Sunday, December 31, 2006

Children of Men

With "Children of Men," Alfonso Cuaron has managed to make the best zombie flick to never contain any actual zombies. And it's a fairly stunning accomplishment.

In seeing his nightmarish vision of "London," a city under seige where the government is rounding up all the immigrants and putting them into camps, the two movies I thought of most were in fact the zombie flicks "28 Days Later" and "Shaun of the Dead." It works so well because you know that, although its a remote possibility at best, it's how we could conceivably end up here.

As his template, Cuaron and several co-screenwriters use the novel by British writer P.D. James, about a future world where infertility has set in and will, eventually, mean the end of the world. As the movie begins, the youngest inhabitant of earth, 18-year-old "Baby Diego," is stabbed to death for refusing to grant an autograph. Cheerful stuff, eh?

In all this mess, Clive Owen plays a civil-service automaton recruited by his estranged wife (Julianne Moore) to help her transport a young woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) who holds hope for the future. To tell you any more about the plot would be criminal, so I'll just say you also get the always-welcome Michael Caine and Chiwetel Ejiofor and let you find out the rest for yourself.

As Owen's Theo and Ashitey's Kee (get it?) make their journey, it's often leavened with welcome doses of humor. It may not be "Shaun of the Dead"-style guffaws, but I wasn't the only one who laughed out loud at Owen's response to the query from Moore, "Youre smoking now?" ... "Yes, but it isn't working." The script is riddled with such bleak but witty banter that keeps the fairly standard story moving along.

It's also driven by some truly stunning visuals, the kind that Cuaron just hinted at in his other road movie, "Y Tu Mama Tambien." Two set pieces in particular stand out. The first comes as Moore and Ejiofor are transporting Owen and Ashitey to a safehouse of the rebel "Fishes," only to be ambushed by armed mob. And near the end, as Owen and Ashitey are trapped in the middle of a war zone, it's a picture that will stay with you for along time.

Cuaron's movie is at its strongest, in fact, when it says nothing at all and just lets pictures like these do all the talking. And, to harken back to "28 Days Later," it ends in a much more satisfying fashion than the treacly finish that almost ruined that otherwise satisfying flick: With just a glimmer of hope that we can somehow save ourselves from each other.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best actresses of 2006

It may not have been a great year for movies in 2006, but in many ways it was a great year for women, be they young or old, familiar or new. With the proviso that I have not seen "Notes on a Scandal" or "Inland Empire," here is my list of 12 actresses in 10 movies that just made a lasting impression on me this year.

Jennifer Hudson - "Dreamgirls"
Might as well begin with the most recent one I've seen, since it's burned on my brain the brightest. I read a rather snarky critique of "Dreamgirls" which posed the question "should you be nominated for an Academy Award just for singing?" The short answer might be no, but the answer here is that the question is simply ridiculous. Ms. Hudson carries this movie on her shoulders in a cast crowded with stars, and her performance of "And I Can Tell You I Am Not Going" is simply remarkable.

Helen Mirren - "The Queen"
All the hype Dame Helen has been receiving for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II is definitely well-deserved. The challenge is in keeping the queen tightly wound while at the same time showing all she went through after the death of Diana, and she just pulls it off flawlessly.

Ellen Page - "Hard Candy"
The next three choices hopefully signal a youth movement in serious films that will contintue for some time. "Hard Candy" could have easily devolved into the typical horror-schlock that pollutes our multiplexes, but young Ms. Page, Patrick Wilson and director David Slade deserve tons of credit for instead keeping this scary tale in the realm of psychological thriller occupied by classics like Polanski's "Death and the Maiden."

Keke Palmer - "Akeelah and the Bee"
Young Ms. Palmer also appeared in the very funny "Madea's Family Reunion" this year, but she never really made an impression on me until I saw this flick. It's a fairly standard story, but she and Laurence Fishburne play it with plenty of heart, and I have to admit I throughly enjoyed this flick, even if it was produced by Starbucks.

Abigail Breslin - "Little Miss Sunshine"
If Ms. Hudson hadn't stolen the show with "Dreamgirls," young Abigail surely would have been a strong contender for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. She's just charming throughout the movie, and when she finally takes the stage at that hideous pageant, it just breaks your heart.

Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
I expect both these actresses to make the Supporting cut, much like they did at the Golden Globes, and both would be worthy. They each made full use of quiet stretches in this fantastic flick about our failure to communicate on a global scale. The look on Barraza's face when she's stranded in the Mexican desert and Kikuchi's when she's naked, in so many ways, in that sterile Tokyo apartment are scenes I won't soon forget.

Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura, "Volver"
Ms. Cruz has understandably been getting all the hype for this, but for me it's definitely a package deal. They have each starred in some of Pedro Almodovar's best films, and here they get to share one of his best scenes, on that park bench near the end of the flick where they lay all their burdens down. It's just two of my favorite actresses on top of their game, and a joy to behold.

Diane Lane - "Hollywoodland"
This uneven flick is at its best when Ben Affleck's George Reeves and Ms. Lane as his illicit lover are alone together. They just had a natural chemistry that might be enough to propel them each into Supporting contention.

Maggie Gyllenhaal - "World Trade Center"
"United 93" is, by any measure of filmmaking prowess, a superior film to this one from Oliver Stone, but I still have to say I preferred "WTC" mostly due to the performances delivered by its leading men and women. As the men are trapped in the rubble, its left to Ms. Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello to carry the movie, which they do with skill, but I give the nod by a nose to Maggie here.

Geraldine Hughes - "Rocky Balboa"
Along with the younguns and Ms. Hudson in "Dreamgirls," this is the other real breakthrough performance in 2006 for me. I wasn't expecting the opening of "Rocky Balboa" to have so much soul, and much of it comes from Ms. Hughes as "little Marie," who has now grown into a barmaid beaten down but not out by life. It's a perfect character for a "Rocky" movie, and her performance is just spot on.

So, there you have it. Please feel free to sound off on any I may have omitted or that just left a strong impression on you this year. And check back tomorrow for a review of Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" and Monday for a list of the best leading men of 2006. Peace out.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Warner Bros. 2007 preview

The fine folks at have come through with a preview of what's coming next year from Warner Bros. At first glance, "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "300" stand out as the great ones, but there may be some pleasant surprises. Here goes:

"Letters from Iwo Jima" Jan. 12 (expansion): After the rather pedestrian ending that marred the otherwise satisfying "Flags of Our Fathers," I'm definitely ready to pick up the story again from the Japanese perspective as this hits wide-release world. I'm surprised that Ken Watanebe's performance as the commander hasn't been getting more notice in kudos season, and I can't wait to see it.

"The Good German" Jan 19 (expansion): Manohla Dargis eviscerated this latest work from Steven Soderbergh as all style and no substance, and even worse, an insult to the old studio pictures he was trying to emulate. I'll still give it a chance, but it does look awfully silly.

"Music and Lyrics" (Feb. 14): In this fairly standard Valentine's Day fare, Hugh Grant plays a washed-up '80s pop star who gets the chance to record a duet with one of the reigning teen divas. The catch, he has to write the song, so he, of course, turns to lyricist Drew Barrymore for help. Meh, meh and more meh.

"The Astronaut Farmer" (Feb. 23): Now this one actually sounds like a lot of fun. Billy Bob Thornton plays a disgraced astronaut who, after being dismissed from NASA, decides to build his own rocket at the family farm. I don't reckon you'll hear any Karl Childers jokes in this one, but one can always dream.

"300" (March 9): Count this as one of my top-shelf must-sees for 2007. Zack Snyder directs this flick based on Frank Miller's graphic novel about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. It could just be a bloody mess, but i'm still confident it will be well worth watching.

"Lucky You" (March 16): You can't stop Drew Barrymore, you can only hope to contain her (and good luck with even that.) Here she's in a poker flick/romantic drama with Eric Bana set at the 2003 World Series of Poker. I just might give this a chance for only two reasons: Curtis Hanson is directing, and Robert Duvall is on hand as Bana's father and fellow poker player.

"TMNT" (March 23): Every time I see that dumbass acronym I'm just left scratching my head, but what it apparently means is the world is about to get some more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles via CGI, and why not? Especially when it has Patrick Stewart, Ziyi Zhang, Buffy and even Kevin Smith on board. I guarantee this will be one of the year's truly great guilty pleasures.

The Reaping (March 30): Did we really make it this far without a horror movie/supernatural thriller? The plot summary for this one has me at least mildy intrigued: "Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith, and has since become an expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the Biblical plagues, she must regain her faith to combat the dark forces threatening the community." Remember, there's a fine line between pretty good and just plain awful.

"Spring Breakdown" (April 13): Oh, the horror. In this one, three 30-somethings (Rachel Dratch, Amy Poehler and Parker Posey) get a second chance at being girls gone wild when they escort young Amber Tamblyn to Spring Break. I know you have the strength to just say no.

"Oceans 13" (June 8): Any upgrade from Julia Roberts to Ellen Barkin is OK in my book, but the trailer for this thoroughly unnecessary flick just made me yawn more than once. Can't Soderbergh just get on with that Che flick starring Benicio Del Toro already?

