Saturday, January 23, 2010

Jean Simmons 1929-2010

I was saddened to wake up this morning only to find that one of my all time favorite actresses had died.

The Runaways

Everything I see regarding this movie just makes me want to see it more. I wasn't sure about the casting or director or whatever, but I am really looking forward to seeing this.

I hope it's as trashy as it should be.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My 2010 Movies... Maybe

I'm just taking a look at the movies we can expect for 2010, and it does not really look like an amazing year for cinema. But, neither was this one. And I'm always happy to be proved wrong.

For no reason, here are the movies of 2010 I'm planning to see. So far, anyway.

:: Agora -- I don't know what to expect, but it's about Hypatia of Alexandria, who I think would be a fascinating subject for a movie. And Rachel Weisz is playing her, which is pretty cool.

:: Bitch Slap -- It looks like it could be Grindhouse awesome or an incredibly bad attempt to do a funny gonzo action movie. But I will definitely see it.

:: Blue Valentine -- It got good buzz at Sundance, apparently. The description, like most movies, sound pretty generic (a decaying relationship), but it's the execution, not the premise, that matters. I respected the hell out of Ryan Gosling's performance in Lars and the Real Girl, and his wife is Michelle Williams, and I will see anything--no, everything--with her in it.

:: Burlesque -- On paper, this sounds like it's going to be a disaster. It sounds a lot less like All About Eve and a lot more like the tamer, Lifetime movie version of Showgirls. And I have a lot of doubts about Christina Aguilera's acting ability. But, frankly, besides Miss Kristen Bell being prominently in the cast, I admit I'm curious about just how big a disaster this could turn out to be.

:: Cemetery Junction -- The first original film script from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Of course I'm going to see it. Ricky Gervais can get me to see anything.

:: Chloe -- The trailer looks fascinating. After Where the Truth Lies, I have no doubts about Atom Egoyan's abilities with an erotic thriller that goes deeper than your average late night on Showtime.

:: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader -- I like these movies. I'm looking forward to another one. Too bad it'll probably be the last; it would've been pretty cool to see The Last Battle on film.

:: Clash of the Titans -- Why don't they make more movies about Greek mythology? And when they do, they usually suck. It would be nice if this one didn't suck, even though probably it will.

:: The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud -- I admit it, I'm a Zac Efron fan now. And it's his re-teaming with the director of 17 Again, which I thought was cute. I tend to hate movies about how adorable kids with personality issues are supposed to be, but, well... I don't know.

:: Despicable Me -- Unlike a lot of CG animation, this one made a good first impression on me with its character design. Great cast--Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Will Arnett--and I dig the premise of a supervillain who suddenly finds himself a potential dad for three orphans.

:: Dinner for Schmucks -- I'm not a fan of director Jay Roach but, again, premise and cast. It's about a party where everyone's supposed to find the most pathetic guest they can, but the host is trapped with his irritant. I'm much more interested in this Steve Carell movie than I am Date Night, which sounds awesome on paper (and has Tina Fey) but... well, have you seen the trailer for Date Night? OUCH. This film is a remake of a French film I haven't seen but which sounds great. I just hope that Dinner for Schmucks plays as smart as it could, as opposed to going for pratfalls and obviousness. There's an opportunity for something really savage here.

:: Dorian Gray -- Assuming it ever actually comes over here.

:: Due Date -- Robert Downey Jr. on a road trip with Zach Galifianakis to get to his pregnant wife. Casting is crucial here, and I love both of these guys. Plus, it's from the director of The Hangover.

:: Easy A -- Every few years there's a "classic literature set in a contemporary high school" drama. Doesn't always work, but this one has Amanda Bynes, so I'm there. (Oh, and it's The Scarlet Letter this time. Could be good, could be bad.)

:: The Expendables -- Oh, yes. Been excited about this one since I first heard of it.

:: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec -- Here's the description for this one: "Adèle Blanc-Sec is an intrepid young reporter in 1912, will go to any lengths to achieve her aims, including sailing to Egypt to tackle mummies. Meanwhile in Paris a pterodactyl egg in the natural history museum has hatched, and the bird subjects the city to a reign of terror." I mean, come on, that's candy for me. Plus, Luc Besson directed it, so I'm hoping for more Fifth Element and less Arthur and the Invisibles.

