What begins as a specifically grounded political thriller in "The Kingdom" gradually turns into an extremely well-crafted but rather formulaic actioner that could have been set in various countries, against different political conflicts, rather than Saudi Arabia where this particular saga takes place.
That said, actor-turned director Peter Berg continues to show progress as filmmaker, here benefiting no doubt from his ace producer Michael Mann, who must have exerted influence on the film's striking visual style, manifest in fast-moving, hand-held camera, brilliantly orchestrated sound effects, and other technical aspects.
Handsomely mounted, if calculated and manipulative, "The Kingdom" also benefits from a stellar cast, headed by Jamie Foxx (Oscar-winner for "Ray"), who gives a more likable and commanding performance than he did in Sam Mendes's Desert Storm military actioner "Jarhead," which divided film reviewers.
Some critics may have reservations about the movie's gung-ho politics and its pro-American slant in both text and subtext. However, with the right marketing and handling "The Kingdom" may become the first 9/11 movie that's a commercial hit, embraced by the large populace regardless of specific political orientations. The movie will be released September 28, just two weeks after the sixth anniversary of 9/11.
"The Kingdom" is Peter Berg's biggest production to date, with a considerable budget ($70 million) and state-of-the art technology. As a high-voltage crowd-pleaser, it's more in the vein of Berg's former hit, "Friday Night Lights" than his earlier noir films, such as "Very Bad Things," which was pretentious.
"The Kingdom" should test the concern of Hollywood producers over the commercial viability of political movies, the whole issue of whether the public is "ready" to see 9/11 movies, after "United 21," "World Trade Center," and "A Mighty Heart," to mention some recent studio-made films that failed to find appreciative public. Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" might be the only (modest) success, at least compared to its budget and level of expectations.
While he may lack the prestige of Spielberg, Paul Greengrass, Michael Winterbottom, and Robert Redford (helmer of the upcoming "Lions for Lambs," starring Tom Cruise), Berg is a craftsman who delivers the goods of a uniquely American movie, a genre work that combines conventions of political thrillers, cross-cultural features, male-buddy films, and combat pictures with diverse teams at their center.
A short pre-credit sequence chronicles with title cards and newsreel footage the political history of Saudi Arabia from the 1930s to the present--the country's control of oil supplies and shifting diplomatic relationship with various U.S. administrations. After that, we witness a huge suicide bomber explosion, two explosions, in fact, that kill innocent American civilians and Saudi soldiers too. Two of the Saudi African officers are shot in cold blood by masked men while sitting in their vehicle.
Cut to Washington D.C and the world of diplomacy, represented by the likes of influential socialites, intellectuals, and soft politicians. Predictably, the U.S. leaders want to handle the crisis with quiet, discreet diplomacy rather than retaliatory action or aggressive revenge.
A professional group of FBI operatives asks to be transferred immediately to the catastrophe site in order to investigate the terrorist attacks. After some pro-and-con deliberations, their wish (more of an insistent demand) is fulfilled, and conditions and limitations are set to a mission that's highly risky, both politically and personally.
Team's head FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Foxx) can't conceal his anger that the terrorists got on a presumably well-guarded, sealed-off American colony and blew the place up, indiscriminately killed numerous men, women, and children. There's another, more personal motivation for task--one of their colleagues was killed.
Fleury's elite team is diverse, composed of a tough woman, Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner); the eccentric but efficient Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), and reluctant hero Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman). Once the quartet makes their way into the Saudi Arabia, the ambassador grants them only five days, which makes their task all the more urgent.
Rather quickly, Fleury and his bunch realize they are there on a good-will mission, one without much authority, investigative and otherwise. American diplomat (Jeremy Piven, of TV's series "entourage," extremely good here) "advises" them to meet with the Prince and his entourage, visit the site and take some photos—-in short, enjoy themselves as tourists. After protests, the group is allowed only five minutes on the site of the disaster, but is forbidden to touch any object or to talk to any of the survivors. Though the explosions occur in broad daylight and in front of civilians' houses, the diplomats and politicos of both countries claim that there are no witnesses to the bombing. Fleury--and we Americans-- know better.