"Nancy Drew" (June 15): I also managed to see this trailer before "Night at the Museum," and it looks like fairly harmless fun for girls and women who haven't finished growing up completely yet. My only question is how in the world did "Dick" director Andrew Fleming end up writing and directing this?

"License to Wed" (July 4): Sound the trumpets: We have an official front-runner for worst flick of 2007. In this impending disaster, a young couple (John Krasinski and Mandy Moore) must go through a rigorous test before a charismatic preacher (Robin Williams, and no, I'm not kidding) will marry them. As Christine Taylor, who co-stars in this mess, once said, I think I just threw up in my own mouth.

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (July 13): Not much to say about this. The kids get even older with new director Michael Goldenberg.

"No Reservations" (July 27): If I'm not mistaken, this is a remake of a German flick I liked quite a bit called "Mostly Martha." With Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart starring as rival chefs who, of course, fall in love, this could be that extremely rare breed: A smart romantic comedy for adults in the sweltering summer.

"The Invasion" (Aug. 17): In an August oddity, Nicole Kidman plays a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist who investigates a mysterious epidemic that alters the behavior of human beings. Sounds likes aliens to me, extraterrestrial rather than just illegal. Sheesh.

"One Missed Call" (Aug. 24): A supernatural thriller about cell phones or some such crap. I will not be seeing this.

"Michael Clayton" (Sept. 14): Because it's the law that George Clooney must be on the big screen at least three times a year, he appears here with Tilda Swinton and Tom Wilkinson as a "fixer" attorney in some kind of legal drama. I'm not doing it justice, but with that cast, this could be good.

"The Brave One" (Sept. 28): Bear with me folks, only four more to go, and in this one you get Neil Jordan directing Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard (huzzah!). Foster plays a radio host who, after watching her fiance die in an attack that leaves her badly wounded, roams the streets of New York at night in search of her attackers.

"Trick'r Treat" (Oct. 5): An early dose of generic Halloween horror which somehow has Brian Cox as one of its main stars. Oh well. At least he's working, and hopefully getting well paid.

"Fred Claus" (Nov. 9): Even after sitting through "The Break-Up," I still like Vince Vaughn, and I love good Christmas comedies, so this looks like a natural. In it, he plays Santa's little-known brother, a repo man. With Paul Giamatti as St. Nick and Ludacris as an angry elf, I just say bring it on.

"I am Legend" (Dec. 14): Thankfully, this isn't the story of soul-sucking singer John Legend, but instead just a movie about soul-sucking zombies starring Will Smith.

And there, finally, you have it. A pretty good slate featuring, amazingly, only one animated flick. Anything there that peaks your interest? "300" is the big kahuna for me, but there are some other pretty good ones, along with plenty of dogs. Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Brown biopic coming from Spike

I would normally be saying "Can't we at least let the body get cold first?", but this news is so good I just have to say bring it on.

Not one to miss a golden opportunity, Spike Lee has apparently signed on to write and direct a feature on the life of James Brown for Paramount and Imagine Entertainment. The pic could be in production by late next year, though 2008 is more likely. Very importantly, the deal includes access to all of Brown's music catalog.

Now that's what I'm talking about. I think I'm just about the only person who was left scratching their head at the end of "Inside Man" and wondering out loud "just what the hell was all that?" I'd never paint Spike into a corner, but writing and directing a project he's passionate about, not being a hired hand on a polished genre pic, is where we clearly need him.

And with what he has on his plate now, this could truly be his golden age. Anyone who's seen "Malcolm X" knows that, with a stern editor, he clearly has the skills to take on the complicated life led by James Brown. I just managed to see his "When the Levees Broke," which will surely appear on my top 10 list for 2006 (when I finally get around to writing it), so I can attest that he is in top form right now.

Even better in all this news is that any silly "Inside Man" sequel has apparently been pushed onto a way-back burner. Before the Brown biopic, his next project will be a flick about the L.A. riots (Rodney King, not Watts.) Hopefully by the time these wrap he'll have forgotten all about "Inside Man," though it sure would be nice to see him work with Mr. Washington again.

The burning question in my mind now, however, is just who in the world could play the Godfather of Soul? After several minutes I could only come up with one name: Larenz Tate. He's been toiling in subpar movies and lots of TV for years since the great "Dead Presidents," but every time I see him he has a genuine fire that just might work here. Eddie Murphy would surely be eager to get on board, and I could see that working too. Who could you see pulling this off? And, perhaps more importantly, should anyone? Please feel free to sound off, and have an entirely bearable Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


As the lights came down for the beginning of "Dreamgirls," with a packed house on hand for the first screening in Middle Georgia, I couldn't help but think how odd it was to be watching a movie about the slow death of real soul music on the day we found out that one of its true believers, James Brown, had died.

In Bill Condon's movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, however, there's still plenty of soul to be found in the performances of its stars, one diva on top of the game and one who's claiming her own little slice of the pie.

It is loosely based on Diana Ross and the Supremes, but Condon knows well it's much more importantly about the rise and fall of the Motown empire, and he has all the skills required to grasp that rather tall task.

And, much more importantly, this movie is about Jennifer Hudson, even moreso than I could have imagined going in. She just eats up the screen in every moment she's on, and without exagerration I can't remember seeing a star rise with so much power and grace.

The story here is about the rise of a girl-group trio consisting of Hudson, the fairly famous Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose. After performing at a talent competition in Detroit, they're discovered by a car salesman and would-be talent scout (Jamie Foxx) and hired to tour as the opening act for James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy, who's clearly having fun doing his best impression of the Godfather himself, with more than a little of Macon's own Otis Redding thrown in for good measure.)

It quickly becomes a battle of divas as Foxx, after flirting with Hudson's Effie White as his leading lady, manages to book the ladies on a solo tour, but announces Beyonce's Deena will be the leader of the group now known as the Dreams.

As might be expected, Ms. Hudson doesn't take this news too well, but even if predictable, her progression is still dramatic. She starts out with the body and voice of Aretha (again, no exaggeration, and not a compliment I wield lightly), but progresses into someone akin to Phoebe Snow, neither of whom would have found much favor in the slick world of Motown.

Every diva needs a showstopper, and Hudson gets it here with the number "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." It's a thoroughly raw moment, and it drew hearty applause from the audience (which I normally frown upon, but here, why not? She certainly earned it.) My favorite moment, however, comes when she first learns of the betrayal, and the pained look on her face as her backstabbers embrace her as a backup with the treacly "Family."

The only question I was left with afterward was, never having seen "American Idol," who the hell could have beaten her? The Golden Globe, and more importantly the Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress will be hers, and it will be well-deserved.

And Beyonce, being, well, Beyonce, has earned a lot of notice herself, not all unmerited. She deserves credit here for giving in to the fact that, though her Deena is picked to be the star of the Dreams, it's only for her looks. She plays it low-key until her own diva moment with the song "Listen." By then it's no longer her show, and seeing her realize this just works if you give in to it.

My only real beef with the movie came in one very unfortunate scene with Mr. Murphy. Donning the style of knit skullcap favored by Marvin Gaye, his James Early performs a dismal ditty entitled "Patience" as an attempted comeback. As the title implies, it's just the sort of faux-protest song that tones down its message enough to get on the radio, and its the kind of thing that the late great Mr. Gaye never would have touched. It's a rare wrong and insulting note in this otherwise pleasing feast for the ears.

And Mr. Condon, perhaps unlike me with this review, knows exactly how to end things. You'll still be catching your breath, and though I won't confess to it, perhaps wiping your eyes, as the lights come up.

And I think even James Brown would have liked this movie. I certainly did, but I still have no plans to watch "American Idol."

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown R.I.P.

Now that's a depressing way to start the day. As I rolled over this morning, my radio announced that James Brown had died. Now, it wasn't exactly as devastating as waking up when I 1as 16 to hear that my favorite basketball player in the entire world, Maryland Terrapin Len Bias, had coked himself to death, but sad nonetheless.

I don't have much to say in tribute to this great - albeit rather crazy - man, so please just enjoy this clip of him performing back in the day, courtesy of YouTube.

My cubicle mate Dan Maley, an earnest student of irony (and the false proclamation of it) would have to agree that it's highly ironic that on the day the Godfather of Soul died I'm going to see "Dreamgirls," a movie largely about sucking the soul out of music to sell it to the masses. Even so, I'm really looking forward to seeing it, so please feel free to stop by tomorrow for a review, and have a merry, merry Christmas!

James Brown - Out Of Sight

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Rocky Balboa

Perhaps the world didn't need a 60-year-old "Rocky Balboa," but as the closing chapter (hopefully!) on this American saga, I did, and I'm mostly glad Sly bothered to make it.

When both "Rocky" and "Rocky II" came out, when I was respectively 6 and 9 years old, I was simply too young to appreciate just how good they were. I'm not ashamed to admit that "Rocky III," with Hulk Hogan, Mr. T. and all the rest of its craziness, was just perfect for a 12-year-old, and it remains a favorite after all these years.