:: The First Gun -- A Chinese remake of Blood Simple, a movie I still can't believe I've never actually seen. But this is directed by Zhang Yimou, and he's great.

:: Get Me to the Gig -- I absolutely want to see more of Russell Brand as Aldous Snow. I loved him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I can't wait to see him reprise the character. And even though Jonah Hill is playing a different character in this one than in the previous film, the chemistry they had needs to be expanded on. I'm excited about this one. And it's from the same director, Nicholas Stoller, who is hopefully still directing The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made. Can't wait. (Man, if you'd told me a decade ago there would ever be an era of comedies I actually liked, I would've laughed at you.)

:: The Ghost Writer -- Well, I almost always like Polanski's films.

:: The Green Hornet -- Totally looking forward to this one, even if Cameron Diaz is in it.

:: Green Zone -- Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. I love the Bourne movies, so I'm curious to see what they do here. Added bonus: Jason Isaacs. Love him.

:: Gulliver's Travels -- It stars Jack Black and a lot of other comedy people (including Jason Segel), so A, I want to see it, and B, I expect to read a lot more in the future about how much everyone despises this movie sight unseen. I don't care, I'm intrigued.

:: Harry Brown -- Michael Caine + British crime movie = yes.

:: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One -- Although I think it's probably a mistake to split these into two movies (it's a money move, let's be honest), this will definitely get me into a theater.

:: Howl -- I don't like Ginsberg, but I like James Franco.

:: How to Train Your Dragon -- I have never been as excited for a DreamWorks Animation picture than I am for this one, and that's almost entirely because of Chris Sanders. I absolutely love his art, I love his cartooning (read Kiskaloo, it's wonderful), and I loved Lilo & Stitch, which he co-directed and designed. The designs of the dragons alone (very Sanders) made me very excited. I see "almost entirely because of Chris Sanders" because I've seen at least three trailers for this, and they're actually very charming. I can't wait to see this.

:: I Love You, Phillip Morris -- I'm not especially interested in this movie, but I try to see any movies that people in high places decide I shouldn't see because the sight of two men kissing will supposedly make my head explode and cause society to collapse.

:: Ironclad -- Mostly because the premise reminds me of The War Lord. Haven't seen a good castle under siege movie in a long, long time.

:: Iron Man 2 -- Of course.

:: John Rabe -- A foreign drama about the Nanking Occupation. I've read a number of good reviews of this one, and it's an area I haven't seen explored by a movie before.

:: Jonah Hex -- I always liked the comic books from the 70s with Hex.

:: Kick-Ass -- This just looks cool. And I've been looking forward to what Matthew Vaughn is doing.

:: The King's Speech -- A biopic of King George VI, someone I don't know much about. Just never thought much about it. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush star, which is enough to make me interested.

:: The Last Song -- Miley Cyrus is one of the few people who could get me to see a Nicholas Sparks movie. I know, but I love her and I don't care if you don't.

:: MacGruber -- I thought it sounded like a weak premise for a movie, but the red band trailer is funny and kind of awesome. Good for the filmmakers for taking the premise seriously and adding in gags.

:: Machete -- Oh, yes. Danny fucking Trejo, man.

:: Megamind -- DreamWorks Animation's superhero satire sounds a lot like Despicable Me, but what the hell: can't have too many superhero satires. Unless they all suck, but why not?

:: Mother -- I still haven't seen The Host; this is also from director Bong Joon-ho. I just like the premise, about a mother trying to clear her son's name after he's wrongly accused of a brutal murder. It sounds like it has kind of a noirish take on the story.

:: Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang -- I thought the first Nanny McPhee was delightful.

:: A Nightmare on Elm Street -- I'm intrigued by the trailer. And I think Jackie Earle Haley is really good casting. And I'd like to see someone make Freddy scary again. Fingers crossed.

:: Night Catches Us -- A Black Power drama. I admit, it's because Kerry Washington is in it, and I adore her.

:: North Face -- I'm very interested in the modern take on the Heimatfilm. I saw a number of them in college; Nazi propaganda films about mountain climbing (generally) celebrating an idyllic German past that is mostly mythical (the joke I always made was that Heimat was German for Antebellum). This is about the real world consequences of taking such propaganda too seriously.