The team is assigned a Saudi Police Captain, Sgt. Haytham (Ali Suliman), who is to guide and help in uncovering the terrorists. Truly a wild bunch, they are housed in a bare basketball court, without access to something as basic as city map; only a ball to let their steam off. No instructions are given about their task, structure of the day, or when they'll be picked up. They are told their day will begin as soon as Haytham, their gracious but suspicious host, arrives. Needless to say, Fleury's team begins to tire of the regulations and the unnecessary reliance on slow, incompetent, perhaps even corrupt, local law enforcers.
During their brief stay, various tensions come to the fore, as for example, the gender-sex issue. Disregarding the strict Saudi Arabian decorum, Janet sports tight T-shirt and pants that reveal a shapely body, and she talks, drinks, and kicks ass as good-—perhaps better--as the boys. There's also the issue of the team's "inappropriate," or "foul" language and dark humor, which the hosts either innocently don't understand or deliberately misunderstand.
For his high-voltage picture, Berg has assembled a group of actors who bring intensity to their dialogue, a combo of scripted and improvised ones. Foxx, last seen in Michael Mann's disappointing actioner "Miami Vice," but still one of the coolest, most modernist actors around, is well cast as hot-tempered, action-oriented FBI agent.
The interaction between Fleury and the good Saudi Colonel (Ashraf Barhoum) provides serious and not-so-serious culture-clashes, and also arguments over tactics and strategies that gradually (and predictably) turn the second half of the feature into a variant of the buddy-buddy movie. In the end, their rapport is based on mutual respect and camaraderie with familial overtones.
Bateman, as Adam Leavitt's, the band's reluctant hero, delivers some cool, smart-ass statements, before he's captured and tortured by the bad Saudis. Indeed, his humor ends in a wrenching scene in which Adam is captured, tortured and about to be executed in a manner that recalls the highly-publicized execution of journalist Daniel Pearl (the subject of the failed film "A Mighty Heart").
Loosely based on the FBI's investigation of the 1996 bombings of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia's Dhahran, which Berg read about in the memoir "My FBI," written by former Bureau director Louis Freeh, the workable (but not great) script is penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan, who's the scribe of Redford's upcoming political drama, "Lions for Lambs."
"The Kingdom" offers a more emotional and visceral than intellectual experience, since, thematically not much in it is controversial-—or too deep in terms of the new, complex geopolitical scene. As noted, kicking off the plot with a large-scale terrorist attack that kills American contractors and their families could have taken—and has taken—place anywhere, in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.
Director Berg uses terrorism as a setup for a rapidly moving high-energy procedural thriller, but he knows that for his political feature to be resonant, he must go beyond TV programs and CNN reportage. Authenticity is not an issue: Political reality has become so chaotic and messy, almost every single event in the film feels real, i.e., could have actually happened. Problem is more in the American macho bravado tone, manifest in every aspect of the production.
Periodically, Berg and his writer resort to clichés in the portrayal of the good and bad Saudi Arabians. They show men wearing black mask, perhaps too soon, or men with missing fingers, which has become a signpost for suicide bomb makers.
The movie is symmetrically framed by two scenes involving children. The first depicts Fleury and his own son in a kindergarten, with the father telling a story to his captive and captivated audience (A reminder of where Bush happened to be in the early hours of 9/11?).
In contrast, the last scene depicts Fleury consoling a Saudi Arabian boy (whose identity can't be disclosed here) in the patronizing manner that John Wayne used to behave in his war pictures with Filipino boys during WWII and then Vietnamese kids in his Vietnam action flicks ("Back to Bataan," "Green Berets").
"The Kingdom" was shot in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, and in our own Arizona desert, where an elaborate, thrilling, and scary car-chase sequence takes place. Visually, the movie unfolds as an exciting spectacle. Berg creates scenes of chaos that runs amok, imbuing his film with a gritty, down-and-dirty look that relies on restless, disorienting camera, both hand-held and stationary.
Steering clear off hot-button religious or political issues, "The Kingdom" instead centers on a wild bunch of pros trying to do their best to battle violence—-and in the process make the world a better place to live. As such, it encourages the audience to root for the triumph of good over evil, which explains why at the end of the screening there was enthusiastic applause. But "The Kingdom" does have a political agenda, evident in verbal and non-verbal scenes, suggesting that only Americans can do the job well, quickly, and effectively.