By the time "Rocky IV" hit, I was absolutely certain that I was too cool to stick with it, so even with James Brown on board I didn't. And "Rocky V"? I still, after at least three attempts, can not make it through this cinematic abortion.

So I at least needed "Rocky Balboa" to take me back to the heights of the first two, which I grew to truly appreciate, and it mostly succeeds at that.

The first hour or so is indeed very similar in tone to "Rocky," but this time we have the aging former champ as a widower who owns a restaurant named after his late wife. Just how far he's fallen from grace hit home for me in one scene where he's describing his former glory days to the patrons who gather to hear him each night. It reminded me in all the best ways of Paul Newman's heartbreaking performance at the end of "Requiem for a Heavyweight." Adding to this is Bill Conti's always-welcome "Rocky" score, which floats through the background as a soft piano piece.

And in this too-long-by-a-bit opening chapter, we meet Geraldine Hughes as "little Marie," who we first encountered as young girl in "Rocky" but who's now a beaten-down barmaid and single mom. Rocky of course takes up the cause of helping her, and the two have a natural chemistry that just worked for me. Keep your eye on this still-rising Irish star.

There are, however, at least two major flaws in this portion of the movie. The first is Milo Ventamiglia of TV's "Heroes," who is supposed be Rocky's yuppie son but just adds nothing to the movie. What are supposed to be two touching back-to-back speeches from father to son and vice versa, as Rocky confronts him about his empty life, makes for easily two of the most cringeworthy minutes you'll see on screen this year. (As an aside, however, it did make me think back to Milo's days on "Gilmore Girls," when Lorelai tells Rory she's only attracted to Milo's Jess because "he's seen too many Sylvester Stallone movies." Very funny stuff.)

The second big flaw is that we're given no real reason for Rocky to get back in the ring. The surface reason, a computerized simulation of how he would fare in a fight with the current champ played by Antonio Tarver, I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would. Though it's a shamefully whorish plug for ESPN, it's also a very funny statement about just how far celebrity and reality TV have tainted the world of genuine sport, and how we probably won't ever recover.

But it gives us no real reason for Rocky to take this bait. He doesn't need the money, and we never really feel that he even needs it for his ego. There's some business between Rocko and the always-welcome Burt Young about how this fight will finally let him let go of the crushing memory of Adrian and move on with his life, but that's just pure hokum.

Rock's training regimen is thankfully kept to one montage, and there's only one moment when I felt he really was just way too old to pull this off. It's a quiet one, when Marie comes to visit him on the eve of the fight. In this scene, you can see the arthritic veins just popping out of his shoulder, and it's just gross.

That said, however, you come to see a "Rocky" movie for the big fight, and that's where this one definitely delivers. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say it's all filmed with flair by Stallone, who has definitely learned a lot in his many years of making these flicks.

The tension is kept high throughout the "exhibition" match between Rocky and champ Mason "The Line" Dixon, and it's the kind of savage ring action you just don't get to see much anymore, and I'll always enjoy. One other thing I enjoyed is that Tarver plays the champ as the spoiled brat all the way to the end, and you can see in his face that he learns absolutely nothing from his encounter with Rocky.

So, in the end, I was glad I gave Rocky this final chance. Despite its flaws, it's a fitting end to the story, so let's just hope it really is the end. You have my solemn promise that I will never again climb in the ring with Rocky after this flick, and that I will not be going to see "Rambo VI: Pearl of the Cobra" (no, I'm not making that up) in 2008. Even a fanatic has limits.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Night at the Museum

It's been a good while since i've gotten to write a solid rave, so be forewarned: I just loved this movie.

All the signs were there for a great movie outing. I managed to get out of work by 3:30 which, for me, almost always means a 4:00 movie. And, it being a holiday week, there was a packed house of kids who were at least as excited as this often-immature adult.

And we certainly weren't disappointed. After thankfully little exposition about how Ben Stiller's character can't hold a job and constantly lets down his son, we quickly get to the big show at NYC's Museum of Natural History, where he takes a job as the night watchman.

His guides in this endeavor are three sometimes surly old gents being forced into retirement, played with obvious relish by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs. It would be painful to watch Rooney, in particular, playing such a cartoonishly angry old man if they weren't all clearly having so much fun doing it.

And what they leave Stiller is based on a premise I've always secretly believed: That at night, all the creatures in museums come to life. Any kid who has seen that giant elephant in the lobby of the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum and didn't dream of it coming to life needs a serious shot of imagination.

NYC's version is the perfect setting for the fairly manic show that unfolds, and it plays exactly to Stiller's strengths. He's described his chief comedic talent as being "the reactor," and while that's definitely more than a bit of false modesty, it's just the right pose for this movie, and he nails it.

If you've seen the trailer for this one, it promises a wild ride and mostly delivers. The T-Rex comes to life first, and within minutes you've got pure chaos, tempered with more than a few choice jokes.

Whereas a lot of trailers give away all the best jokes, this flick, which was written by "Reno 911" creators Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, saves plenty of surprises for the movie itself. Sure, it's a cathartic joy to watch Stiller smacking a monkey (rather than, if this were a Farrelly brothers flick, I suppose choking the chicken), but also watch out for a very funny moment with Attila and his huns, plus a lot more.

And in this melee, you get some seriously good comics in top form. Robin Williams, who I can either take or leave, channels the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt perfectly as he rides through the museum spouting empty platitudes about greatness. Apparently all he needs is a good target for all that energy, and he definitely hits it here. You'll also get naturally funny guys Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan as, respectively, a cowboy and a Roman soldier who are rivals forced, of course, to unite to save their fellow museum creatures. And you also get Carla Gugino who, though she has very little to do, is always a welcome sight in my book.

One quibble, if I may. Ricky Gervais' museum director is, naturally, supposed to be stuffy bad guy, but he plays it as a lightweight version of David Brent from "The Office," and it just doesn't work. A man as funny as he is should never be a one-trick pony.

But, like I said, thats just a quibble with this flick that has the audacious goal of making history cool again. It doesn't quite get there, but it does make it loads of fun, which was good enough for me.

It's gonna be a busy movie weekend here (my favorite kind of Christmas!) We're going to see "Rocky Balboa" later today, and then "Dreamgirls" Monday, so please feel free to stop back for reviews (which I'm fairly certain will be positive), and have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

2006 movie moments

As stated before, I won't give my best of 2006 until at least seeing Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth," but this is just a little different.

Here, instead, are 10 scenes that have lingered on my brain the longest. These aren't necessarily the best movies I've seen this year, but they at least had these moments that have managed to stick with me.

Dave Chappelle's Block Party
There's so much to choose from in this feast for the senses, which somehow didn't really catch fire at the box office. The triumphant return of the Fugees at the end was certainly a high point, but for me my favorite moment was a fairly quiet one when Dave's sitting on the drum kit and surveying the audience: After asking if there are any Mexicans in the audience, he breaks into his Mexican Lil Jon: "Que! Que!" A silly moment, for sure, but it was just so great to see him having fun again. If you haven't seen this magnificent Michel Gondry flick, do so right away.

Thank You for Smoking
"Borat" and even "Beerfest" may have been more laugh-out-loud funny than this one, but as smart political satire, it stands tall as the rare exception to a dying breed. My favorite scene would have to be in Rob Lowe's Hollywood office, when he's trying to explain to Aaron Eckhart's Nick Naylor how astronauts would be able to smoke in space. Priceless.

V for Vendetta
After seeing V for Vendetta, I'm now thoroughly convinced that Alan Moore will never be happy with a movie made from one of his graphic novels, because they won't get much better than this one. If you somehow haven't seen this, skip the next sentence. The ending sequence of "V," as our hero staggers into the subway station and is placed on the train full of explosives by Natalie Portman's Evey, is just a joy to watch.

Nacho Libre
I know a lot of people just hated this one, but I found it to be charming, albeit seriously silly. If you've seen this and can honestly say you didn't laugh out loud when Nacho fought those fur-covered midgets that looked something out of "The Wizard of Oz," I'm not sure I can believe you. I still have nightmares about those creepy little dudes.

Clerks II
Sure, this pales in comparison to Kevin Smith's original movie, but in long stretches its just extremely funny. The best for me came when Wanda Sykes and the comedian Earthquake are trying to order at Mooby's just as Randal is trying to explain why he thinks it's OK to use the word "porch monkey." It's wrong in almost every way, but I certainly laughed, and won't apologize for that.

Tristram Shandy
I'm not sure this qualifies as 2006, but I don't think it came out in the U.S. until January, so I'll claim it. Steve Coogan is a brilliant ball of blustery ego in this one, and there's funny bits throughout, but I have to admit that what I won't forget is Tristram's sudden and accidental circumcision at the age of 3. If you haven't seen it, think of the worst scenario, then be ready for more when you get around to it.

Pedro Almodovar's female flick is really slow in getting started, but it's among his best in the final third. By the time mother and daughter Carmen Maura and Penelope Cruz are revealing all their secrets to each other on that park bench, I was thoroughly hooked.