:: The Other Guys -- Adam McKay and Will Ferrell take on the buddy cop genre. Okay, why not? I still like Ferrell.

:: Paul -- Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, the director of Superbad, science fiction comedy... Why wouldn't I see this movie?

:: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief -- The Greek mythology angle intrigues me, even if the trailer doesn't. I've heard these are good books, but I've not read them.

:: Ramona and Beezus -- Selena Gomez! Selena Gomez! Selena Gomez!

:: Rapunzel -- I can't wait to see what this Disney film looks like. I hear that, style-wise, they're trying to make it look like a moving, three-dimensional oil painting. I wonder if they can pull that off.

:: The Resident -- I hope they don't screw up the return of Hammer Films. Granted, it's none of the same people involved, but as a brand, I'd hate to see it turn out more of the crappy horror films being churned out of the factories these days. They seem to be starting strong with an interesting premise and a good cast on this one, so I'm tentatively into this.

:: The Runaways -- Everything I've seen looks great so far. About time there was a movie about the Runaways.

:: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World -- This looks so awesome. I'm very excited about this.

:: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll -- A biopic about Ian Dury? Yes, please.

:: Shutter Island -- I was disappointed when they pushed this one back; the trailer is amazing.

:: Solomon Kane -- This one has also been a long time coming. Cool trailer.

:: Somewhere -- Anything Sofia Coppola wants to do, I'm on board.

:: The Special Relationship -- I'm actually disappointed that Stephen Frears isn't directing the third movie in Peter Morgan's Tony Blair trilogy, since he directed The Deal and The Queen. At least Michael Sheen is playing Blair again; I'm interested to see Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis play the Clintons. Part of me will be surprised if this doesn't go straight to HBO, but I'm looking forward to it wherever it lands.

:: Stay Cool -- Hilary Duff is in it. It'll probably suck, but I still love my Duffster.

:: St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold -- I still want to see the first one. And the earlier films with Alistair Sim. Never been able to find them. (Oh my goodness, they're on DVD now. Time to Netflix them.)

:: The Tempest -- I was not a fan of Julie Taymor's weirdly Flash Gordon like Titus, but I'm always interested in Shakespeare adaptations, so we'll see how she does this time. Plus, Russell Brand. Oh, and Djimon Honsou and Alfred Molina. Cool.

:: Toy Story 3 -- I'm surprised by how much I'm looking forward to this. I didn't think I would be, but the second I saw the trailer I was hooked. I forget just how much I like these characters.

:: True Legend -- I don't see nearly enough kung fu movies.

:: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil -- Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as a couple of hillbillies wrongly accused of being psycho killers by a group of college kids camping in the woods. It sounds like a hilarious satire of the horror genre: less Scream and more Shaun of the Dead or Behind the Mask.

:: Valhalla Rising -- Could be stupid, but Vikings!

:: The War Lords -- Jet Li and Andy Lau in the Taiping Rebellion. Awesome.

:: When in Rome -- I just add this because I know I will see it, but I don't necessarily want to. If this had anyone else but Kristen Bell, I wouldn't bother. But I do love my Bell.

:: You Again -- Same thing. Looks terrible, but is has the Bell.

:: Your Highness -- Danny McBride and James Franco in what looks like a Medieval version of Pineapple Express, a movie I loved. Plus, it's written by McBride and Ben Best. I am so in for this. I love Danny McBride, especially as a writer.

So, there's that. I know it's not a lot of very serious movies, but I always need trailers for those, anyway, before I make up my mind.


I have to say, I was more than a little irritated last night when, sandwiched between a particularly great episode of Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, there was a fucking clip episode of The Office.

Clip episodes are lame. They are always the worst and most completely skippable episode of any TV series. (Actually, they used to be the worst episodes of The Simpsons, but in the last decade, the worse episodes of The Simpsons have become the musical episodes and any episode where they tell three stories about anything.) I understand that it's a good way to pad the episode count with filler when a show has spent too much of the budget on other episodes, but it's still generally a joyless affair.

And, come to think, you don't really see clip episodes anymore, do you? In the age of DVD (and The Office is now in ubiquitous reruns), are clip episodes even necessary?

It was especially a downer for three reasons.