These chauvinistic elements about the vigor the American military institution, the American know-how, may prove problematic for some viewers. The messages are stated explicitly in several agit-prop speeches, where Fleury says: "Let us teach you how we Americans can help resolve your problems." The movie implies that Saudi Arabia, and by extension other foreign countries, of both the First World and Third World, are not strong, rational, and skillful enough to fight terrorism.
Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx)
Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper)
Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner)
Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman)
Col. Faris Al Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom)
Sgt. Haytham (Ali Suliman)
Damon Schmidt (Jeremy Piven)
MPAA Rating: R.
Running time: 150 Minutes.
A Universal release, presented in association with Relativity Media, of a Forward Pass/Stuber-Parent production.
Produced by Michael Mann, Scott Stuber. Executive producers: Mary Parent, Steven Saeta, Sarah Aubrey, John Cameron, Ryan Kavanaugh.
Co-producer, K.C. Hodenfield.
Directed by Peter Berg.
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan.
Camera: Mauro Fiore.
Editors: Kevin Stitt, Colby Parker Jr.
Music: Danny Elfman; music supervisor, Kathy Nelson.
Production designer: Tom Duffield; supervising art director, Patrick M. Sullivan Jr.
Art director: A. Todd Holland.
Set designer: Aaron Haye; set decorator, Ron Reiss.
Costume designer: Susan Matheson.
Makeup: Bill Myer.
Sound: Willie D. Burton.
Visual effects supervisor: John "D.J." Desjardins.
Supervising special effects coordinator: John Frazier.
Visual effects: Rhythm & Hues.
Stunt coordinator: Keith Woulard
Sep 26, 2007
One thing that a large film festival like Toronto can offer is a snapshot of specific countries and their cultural/social traditions as reflected through their cinema. Herewith are some ruminations on three countries of particular interest.
1. Israel: In a recent interview in Time Magazine, festival Executive Director Piers Handling pointed to the richness of Israeli cinema as one of the highlights of this year's event. He's right, but that richness has been apparent for some years now with the release of such provocative and compelling Israeli movies as Broken Wings, James' Journey to Jerusalem, Walk on Water, The Bubble, The Syrian Bride, Sweet Mud and Close to Home, most of which were also screened at TIFF.
This year, five Israeli films have been selected, the most I can recall in 22 years of covering the festival and likely the most since the festival honored Israeli cinema back in 1980. The recognition was premature back then, but this year's Israeli feature film lineup, though of uneven quality, is a testament to the variety of subject matter Israeli filmmakers are tackling.
Amos Gitai looks at the contentious recent Israeli pullback from Gaza in his Disengagement. Avi Nesher's The Secrets is a story of lesbian romance, fundamentalism and mysticism in Safed, the center of Kabbalah and the place where two young women go to study Judaic texts and the Torah. Jellyfish, from hot Israeli writer Etgar Keret and his partner Shira Geffen, is an amiable Short Cuts-type movie that gently links the lives of a disparate group of people—including a depressed waitress, a Filipina caregiver and a newlywed couple—in Tel Aviv. The Band's Visit, from neophyte director Eran Kolirin, is a sweet quasi-romance between the head of an Egyptian police band and an Israeli woman who meet up when the musical group is mistakenly stranded in a small town where nothing ever happens.
I'm partial to Jellyfish and The Band's Visit, while Disengagement is your typical overwrought, pointless and dramatically inert Gitai movie, and The Secrets, though intelligent, is pretty dull. But all four movies, along with the Israel documentary Children of the Sun, an examination of what it's like growing up in Israel's revolutionary communal farm (kibbutz) system, add up to a complex, highly diverse portrait of a country that is a far cry from the exclusively conflict-ridden place that most people, largely because of the media, perceive it to be. Without Israeli cinema, good or bad, or a personal visit there, they wouldn't have any idea of what Israel is really like.
2. France: Out of curiosity, I recently looked up the ages of some of France's best-known, longest-working directors and discovered that Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer are all in their late 70s to late 80s (Rohmer is 88). Incredibly, they're all still making movies, and three of them have films at this year's festival.