Though I only do a few crossword puzzles a week, I felt an instant connection with the geeks it so adoringly chronicles at the national crossword contest, or whatever it's called. My favorite by far was Ellen Ripstein, who as we first meet her defiantly describes how she dumped a boyfriend who challenged her crossword-puzzle addiction, and is later seen twirling her baton in Central Park. She's just adorable.

Up until now these haven't been in order, but count these last two as my two favorite movie moments of 2006. There are many searing scenes to choose from in Babel, but the Mexican wedding sequence was the best for me. It's the best party sequence I had seen since the street party in "City of God," and is just a nearly flawless mix of peril and joy.

Little Miss Sunshine
I'm fairly certain that anyone who bothers to read this will have seen "LMS" by now, but if not, stop now. The end of this movie is, I can definitely say, like nothing I had seen before. Up until they reach the pageant I was enjoying the flick enough, but it reaches a whole new level once you see those poor young ladies made up to look like whores, and once Abigail Breslin finally takes the stage, break out your hankies. It's pure schmaltz, but it works for me, and obviously for many other people too.

So, there you have it. I'm sure there are many I have overlooked (at least 10 more would have made the list from me if I had more time.) Please feel free to share any scenes you won't soon forget, and have a great holiday weekend.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Grindhouse lobby cards

The most interesting thing I could find this morning were these lobby cards for "Grindhouse," the one-two punch coming from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, I believe, in April (though Quentin is still shooting his half, apparently, so who really knows?)

I'm sure these won't be great cinema by any stretch, but they should at least be a load of fun. Rodriguez's half, Planet Terror, above, stars Danny Trejo and Rose MacGowan, among many others, and I'm betting it will be the superior flick. QT's Death Proof, below, will star Kurt Russell and will be about a killer, ala Christine. I say meh, but I've been wrong at least once before.

They're even going to the trouble of making fake trailers for a sort of intermission, so even if this total cheese, I've always liked cheese. Especially a fine smoked gouda.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

2007 Paramount preview

The fine folks at were treated to a preview of what Paramount has in store for 2007, and were kind enough to share it with the rest of the world. "Transformers" would have to be the big dog, but there's plenty more to love and hate on this list. Enjoy.

Norbit (Feb. 9):
After watching some version of "Big Momma's House" while trapped on a plane, I've already made my big New Year's Resolution: No more movies about dudes in fat suits, no matter how funny they might be. Luckily, this Eddie Murphy dud doesn't look like too much of a challenge to resist. (I can't believe poor Eddie Griffin, Thandie Newton and Clifton Collins Jr. are all gonna be in this, but at least Charlie Murphy is getting some work!)

Zodiac (March 2):
Some fairly lukewarm reviews thus far definitely won't be enough to keep me away from this new David Fincher flick. Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo (huzzah!) and Robert Downey Jr. all star in this flick about the zodiac killer who terrorized San Francisco. Count this one very on my must-see list for 2007.

Shooter (March 16):
I've never been much of a fan of Antoine Fuqua (is there a more overrated movie around than "Training Day"?), so I can't get terribly excited about this thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, especially given this plot summary: "Wahlberg is Bob Lee Swagger, a former Army sniper who leaves the military after a mission goes bad. After he is reluctantly pressed back into service, Swagger is double-crossed again. With two bullets in him and the subject of a nationwide manhunt, Swagger begins his revenge, which will take down the most powerful people in the country." Sheesh.

Blades of Glory (March 30):
Will Ferrell and Jon Heder together in one flick? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, but the premise for this sounds fairly funny. The two are rival figure skaters who get into a tussle at the world championships and, after getting barred from the sport, find they can only make a comeback as a pairs team. Remember, I only said fairly funny.

Disturbia (April 13):
Despite its instant nomination for worst title, this one has me at least mildly interested if only for cast members Shia La Beouf and Carrie Ann Moss. After his father's death, Kale (LaBeouf) becomes troubled to the point that he finds himself under a court-ordered sentence of house arrest, and Moss plays his mother. Out of sheer boredom, Kale becomes voyeuristicly fascinated with his neighbors, one of which he begins to suspect is a serial killer. Sounds fairly standard, but I'll give it a chance.

Shrek the Third (May 18):
What can you say about this one? The plot apparently involves Shrek in line to become king of Far, Far, Away unless he and his running mates Donkey and Puss n' Boots can find the other long lost heir to the throne. On an almost entirely unrelated note, I got the fantastic Tom Waits collection "Orphans" as an early Christmas present, and it contains the great little ditty "Little Drop of Poison," which appeared on one of the Shrek soundtracks, according to my co-worker Dan Maley.

Hot Rod (June 1):
I had never heard of this oddity featuring, in supporting roles apparently, Sissy Spacek and Ian McShane, but this plot summary has me intrigued: "Self-proclaimed stuntman Rod Taylor is preparing for the jump of his life. Rod plans to clear 15 buses in an attempt to raise money for his abusive stepfather Frank's life-saving heart operation. He'll land the jump, get Frank better, and then fight him, hard." Any movie with a "self-proclaimed stunt man" can't be all bad, after all.

Transformers (July 4)
Does it just make me a faux geek at best if I'm more excited about the release of Pixar's "Ratatouille" in the same week than this one? It will be fascinating, at least, to see the fallout if Michael Bay somehow screws up the saga of Autobots and Decepticons. I think beheading just might ensue.

Stardust (July 27):
Based on a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, this one sports a rather remarkable cast, including Claire Danes (huzzah!), Sienna Miller, Robert De Niro, Ricky Gervais and Peter O'Toole, among others. The plot, as far as I can tell, goes something like this: A young man named Tristan (Charlie Cox) tries to win the heart of Victoria (Miller), the beautiful but cold object of his desire, by going on a quest to retrieve a fallen star. His journey takes him to a mysterious and forbidden land beyond the walls of his village. On his odyssey, Tristan finds the star, which has transformed into a striking girl named Yvaine (Danes). To complete his mission, he must win her heart. There's much more going on, and it all sounds like a lot of fun.

Untitled Farrelly Brothers Project (Oct. 5):
After wooing the kiddies with "A Night at the Museum," Ben Stiller will crank up the grossness once again with the Farrellys. In it, he'll play a man who proposes to a beautiful woman (Michelle Monaghan) after knowing her for only a week. On their honeymoon, of course, she reveals a darker side, and hilarity just might ensue. Especially since Ben's bringing his father Jerry along for the ride.

Bee Movie (Nov. 2):
Judging from what little footage I've seen of Jerry Seinfeld's animated flick, it just looks like twisted fun. Unfortunately, it will star Renee Zellweger, but at least she won't be accompanied by Michael Richards.

Beowulf (Nov. 16)
Robert Zemeckis' take on the epic saga should be anything but boring, especially with a script from Gaiman and Roger Avary. The cast includes Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother, Anthony Hopkins as the corrupt King Hrothgar and Ray Winstone as Beowulf. Man, how I hope this doesn't suck.

Things We Lost in the Fire (Fall/holiday):
Even with Benicio Del Toro and Halle Berry on board, this just sounds like an impending disaster: "When Audrey Burke (Berry) loses her husband in an act of random violence, she forges an unlikely relationship with Jerry Sunborne (Del Toro), her husband's best friend from childhood. Jerry is a heroin user; his addiction has destroyed everything that was once important to him. As Audrey discovers that Jerry is the only person who can help her survive her loss, Jerry finds the strength to overcome his own problems." Count this in the list of things that make me go meh.

Sweeney Todd (2007):
I have a love/hate relationship at best with Tim Burton, but I'm fairly certain this musical will fall in the former category. Johnny Depp (of course) will play Stephen Sondheim's demon barber of Fleet Street, and Sasha Baron Cohen and Alan Rickman will be along for the ride. Bring it on.

Stop-Loss (2007):
Based on a true story, "Stop-Loss" apparently centers on Brandon (Ryan Phillippe), a soldier who returns home to Texas and is called to duty again in Iraq through the military's "stop-loss" procedure. Oh well. At least it apparently features Ciaran Hinds in some capacity.

And there you have it, in admittedly rather long form. A few winners and more dogs. Feel free to sound off with what you're looking forward to on screen next year, whether it's on this list or not.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fantastic boxing flicks

Though there are great movies about all varieties of sporting endeavours, few have attraced as much attention from Hollywood as boxing.

There are many reasons for this. It's the essence of human combat, which brings with it all the elements of triumph and tragedy. It's also, conveniently enough for Hollywood, easily the most corrupt of the mainstream sports.

So, in honor of "Rocky Balboa," which I have to admit I'm predisposed to just give in and fall in love with, here's a list of some of my favorite boxing flicks (excluding the "Rocky" franchise, just to be ornery.) As always, please feel free to sound off with any I may have forgotten.

Raging Bull
Granted, an obvious choice, but for me and many other people this one will always top the list. Featuring a searing performance from Robert De Niro as Jake La Motta, the reason its vintage Scorsese is not just that it explodes with violence and obscenity, but because every ring success of LaMotta's life is paralleled by real-life failure, which Scorsese never shies away from.