One, because the timing sucks. There hasn't been a new episode of The Office in about a month (and it came back a week later than the other shows), and I think it's a rerun next week. And the Olympics are about to preempt everything, anyway. Did they really need this as a placeholder when they just could have stuck in a rerun?

Two, because they used the new scenes from the framing device to advertise the episode as though it were an actual new episode and not a trip down memory lane.

And three, because of the weirdly smarmy tone of the whole episode. I mean, at least The Simpsons used to try and do clip shows with some sense of irony. This episode of The Office just kind of reveled in the assumed adoration of the audience. It left a bad taste in my mouth. There was just no effort at all; like the producers assume they can just sit there and have Rainn Wilson stare at the audience, wordlessly, for 30 minutes, and people will lap it up because they can do no wrong.

This is what shark-jumping is all about, I guess: overconfidence and assuming the audience will love whatever you do. And, as I've said before, The Office jumped the shark in the middle of season five, anyway.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Well, Why Not?

I mean, let's be honest.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

One of those sleepy crime movies they made so well in the early seventies and don't seem to do so great with anymore. Robert Mitchum, in one of his last great roles, plays a gangster about to go back into prison and who turns information over to stay out. Mitchum is really great here, playing a weary, lonesome character who is utterly unsympathetic but all too recognizable. ***1/2 stars.

Earnest WWII movie that is very supportive of the war that, at the time the film was made, was still considered a European affair. Robert Young plays an American journalist in England who is so moved by the plight of children orphaned by the war that he adopts two of them and does everything he can to get them to America. I thought Margaret O'Brien, only 5 years old at the time (and who changed her name to Margaret after being so impacted by this movie; her real name was Angela), was astonishingly good. I did feel somewhat manipulated by this movie, but it was also a powerful reminder of some of the most helpless victims of war. ***1/2 stars.

Not as terrible as the critics would have you believe, but it's not a good movie by any stretch. It seems to have no idea whether it wants to be a quirky comedy about relationships, a vacation comedy, or a somewhat serious examination of modern relationship dynamics. So instead of finding a tone, it's all over the map, trying and failing to mix silly comedy bits (that the film seems to have no idea how to pull off) with insights about modern marriages that almost do work but are too predictable to really relate to. None of the actors are really very good in it, with the notable exceptions of Malin Akerman and co-writer Vince Vaughn, but no one is really given anything to play, either. Jason Bateman comes off as a cartoon, Faizon Love and his girlfriend are totally extraneous to the plot, Jon Favreau has never been likable, Kristin Davis was so-so, and Kristen Bell is just entirely wasted on a total non-character. I was happy when the film was over. ** stars.

Wonderful. The cel animation is so much more fluid and alive than computer animation, and it this movie felt so fresh and welcome now that cel animation has become so scarce. I think this is one of Disney's best films in a long time. All of the elements clicked, and the character animation was excellent, especially on Mama Odie and the wonderfully snaky villain Dr. Facilier. I also dug the New Orleans setting, which really added to the plot. I think that Disney (and Pixar) films usually aren't as aware of their settings as I'd like--example, Ratatouille makes Paris look beautiful, but the setting doesn't add to the plot, nor is it really integral to the proceedings other than a nice backdrop. But this one just feels like, at least, a storybook version of 1930s New Orleans. I liked that. And I love the music, too. The performances are great, but I especially liked Anika Noni Rose, who sings beautifully and has a warm voice, and Keith David, who was born to play villains. **** stars.


John sent me a couple of pictures of his snowy UK neighborhood, and I just wanted to share them. About the only thing I like about the snow is the gentle calmness it lends to the early morning and late evening. It sort of glows and seems warmer than it really is. Still and calm, like there's no one else in the world, or everyone's sort of having a lie-in. These pictures capture that mood so perfectly. Thanks for sending these along, John. They're lovely.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday, Jason Segel!

I'm a huge Segel fan.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Song of the Week: "Rocky Mountain High"

It's cold and foggy today. The trees are covered with ice. It's very pretty. For some reason, when it gets all wintry like this, I think about my Grandma Davis. So I put up this gentle tune, which reminds me of her. And I grew up listening to John Denver, so I love the guy, and he's never been on Song of the Week, so I think it's about time.