Rohmer's Les Amours d'Astrée et de Céladon is a playful, romantic and comedic roundelay set in an imagined 5th-century Celtic village. Rivette's Ne touchez pas la hache (Don't Touch the Axe) is a tragic drama about the doomed relationship between a married duchess and a career soldier in 19th-century France. Chabrol offers up another of his smartly acute dissections of the evil that people can do in the name of love in La Fille coupée en deux (The Woman Cut in Two).
The Rohmer and Chabrol movies fare best, while Rivette's is disappointingly flat, largely because of Guillaume Depardieu's one-note performance as the soldier. But they all hearken back to a respectful French cinematic tradition that allows the country's filmmakers to practice their art as long as they're physically able, even into their very old age and even if they're not the box office successes or critical darlings they once were. In the U.S, by contrast, with the notable exception of the late Robert Altman and Sidney Lumet, who's in Toronto with Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, that's generally not been the case.
3. Canada: I was very moved by Jeremy Podeswa's sensitive and touching Fugitive Pieces, based on Anne Michaels' much-praised novel about a young Jewish boy saved by a Greek archaeologist during the Holocaust. But the other English Canadian films I caught at TIFF suffer from the typical deficits afflicting our cinema, namely conventional, clichéd or undeveloped stories, obvious this year in Bruce Sweeney's risible and over-the-top revenge drama American Venus and Clement Virgo's unimaginative Poor Boy's Game, about a boxer trying to redeem himself after bring released from prison. Another Holocaust-related film, Paolo Barzman's slight Emotional Arithmetic, gave an undeserved chance to a director who simply doesn't have the cinematic chops to make the transition to the big screen from television.
It's all part of the recent emphasis of Telefilm Canada, Canada's main film-funding body, on the commercial possibilities of Canadian movies to the exclusion of the country's typical arthouse fare. Those are still being made, too—see Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg—but they're not the main concern of Telefilm anymore. Granted, our more avant garde filmmakers—Atom Egoyan and Maddin—are over-praised talents, but veering in the direction of the Hollywood model isn't the answer, either. Nor is allowing genuinely good directors, and I include Virgo and especially Sweeney, whose Last Wedding was great, to float any old, ill-thought-out script they want and funding them in the process, a solution to Canada's perpetual box office woes.
Unfortunately, and at least partially because we're not funding the right films, English Canada has been unable to replicate the Quebec model, where directors like Denys Arcand—whose L'age des tenebres (The Age of Ignorance), his third film in the acclaimed trilogy that began with The Decline of the American Empire and The Barbarian Invasions, is showing here—and Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y.), among others too numerous to mention, regularly manage to combine the best facets of arthouse and commercial fare. Despite the occasional gratifying exception like Fugitive Pieces, that dire reality isn't likely to change anytime soon. —Shlomo Schwartzberg
For complete coverage of the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, search boxoffice.com using keyword "TIFF 2007."
Heroes is an American science fiction drama television series, created by Tim Kring, which premiered on NBC on September 25, 2006. The show tells the story of several people who "thought they were like everyone else... until they realized they have incredible abilities" such as telepathy, time travel, flight and spontaneous regeneration. These people soon realize they have a role in preventing a catastrophe and saving mankind. The series emulates the writing style of American comic books with short, multi-episode story arcs that build upon a larger, more encompassing arc. Kring said "we have talked about where the show goes up to five seasons."
When the series premiered in the United States, it was the night's most-watched program among adults aged 18–49, attracting 14.3 million viewers overall and receiving the highest rating for any NBC drama premiere in five years.. The second season of Heroes will consist of 24 episodes, and the first season of a new spinoff, Heroes: Origins, will include six episodes. The second season premiered on September 24, 2007 with Heroes: Origins airing in April and May of 2008. In the UK, the BBC has bought the rights to air season 2 and will be showing it sometime in 2008..
The show features an ensemble cast of twelve main characters. Although NBC's cast page lists only ten characters, Leonard Roberts (D.L. Hawkins), who first appeared in the series' fifth episode, was an additional member of the original full-time cast. Later Jack Coleman (Noah Bennet) was upgraded from a recurring role to become the twelfth full-time cast member as of "Fallout".