The Boxer
Daniel Day Lewis reunited with Jim Sheridan and Terry George for one more movie about "the troubles," this time playing boxer Danny Flynn, who is let out of jail after serving time for actions in his past with the IRA. "Some Mother's Son" remains my favorite in their series of Northern Ireland flicks, but "The Boxer" is also notable for showing that peace is often just as messy as war.

The Hurricane
It pained me to watch Denzel win an Oscar for "Training Day," not because he didn't deserve it, but because it should have come for his multi-layered portrayal of Ruben "Hurricane" Carter in this flick. For a more straightforward and campy prison boxing flick, you also can't go wrong with Walter Hill's "Undisputed," starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames.

Pulp Fiction
OK, here we cross over into movies that simply feature boxers, but this is my list, right? You can debate if this one was ever as revolutionary as it was made out to be, but for me at least, you can't deny its value for sheer entertainment.

When We Were Kings
The joys in this Leon Gast documentary about the 1974 match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire are almost too many to list. From Foreman and his huge dogs to the crowds mobbing Ali with adoration to James Brown preparing for his show that went with the match, it's just a feast for the senses.

Out of Sight
I just watched this again the other day, and it remains my favorite Elmore Leonard adaptation. Clooney and Lopez might steam up the scream, but Don Cheadle's prison boxer "Snoopy" Miller and Steve Zahn's Glen Michaels are both just a hoot.

Requiem for a Heavyweight
Few movies have done a better job of showing the seedy and sad side of boxing than this 1962 flick, written by Rod Serling. Anthony Quinn is the clumsy, proud "Mountain" Rivera, forced to retire after a life of beatings, trying to find a new job with no skills. His manager, Maish Rennick (Jackie Gleason), is devastated, too: He had bet against his own fighter and owes money to gangsters. With thugs threatening his life, Rennick sabotages Rivera's dream of working in a summer camp and signs him up to dress as an Indian chief in humiliating wrestling matches. By the time you reach the end of this one, it's guaranteed to break your heart.

The Set-Up
This film noir classic tells the story of Stoker Thompson (Robert Ryan), a fading fighter who doesn't realize he's supposed to throw a fight. When he discovers his fate but refuses to comply, doublecrossing his doublecrossers, it's pure noir gold.

I had never heard of Michelle Rodriguez until I saw her play Diana Guzman in this simply fantastic boxing flick. Along with her powerful performance as a sarcastic, angry 15-year-old with a penchant for pugilism, you get a flick that truly captures the reality and rhythm of a boxing gym.

On the Waterfront
When you set aside all the politics surrounding this one, you still get a very compelling flick. And though the only fighting comes down on the docks, Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy and his plea that he "coulda been a contender" will last forever.

Call this one a bonus pick. It really has nothing to do with boxing until late in the movie when poor Noah Taylor climbs into the ring to get pummeled and prove his manhood to young Thandie Newton. Along with the two of them, you get Nicole Kidman and, I believe, Naomi Watts in this Aussie flick about coming of age and, of course, flirting. Just watch it.

And there you have it. Feel free to let me know of any I overlooked, and have a great day.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

We Are Marshall

Faced with an uninspiring slate of movies this weekend, I looked to an unlikely source to peak my interest ... McG. After some arm-twisting from me, we skipped the new releases and instead went to a sneak preview of "We Are Marshall."

Now, I don't have the animosity that many people harbor against this rather freakishly named director (but seriously, if your childhood nickname just made you sound like an idiot, would you keep it all your life?) I didn't bother with either of the "Charlie's Angels" flicks, so this was in fact my first experience with the man.

And I'm kinda glad I finally met him. "We Are Marshall" is, by force, really two movies in one: It's at once about dealing with incredible grief while also being about building a college football program from the ground up.

And on the latter, at least, it's fairly successful. For anyone who doesn't know the story, and McG wisely assumes that people will do a little reading before going into this one, it's about the 1970 Marshall football team and the plane crash that killed every member of it, along with coaches, pilots and everyone else on board. And more importantly, it's about what happened afterward.

After the crash, which is thankfully avoided except for some seriously shaky camera work as the wreckage is discovered, the school considers suspending the football program, a perfectly sane choice given the circumstances. Into this sad situation steps Matthew McConaughey, in the first performance from him I've liked since, well, "Dazed and Confused" (and thankfully, despite being decked out in 70s attire, he doesn't offer any creepy lines about high school girls here.) As Jack Lengyel, the only coach willing to take on this thankless task, he's obviously more than little off-kilter, and he convinces you that he just might pull this off.

And the rebuilding goes on at a brisk, albeit cliche-ridden, pace. Fans of college football will enjoy it, so McG can at least be credited for hitting his target audience. It's filled with visual clues - the crowd swelling through Huntington on game day, a funny and touching visit to Bobby Bowden (played by Mike Pniewski) - that give you a proper sense of time and place.

And, thankfully, this isn't really a traditional sports underdog movie. Though we do see Marshall entering the next season, there's little of the flashy camera work you might expect from a music-video director. If you're not cheering for Marshall, I don't know why you'd wanna see the movie, but McG doesn't force your hand.

So, thus far, we've got a pretty good college football movie, right? So where does it go wrong? Well, Mr. McG clearly doesn't have the ability to portray people really dealing with grief, so he mostly doesn't even try.

In that half we get a series of clipped-short scenes, woeful speeches and tears. Lots of tears, but none that carry much meaning. The worst of it is handed to Ian McShane from "Deadwood," who is forced to jump through every grieving cliche hoop with the same dour expression for the whole movie (and carry on a fairly creepy relationship with his dead son's fiancee, played by Kate Mara.)

It's this failure to give us any real emotional connection to any characters that will, I think, doom McG's flick in its box-office bout. Two sports underdog movies in one week is already dicey, but when you're taking on a known, albeit geriatric, commodity like Rocky, you need your A-game, if I may trot out a cliche of my own. And this one is a C+ to B- at best.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Golden Globes fallout

So, what happens when I take just one day off? Well, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands outs its Golden Globe nominations, of course. It's clearly a conspiracy of global proportions.

Even so, I'll take the day-late chance to issue a hearty huzzah to all the nominations (a leading 7!) for "Babel." It's my favorite flick of 2006 thus far, so I'm glad to hear I'm not just crazy.

Anyways, here's the list of main film categories, with a little semi-enlightened commentary from yours truly.

"The Departed"
"The Queen"
"Little Children"

"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Thank You For Smoking"

I love that the Golden Globes offers two categores for best picture. That, and the fact that the liquor flows freely, definitely makes for a more lively awards show. Though I admittedly haven't seen it, the only one of these that makes me go wtf!?!? would be "Bobby." Almost every review I saw said Mr. Estevez took on a noble storyline and tacked onto it way too many side plots and extra characters with no real point. It may, however be a brilliant Oscars strategy: If 75 percent of all Hollywood actors are in one movie, why wouldn't they vote for it for Best Picture?

Of these 10, I could easily see five making the Oscar cut: "Babel," "The Departed," "The Queen," "Dreamgirls" and "Little Miss Sunshine." They would all be worthy nominees (assuming "Dreamgirls" doesn't somehow just suck.) I was especially happy to see the mention for "Thank You For Smoking," and will be pulling for it as an upset on awards night.

"Apocalypto" (USA)
"Letters From Iwo Jima" (USA/Japan)
"Lives of Others" (Germany)
"Pan's Labyrinth" (Mexico)
"Volver" (Spain)

If I have this right, American directors don't usually make it into the Foreign Language Film category, so it's interesting to see Clint and Mel here. I abhorred "Apocalypto" and mostly loved "Volver," so I'll be cheering for Mr. Almodovar until I get the chance to see "Pan's Labyrinth.

Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Clint Eastwood, "Flags Of Our Fathers"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Stephen Frears, "The Queen"
Alejandro González Iñárritu, "Babel"

Can we please, please get a limit of one per person (especially since "Flags of Our Fathers" was ho-hum at best?) This should come down to a battle between Scorsese and Inarritu (who, I think, made the best two movies of the year), and I'll certainly be cheering for Mr. Inarritu to pull the upset.

Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Leo's accent in the commercial for "Blood Diamond" was enough to make me cringe and then laugh out loud, so I have no idea how me made it onto this list twice. I'd look for Will Smith to prevail here, but will definitely be pulling for Forest Whitaker.

Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "SherryBaby"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Though I, for many reasons, just adore Penelope Cruz, it will be great to see Dame Helen Mirren take home two Golden Globes for playing queens named Elizabeth, in this category and in the best actress in a TV miniseries category for HBO's "Elizabeth I."

Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You For Smoking"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Kinky Boots"
Will Ferrell, "Stranger Than Fiction"

This is a surprisingly strong category. The only one I didn't see was "Kinky Boots," and though I like Chiwetel Ejiofor quite a bit ("Serenity," 'nuff said), he doesn't have a prayer here. For me it comes down to Eckhart vs. Ferrell, and though I'd love to see Eckhart prevail, he probably won't.

Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors"
Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter"

Can we, just once, go an entire year without Renee Zellweger being nominated for anything? I can't be the only one who just finds her to be thoroughly annoying. Having only seen "Little Miss Sunshine" in this category, I can only predict that Meryl Streep will probably prevail.

Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"
Brad Pitt, "Babel"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

How the hell are Jack Nicholson and Ben Affleck supporting actors in "The Departed" and "Hollywoodland" (which was, after all a flick about GEORGE REEVES)? I guess that's how Leo got two best actor nods. I'd love to see Affleck pull this one out, but I think Eddie Murphy will knock out Jack Nicholson to take home the prize.

Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Make this my favorite category of all. Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi were both simply mesmerizing in "Babel," but if I had a vote I'd go with Kikuchi's performance as the deaf-mute Japanese teen-ager as the best performance - supporting or otherwise, male or female - I've seen all year, so I really hope she wins.

"Happy Feet"
"Monster House"

"Over the Hedge" was better than all of these.

Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"
William Monahan, "The Departed"
Peter Morgan, "The Queen"

I like Tom Perrotta as a novelist quite a bit, but my dark side would love to see Arriaga prevail so we can see if he badmouths Inarritu on stage. Probably not, but it could be fun. I think the favorite, however, would have to be Peter Morgan for his very clever script for "The Queen."

And I won't bother with the TV nominees because, well, this has gone on long enough, and I really only have one beef: Once again, where is Lauren Graham in the best actress category? I can only assume they're waiting for "Gilmore Girls" to wrap up, probably after this season, so they can give her some kind of lifetime achievement award.

What were your reactions to the Golden Globes? Who got snubbed, and who got undeserved recognition? Please feel free to sound off, and have a good day.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not much to say

Not much to say today. A little depressed that Young Frankenstein is dead, but mostly just a little tired. So, instead, here's this great pic from Ratatouille I found at .... With Transformers, Diehard 4 and this all opening in one week next July it should be a wild weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mad Max 4 and Babe 3?

George Miller is one of a very few people who can claim to have created two beloved (at least by me) movie franchises, and he's never gonna let us forget it.

Miller, who's on top of the world with "Happy Feet", dropped some tidbits about the possibilities of "Mad Max 4" and "Babe 3" at Moviehole (

The fourth "Mad Max" installment, "Mad Max: Fury Road" (love that title!), has been off and on in the works since 2002. Back then, due to “the war, and the American dollar collapsing, and ultimately losing over twenty-percent of our budget” it collapsed. And then Miller realized "Mad Mel" would no longer be "Mad Max."

“He was just on the cusp of being too old five years ago," Miller told Moviehole. "I mean, he was 21 when he first played Mad Max, and now he’s in his 50s - and it’s not about an old fading warrior - Max is a pretty lean and hungry guy. Mel didn’t really want to do it anyway. It was clear that he wasn’t that interested – he was basically saying that he’s done everything that he wants to do acting-wise. He’s got this fire to make films now, not act.”

Fair enough. So, if this ever gets off the ground again, who might fill the role? Moviehole couldn't get a straight answer out of Miller on this, but there has definitely been interest in the role.

“I’ve had a number of young well-known actors express a lot of interest”, Miller said. “They have to want to push the limits – they have to be lean and hungry”.

Talk then turned to Paul Walker, who drew some praise from Miller, but just makes me say meh. How about Eric Bana? That would just kick ass.

And while I love the old "Mad Max" movies, there are few movies I hold in higher esteem than "Babe," aka the "Citizen Kane of talking pig movies." (Feel free to snicker here if you must.) Unlike most of the world, I even liked "Pig in the City" quite a bit too, though it was awfully twisted for a children's flick.

Now, just as he jumped on the popularity of penguins with "Happy Feet," Wilbur may just be followed to the big screen by the return of this other talking pig in a "Babe 3."

“There’s already some serious talk about it”, Miller told Moviehole. “It’s certainly in the wind in one form or another.”

Walking against of the wind of sequels is the essence of futility, so I guess the best I can do is just embrace when movies I love get so much attention. So, with "Babe 3" and to Mr. Miller himself, I can only say huzzah.

'Little Children' gets some love

Todd Field's "Little Children" has gotten its first major dose of recognition as the S.F. Film Critics' Circle has tapped it as the best movie of 2006.

Even better, Field and novelist Tom Perrotta shared the honors for adapted screenplay, probably their best shot at an Oscar nod. "United 93" earned a director prize for helmer Paul Greengrass.

In the acting categories, the Helen Mirren train just keeps on chugging along, but the S.F. critics became the second body to crown Sacha Baron Cohen as best actor, and this time he's not in a tie with anyone. And in a move I can definitely get behind, the supporting actress prize went to Adriana Barraza for her great performance in "Babel."

So, among the contenders, "Letters from Iwo Jima," "United 93," "The Departed" (granted in Boston) and now "Little Children" have all received props of some kind for best picture. Should make for a fascinating race to the finish.

Sherman-Palladino gets busy

With the great "Gilmore Girls" finally starting to find its footing without her (after a beginning to season 7 which had Lorelai acting like, well, a dingbat), now comes big news about Amy Sherman-Palladino's next TV gig.

Though details are still sketchy, it seems Fox has picked up the pilot for "The Return of Jezebel James," a half-hour multicamera comedy about two sisters who reunite after one of them agrees to carry the other's baby. Sherman-Palladino is writing, directing and executive producing the show for Regency TV.

The plot sounds a little iffy (and well, girly) to me, but so did "Gilmore Girls" before it became easily my favorite show on TV. No word on when we might get to see Amy's new work, but it sounds like it could be as soon as the January midseason run, or maybe next fall, so keep your eyes out for it. Either way, I'll definitely be watching.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do we need a new Marlowe?

I have to believe that if Raymond Chandler were alive, he'd have Philip Marlowe put a stop to this, and of course it wouldn't end well.

It seems ABC is teaming with producer Sean Bailey for a "fresh take" on Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled detective. The hourlong drama "Marlowe" would be a present-day procedural crime drama with noir aspects and set in Los Angeles.

Huh? So, if I get this right, this Marlowe would share with Chandler's creation, well, a name and not much more. At all. This is just plain abysmal.

As if to reassure us of his good intentions, Mr. Bailey goes on in Variety to try and prove his noir cred.

"He's (Marlowe's) a guy who can travel in the highest echelons of power and the darkest and dirtiest corners of the city," he added, noting the new Marlowe will still "get his ass kicked every once in a while." He added, "You can expect to see your femme fatales and very wealthy individuals."

Well, OK then. At least you've got all the ingredients down pat, but I'm not sure I trust the cook with this one. One silver lining: "As of now, there are no plans to use any of Chandler's Marlowe books ("The Big Sleep," et al.) as source material for storylines."

So, again, we have the makings of a standard cop show with a legendary name attached to it. I sure hope the heirs or whoever holds the rights to the Marlowe character are at least getting a boatload of cash in this swindle.

Marlowe has been played in the movies by a long line of tough and not-so-tough guys, including Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Elliot Gould and James Garner, among others. On TV, Powers Boothe played the gumshoe in the early 1980s HBO period drama "Philip Marlowe, Private Eye," which ran for several years.

Now, given that my first option would be for this to not happen at all, who could you see playing Marlowe on TV again? I might be able to get lukewarmly behind an oddball choice like Jon Lurie, but this being TV, it's probably more likely to be Tony Danza. Quite possibly paired with a chimp.

"United 93" gets sliver of support

Swimming against the tide of Eastwoodmania, the film critics of New York and Washington have named "United 93" as best picture of 2006.

While I'm not sure I can agree with this, It's certainly nice to see something besides "Letters from Iwo Jima" getting early recognition.

As much as this is possible, I did "like" Mr Greengrass' movie. The minute-by-minute re-creation of that horrid day is a technical marvel, and the chaotic scenes in the control towers are fantastic. Adding to the implied wisdom that I am a "wimp," however, I found that I had to turn away from the screen at several points in the final act, knowing all too well how it would end.

And just for the record, the only three flicks to hold solid spots on my short list of the best movies of 2006 are "Babel," "The Departed" and "Little Miss Sunshine," but I'm sure many more titles will come back into consideration when I have the time to do a full review, most likely at some point in January.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Best Actor Borat?

I guess there's a reason the awards season is often considered synonymous with the silly season.

In the catetory of Best Actor, the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. managed to come up with a tie. Even better, it's between Forest Whitaker's searing performance as Idi Amin and ... Borat?

Yes, Borat. Now, I'm all for comedic performances getting recognition, and "Borat" was certainly one of the funniest movies I've seen this year, but I'm not sure I could bring myself to vote for Sacha Baron Cohen as the best actor of 2006. In the category of comedy, I'd opt for Aaron Eckhart in "Thank You For Smoking" first anyway. What do you think?

Borat at the Oscars, anyway, would be a blast.

