror realm.

This is somewhat disconcerting, no? Did this happen to anyone else? Or, if not, doesn't it sound like it COULD be a title for a horror film?

Validation is welcome.

Additionally, I would now like to see this film.

Friday, August 1, 2008

One Ticket to Barcelona, Please

Below, you will find what is, in my opinion, one seriously scorching hot, hot, hot movie poster. Woody Allen, you devil! I like this side of you.

I strongly suspect that I will love this film. Is it really coming out on August 15th? Can it be true? I thought that was the limited U.S. release date, but IMDB doesn't list any other U.S. dates. Well, I better not have to wait long just because I don't live in New York or L.A.! *shakes fist*

Did I mention that the poster is really hot? One might even say, given the ethnicities of two of the beautiful actors on the poster, that it's muy caliente! And, with that statement, I have now filled my lameness quota for the day, thank you very much.