The main cast of the first season, not all of whom have been shown to possess powers, consists of:
* Claire Bennet (Hayden Panettiere), Mr. Bennet's adopted daughter, as well as Nathan Petrelli's biological daughter, a high school cheerleader who lives in Odessa, Texas, and has a spontaneous regenerative ability.
* Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman), more commonly referred to as "Mr. Bennet" or "the Man in Horn-Rimmed Glasses", works for the Primatech Paper Company, which is actually a cover operation for an organization that investigates people with superhuman abilities.
* Simone Deveaux (Tawny Cypress), an art dealer and gallery owner whose skepticism and complicated romantic life are tested.
* D.L. Hawkins (Leonard Roberts), the husband of Niki and father of Micah, has the power to alter his physical tangibility and phase through solid objects.
* Isaac Mendez (Santiago Cabrera), an artist living in New York who can paint future events during precognitive trances. He also writes and draws a comic book called 9th Wonders! which has also been shown to depict the future.
* Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka), a programmer from Tokyo with the ability to manipulate the space-time continuum. He is convinced that he is a hero, and with other "special persons", he can change the future.
* Matt Parkman (Greg Grunberg), a Los Angeles police officer with the ability to hear other people's thoughts.
* Nathan Petrelli (Adrian Pasdar), a New York Congressional candidate with the ability of self-propelled flight.
* Peter Petrelli (Milo Ventimiglia), a former hospice nurse and Nathan's younger brother. He is an empath with the ability to absorb the powers of others he has been near and recall them.
* Micah Sanders (Noah Gray-Cabey), D.L. and Niki's son and a child prodigy, Micah is a technopath, allowing him to "talk" to electrical devices, which gives him control of machines and electronic devices.
* Niki Sanders (Ali Larter), the wife of D.L. and mother of Micah. A former internet stripper from Las Vegas who exhibits superhuman strength and an alternate personality who goes by the name of Jessica.
* Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy), a professor of genetics from India who travels to New York to investigate the death of his father, Chandra. Through his investigations, he comes into contact with people his father listed as possessing superhuman abilities.
One of the main antagonists in season one is Sylar (Zachary Quinto), a serial killer who hunts super-powered individuals in order to take their abilities. Additionally, events in the first season gradually reveal who and what is responsible for a plot to destroy New York City in the form of the mysterious Mr. Linderman (Malcolm McDowell). The series also features many guest and recurring characters, including friends and family of the main cast, criminals and villains, and other individuals with remarkable powers.
 Season two
Zachary Quinto and James Kyson Lee, who were recurring cast members in the first season, join the main cast for the second season. They are joined by new cast members David Anders, Dana Davis and Dania Ramírez. Santiago Cabrera, Tawny Cypress, and Leonard Roberts are not listed as part of the main cast.
* Takezo Kensei (David Anders), a legendary warrior.
* Ando Masahashi (James Kyson Lee), Hiro Nakamura's friend, coworker, and travelling companion. He does not have any superhuman abilities.
* Maya Herrera (Dania Ramírez), a Honduran who is on the run from the police. Under stress, she can create a virus which is immediately fatal to those around her. Her brother, Alejandro, is the antidote to the virus.
* Monica Dawson (Dana Davis), described as a "young hero" who is willing to "give up everything to help the people around her." She is a relative of D.L. Hawkins.
* Sylar (Zachary Quinto), a former watchmaker with an intuitive understanding of how things work. He is a serial killer who seeks out superhuman individuals, killing them in order to take their powers. Sylar has multiple acquired abilities.
Sep 21, 2007
Author: Teruyo Nogami
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
As more than a few e-mails from readers have pointed out, Akira Kurosawa is perhaps the most conspicuous absentee from the pages of Midnight Eye. This is certainly not due to any dislike on our parts for the man who is probably Japan's greatest director, quite the opposite. To me, personally, there is no one greater. Kurosawa was my introduction to Japanese film, before I had even reached my teens, and it's probably because I discovered him so early on that I find it very hard to put my admiration into words that don't sound trite, insufficient, misplaced even.