In it's other nods, LA critics added to the Eastwood express, annointing "Letters from Iwo Jima" as best picture, with "The Queen" as runner-up. Frears' fine flick took home four awards: Best actress Helen Mirren (huzzah!), best supporting actor Michael Sheen, best screenwriter Peter Morgan and best music for Alexandre Desplat.

AFI's 10 Best

A more prestigious, albeit somewhat odd, list comes from the American Film Institute as it unveils its top 10 films for the AFI Awards 2006.

The winners are: "Borat," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Dreamgirls," "Happy Feet," "Inside Man," "United 93," "Babel," "Half Nelson" and "Letters from Iwo Jima."

I love that "Babel" keeps getting recognition, but what's the most glaring error with this list? Where the hell is "The Departed"? I'd love to get a whiff of the smoke that was filling up that room.

This just in: Boston critics like Boston

Marty can count on one thing, however: If you make a movie about Boston, even one about its dark criminal underbelly, Beantown's critics will reward you.

The Boston Society of Film Critics mobbed up for "The Departed." Along with taking home the best picture crown, it also won for director (Martin Scorsese), screenplay (William Monahan) and supporting actor (Mark Wahlberg).

All this love for "The Departed," however, didn't extend to Leo, Matt or Jack. In the actor and actress categories, the Boston critics went with the heavyweights: Whitaker and Mirren.

Raimi ready for "Shadow"

If ever a superhero needed a big-screen redux, it's definitely "The Shadow."

In a valiant attempt to erase the 1994 misstep starring Alec Baldwin as the mysterious crime-fighter, Sam Raimi will produce a movie about the 1930s pulp hero for Columbia Pictures.

"The Shadow" debuted in 1931 on a CBS radio show and starred the voice of Orson Welles. Walter B. Gibson created the character, writing the adventures of a crime-fighter who skulked in shadows wearing a hat and cape, and who had the power to cloud men's minds.

While I'd love to see Raimi venture beyond the superhero game after "Superman," he's clearly been obsessed with "The Shadow" for a long time, so this could turn out to loads of fun.

Thirst for blood

It's somewhat surprising that Mel Gibson's bloodbath "Apocalypto" beat out "The Holiday" for the box-office crown.

Mel's flick nabbed $14.2 million, while "The Holiday" brought in $13.5 million. The best news: Leo and that ridiculous accent in "Blood Diamond" only managed to finish a paltry fifth with $8.5 million.

I was beginning to worry that we'd have dancing penguins on the top of the chart for the rest of the year, but I guess Mel took care of that. Though I have my reservations about his flick (feel free to read the review below), it's certainly an audacious bit of filmmaking, which I guess should be rewarded.

Mel's reign, however should be short-lived. Brace yourselves this week for a double dose of positivity to wipe "Apocalypto" away: "Charlotte's Web" (why?) and "The Pursit of Happyness." And me? I'll probably opt instead for "Eragon" (I'm just a sucker for dragons), but I might just break down and see Will Smith's attempt to become Jimmy Stewart too. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" is easily the most maddening movie I've seen this year. In his "epic" tale about Mayan society, there are definite moments of beauty, but that all gets buried in a soul-battering barrage of gore that would make any slasher filmmaker smile. And for that reason, it's a failure.

So why, despite all the warnings, was I expecting more? The very clever marketing promised an epic story, but what we get - while at times compelling - doesn't even come close.

It's essentially an action movie, similar in theme to "Braveheart." A young hunter, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), is taken captive along with many of his tribemates as a rival tribe burns down their village (and if tribe is the politically incorrect word here, forgive me; I mean no offense). He hides his very pregnant wife and son in a deep pit, and the rest of the story involves whether or not he will be able to escape his enslavement to rescue them.

Note, it is NOT about why the Mayan society went on the decline or anything else so noble, but there are still some stirring images that will linger on your brain. The human sacrifice in front of a Mayan temple, while hideous, is an electric scene, and the second half, essentially a chase through the jungle forest, has a real rush to it.

But as the gore piles up, I became numb to all of this or anything else Mel may have been going for. I never saw any of those "Faces of Death" flicks, but I could picture Mel doing so, with a checklist. Just about every possibly primitive but highly effective way to kill a man or beast is represented in "Apocalypto," and the cumulitive effect is simply disgusting.

It's a tired theme for sure, but I couldn't help but wonder where the hell the MPAA was in all this. Especially as I heard a poor crying baby who was dragged in to watch men getting beheaded and dehearted (I know that's not a word, but you get the picture) again and again, I had to wonder just how violent a movie has to be to get an NC-17 rating.

In making his movie so sickening, however, Mel has done a real favor to Oscar voters. I don't think he'll be in the running for Best Picture or director, and the ultraviolence here gives voters an easy - and correct, in my opinion - out. I do think Rudy Youngblood will get an Oscar nomination, as much for the bravura of his peformance as for the sheer torture he must have gone through to deliver it.

At the end of all this, I have to say I just felt dirty. Like an enabler of Mel's sick view of the world. And like any true enabler, I promise I won't be back, and hope this time I can stick to that promise.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Abstinence" next for "Sunshine" crew

I'm still not sure why Tom Perrotta is such a hot property in Hollywood. Sure, I like him, but I like a lot of things that don't repeatedly get made into movies.

Granted, "Election" is one of the smartest satires ever made, but even with perky Reese on the bill it couldn't have made a ton of money. And, despite featuring stars Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly, it seems doubtful "Little Children" will ever play wide enough to reach my little corner of the world.

In spite of this, his latest novel, "The Abstinence Teacher," was picked up by Warner Independent Pictures even before its release, and now it's attracted the attention of "Little Miss Sunshine" directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

The novel is set in small-town middle America, where a divorced sex-education teacher and mother of two is forced to contend with the town's more conservative groups. While fighting to keep her freedom to teach students about sex, she finds herself falling for her daughter's born-again soccer coach.

Sounds like a return to the high school halls of "Election," and with Perrotta set to adapt his novel for the screen, it could be great. And, if anyone's listening, Perrotta's "The Wishbones" would make a great little flick too.

And "Little Miss Sunshine" has simply stuck with me longer than almost any other movie in 2006. It was pleasant enough until the ending, which was just surreal but extremely entertaining. I can't wait to see what Dayton and Faris cook up next.

Will you see "Apocalypto"?

Well, it seems that Mel has survived the threatened boycott from Rob Schneider and managed to make another epic movie that will divide audiences.

I, at least, will be there to see it, even if he is a royal asshole. Why? The trailers look just miles beyond what anyone else is attempting to film today, and it should be astounding to look at. It apparently just has an epic body count as Mel uses the end of a society to pound home his theme about the importance of fathers. Not exactly a revolutionary idea, but curiousity will definitely drive me to it.

What about you? Are you gonna bother with this one? Please feel free to let me know what you think of all this.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Kudos season kicks off

Determined to always be the Iowa Caucus of Hollywood's awards season, the National Board of Review has jumped in first and crowned King Eastwood, but not for what you might expect.

The story line earlier this year had perhaps Marty and Clint duking it out with "The Departed" vs. "Flags of Our Fathers." Though Clint did knock out Marty in this first round, it was instead with "Letters from Iwo Jima." (And Scorsese, of course, took home the best director award .. go figure.)

Now, like most of the world, I haven't seen "Letters," but it at least has to be better than "Flags." After this marquee matchup, the awards broke down fairly predictably, and should be a good predictor of things to come.

It's been a little hard to piece together, but as far as I can tell, here are the NBR's top 10 flicks of 2006: "Letters from Iwo Jima," "The Departed," "Blood Diamond," "The Painted Veil," "Flags of Our Fathers," "The History Boys," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Notes on a Scandal," "Devil Wears Prada" and "Babel".

Huzzah to the inclusion of "Babel," which for me is still the best movie I've seen this year, but my list probably would have also included "The Queen," "The Last King of Scotland" "Thank You for Smoking" and definitely Phillip Noyce's "Catch a Fire." However, since I don't get to see all these movies so early, I won't even bother to make a definitive list until I've at least seen Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth."

Two definite notable exceptions: Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto," which has been predictably divisive, and "Dreamgirls," which I expect to garner the most Oscar nods unless it somehow just sucks, which I highly doubt will happen.

In the acting categories, the two correctly christened front-runners picked up more steam with victories: Helen Mirren for "The Queen" and Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland." Both of those performances are still burned on my brain, and will linger for a long time.

Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" won the prize for foreign film, Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" won for doco, and Pixar's "Cars" (boo!) nabbed the prize for animated feature.

Djimon Hounsou of "Blood Diamond" and Catherine O'Hara from "For Your Consideration" were the winners in the supporting acting categories.

I don't believe all that (Rinko Kikuchi from "Babel," for example, should definitely win the supporting actress award), but it's certainly an interesting start to the season.

Spike's got a riot goin' on

In my mind, I'd like to think Spike Lee watched the well-intentioned but simply woeful "Crash" and said "I have to do something to fix this."

It probably didn't go down like that, but no matter, because this is just good news all around. Spike will be directing "L.A. Riots," a drama framed around the racially charged days that followed the aquittal of the men in blue who battered Rodney King. John Ridley, who created "Undercover Brother," will write the script.

Now, that's what I'm talking about. I hope Spike made at least a dinghy's worth of the boatload of cash hauled in by "Inside Man," but this is what we (or at least I) need him to be doing. Even if it's a mess, it certainly won't be boring. Spike's own memories of the uprising (which, let's not forget, killed 55 people), are enlightening.

Though he was in L.A. at the time screening "Malcolm X" for Warner Bros. executives, in this case, he didn't exactly pull a Mookie.

"I went straight to LAX, and my ass was on the red eye," he said.

This just in: He's a dick

In a desperate attempt to latch onto all the good karma generated by Michael Richards' meltdown, "comedian" Andy Dick has apparently joined the idiot fringe.

The Dick apparently jumped onstage during a routine by Ian Bagg at the Improv on Saturday night and used the n-word in an apparent attempt to joke about Richards, the celebrity Web site (which is just milking the n-word angle for much more than its worth) reported.

According to TMZ, Dick had been heckling Bagg from the audience and then joined him onstage, when the two discussed Richards. When Dick exited the stage, he suddenly grabbed the microphone and shouted at the crowd, "You're all a bunch of ..."

He apparently then issued the requisite apology, but that's not what interests me. Much more fascinating have been the dichotomous reactions of two very respected black comedians, Paul Mooney and Dick Gregory.

Mooney, who made a living off throwing the word around everywhere he could as a writer for Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle, and even moreso in his own comedy routines, has sworn to never use it again. “I am a recovering ‘n’-word-aholic,” he said.

Gregory, on the other hand, has taken a much more interesting angle. Never one to shy away from making people feel uncomfortable, he has said he'll keep using it until it (hopefully) loses all its impact. In a very good Sunday New York Times story, he described how he would start off a recent show in which he would share the stage with Mooney thusly (and mind the language from here on out):

"Calling it ‘the “n” word’ is an insult,” said Mr. Gregory, whose 1964 memoir was titled “Nigger.” “It should be just as much an insult to Jews if they started changing concentration camp to ‘the “c” word’ and swastika to ‘the “s” word.’ You just destroyed history.”

He will not be joining Mr. Mooney’s boycott. “I’m going to walk out on stage,” Mr. Gregory, 75, said, “and hand my book to a white woman in the front and say, ‘Here, madam, take this “Nigger” to bed with you.’ ”

Now, maybe it says something bad about me, but I laughed out loud when I first read that, and I still think it's very funny.

And now that the initial "shock" of all this is over, maybe it will lead to a real discussion about how we all address each other, both face-to-face and behind each other's backs. Or, just as good, a Spike Lee documentary about why one word continues to carry so much power and punch. I'd definitely pay to see that.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Great romantic comedies

Being a dude, I don't normally partake of romantic comedies unless I'm dragged to them, but there are exceptions. The general rule is they must be at least as funny as they are romantic.

Here are 10 that I'll watch without any urging at all.


I love hearing people say that Woody Allen developed into an old perv. If you look at his best works, and this one remains my favorite, you can see he always had a dark side that liked his women younger and younger, and wasn't afraid to show it on screen. In this one, of course, he's torn between Diane Keaton and Muriel Hemingway (oh, the ego!), and it's as painful as it is funny.

Say Anything

John Cusack starred in the funniest movies of the '80s and then closed out the decade with this gem from Cameron Crowe. I pretty much hate Peter Gabriel, but that boombox scene, possibly the most mocked in all of film, gets me every time.

Before Sunrise/Before Sunset

If there's one thing the world needs more of it's Julie Delpy. Sure, we got a glimpse of her in "Broken Flowers," but she was never better than when paired with Ethan Hawke in these two flicks from Richard Linklater. The former chronicles their first day spent together after meeting on a train in Europe, and the latter bittersweetly reunites them a number of years later. These two are easily the smartest on the list, but also two of the funniest.

Garden State

I'm still not sure how he pulled it off. Zach Braff somehow managed to pen his own fantasy, pitch woo at his hand-picked fantasy woman (Natalie Portman), and still turn out a thoroughly charming flick (with a great supporting turn from Peter Sarsgaard as a gloomy grave-digger.)

High Fidelity

Before it was Americanized with some success, Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch" was euthanized into a "romantic comedy" that had just about squat to do with the football obsession that drove the book. Luckily, "High Fidelity" was already a romantic comedy in print, and director Stephen Frears lost none of its spark as he transported it from London to Chicago.

Pride and Prejudice

Perhaps it's just because I have adult ADD, but I'll always prefer director Joe Wright's 2005 version to the six-hour-or-so monster that ran on A&E. Screenwriter Deborah Moggach trimmed the fat but kept all the funny, and Keira Knightley (before she stopped eating) and Matthew Macfadyen are both superb. This easily made my Top 5 list for 2005.


I'd call this one a guilty pleasure, but I don't feel remotely guilty about it. It may not be funny as Amy Heckerling's previous teen comedy "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but it's close, and it has just as much of a sense of time and place.


This one is just romantic in every sense of the word to me. The setting (Paris), the heroine (Audrey Tautou at her most adorable) and the story by Jean Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant combine for a nearly flawless flick. It's spawned numerous imitators that try to toy with the notion of destiny, but this one is a notch above.

Wild at Heart

What could be a more potent combination of funny and romantic than Nicolas Cage, standing on the roof of a car in stalled traffic, belting out the king's "Love Me Tender" in a desperate attempt to win back his beloved LuLu? David Lynch has made many weird and wonderful movies, but this one remains my favorite.

Much Ado About Nothing

Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton doing Shakespeare? Together? On paper, this should have been a disaster, but Kenneth Branagh's movie manages to keep all the bard's bawdy comedy thanks largely to Emma Thompson's charming performance as the tart-tongued Beatrice.

So, there you have it: Ten romantic comedies I've seen at least twice. What are the ones you keep going back to? Feel free to let me know.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Almodovar and Cruz, together again

Considering their lovefest since reuniting to make "Volver," it's hardly surprising that Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz will be working together again, but on exactly what is a bit cryptic.

Almodovar's next film will be titled "El Piel Que Habito" (The Skin I Live In), and the most I can garner so far is that it will be some kind of revenge flick and Cruz will have a starring role.

Almodovar announced plans for "Habito" in Warsaw at the European Film Awards on Saturday night.

"I'm in the midst of a change. My next film will be totally different from the previous 16," Almodovar said in the interview with Spanish daily El Pais. "It's a very tough story about revenge. It has nothing to do with 'Volver' or my life."

The project had originally been talked up as teaming Cruz with Antonio Banderas, but the male lead still has to be cast.

According to Variety, the movie is a long-mooted Almodovar project, an adaptation of the 1995 novel "Mygale" by Thierry Jonquet, about the hideous revenge a plastic surgeon exacts on men who have raped his daughter. Pic version will retain just one scene from the novel.

Pedro goes "Kill Bill"? Sounds iffy to me. He's made great ("Live Flesh") and not-so-great ("Mala Educacion) crime movies in the past, but I've followed him this far, and I don't plan to stop now.

Demme helming doco on Carter

It's all about productive partnerships here this morning, and the next one up features director Jonathan Demme and the Peach State's most famous statesman, Jimmy Carter.

The former president will be the subject of "He Comes in Peace," a documentary being directed by Demme. Demme and his crew will follow Carter across the U.S., to bookstores and talk shows and Wal-Marts, as he undertakes a book tour for his new tome, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." At the same time, Carter will speak about how to achieve peace in the Mideast and his lifelong philosophy of human compassion.

Production began at Carter's home in Plains, Ga., on Nov. 11 before the tour. The book hit shelves Nov. 14.

This all sounds a little dicey to me, but I said the same thing before seeing Al Gore's lecture on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," which is easily one of my favorite movies of 2006. And Carter is certainly a fascinating subject. Love him or hate him (and I'm definitely in the former category), since leaving the White House he's a been a constant fly in the ointment, which we always need more of.

And Demme has proven himself to be a first-rate doco director. There is, of course, the legendary Talking Heads concert flick "Stop Making Sense," but even better is "The Agronomist," in which he tells the story of the late Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist Jean Dominique.

So, why worry? Well, because of this quote from Demme:

"This picture is just an extraordinary honor for me. I loved Carter when he was president, and I've loved him more and more since he left office. He makes me feel so proud to be an American."

I can't dispute any of that, personally, but it hardly sounds like the makings of an objective doco, does it? Even so, Carter is worthy of this treatment, even if it does verge more than a little on fawning.

"Inland Empire" trailer

The third partnership of the day is my favorite by far, that of David Lynch and Laura Dern. "Wild at Heart" is a movie that just makes me smile every time I go back to it, and their latest, "Inland Empire," looks even wilder, if not as funny.

I'm sure it will never play in theaters in my little corner of the world, but here's the official trailer for all to enjoy. As expected, it tells us just about nothing about the film, but looks wonderfully weird. Feel free to let me know what you think, and if you get the chance, definitely go see Mr. Lynch's new movie.

INLAND EMPIRE official trailer