At the same time, Kurosawa is one of those filmmakers that have been written about again and again. Like Alfred Hitchcock, there always seems to be a steady supply of books on him in print. With such heavyweights as Stephen Prince and Donald Richie, to name but two, having written quite magnificently about his life and work, there simply isn't much to add.
If his lifetime and artistic output have been generously chronicled, his legacy, however, is something that could certainly do with more critical attention. The efforts of his collaborators, relatives and former employers to keep his memory alive don't always smell of noble intent. From Toho twisting and turning its interpretations of copyright law and public domain in order to keep making a buck out of the director's early work, via the production of some of the scripts the great man never got around to filming in his lifetime - rendered dull and pedestrian by overly reverential former assistants, to the failure to get a Kurosawa Film Academy off the ground - a misconceived venture apparently based on idea that one can turn any young filmmaker into a little Kurosawa by infusing him or her with a certain reading of the director's "humanist" ideals as if these were some kind of ideology.
Then there are those who think that that they can infuse their own films with a bit of the Kurosawa spirit through a form of association, like Hirokazu Koreeda working with his costume designer daughter Kazuko on his first jidai geki Hana, or Yoji Yamada getting his mitts on a property penned by one of Kurosawa's closest collaborators, his script supervisor and personal assistant Teruyo Nogami - so desperate is the Twilight Samurai director's ongoing quest for master status that he believes he can acquire it at two degrees of separation from a real genius.
A far more valuable attempt to keep Kurosawa's memory very much alive is Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa, the personal memoirs of that same Teruyo Nogami and her days alongside the master. An eclectic and pleasantly jumbled recollection that jumps back and forth in time seemingly at whim, Nogami tells her story with great self-effacement. As we know from earlier writings, Kurosawa's life was fraught with setbacks, especially once he found it harder to get his projects financed as the film industry began to wane at the close of the 1960s, eventually leading to a failed suicide attempt. Tellingly, more than once Nogami (of whom Donald Richie says in his foreword that she was the single person with whom Kurosawa never lost his temper and who he never criticised) blames herself for not supporting Kurosawa enough at critical moments. And this is the woman who, to again quote Richie, "stood behind him all the way from Rashomon to Madadayo and beyond."
Her story is peppered with revealing anecdotes and entertaining asides that give rare glimpses into life on a movie set: ants that won't obey, a fire in a storage room that could have robbed world cinema of one of its greatest treasures (i.e. the negative of Rashomon), and the titular waiting on the right weather for a shot. But in addition to trivia, she also gives us invaluable first-hand accounts of the making of Rashomon, of filming in the tick-infested forests of Siberia on Dersu Uzala, and of the falling out between Kurosawa and Shintaro Katsu on Kagemusha. Her recollections of Kurosawa himself aren't always flattering, such as when she recalls bringing him water on the midsummer shoot for Rashomon and notes that " the pungent smells of sweat and garlic would assail my nostrils."
Nogami's writing is wonderfully colloquial, making it feel like you're being told the story rather than reading it, while her sketches of memorable on-set events further liven up the text (one of these shows her handing out shots of methamphetamines to help the crew work around the clock!). Her book also resuscitates a great many names that have largely fallen by the wayside of film history, such as Taizo Fuyushima, Akira Nobuchi and Mansaku Itami. Another handful that did reach some measure of fame as genre specialists, like Tai Kato and Tokuzo Tanaka put in appearances in the days when they were still lowly assistants. With so little information available on these men (biographies exist in Japanese for some, though obviously not in translated form), this is a welcome insight into their personalities and methods.
Mansaku Itami in particular receives a loving tribute, with the opening chapter entirely devoted to the man whom Nogami regards her first mentor. The father of the late Juzo Itami is hardly known abroad these days, but the portrait Nogami paints of him is a touching and fascinating one, made all the more powerful by the fact that the two never actually met and only corresponded through letters. Nogami became a friend of the Itami family only after the director's death in 1946 (and would work with Juzo many years later).
But of course, the main focus here is Kurosawa, and Nogami humanizes him like no one has so far managed to do in a book in the English language. An artist who has come to be seen as monumental and monolithic could not wish for a greater favour. For any fan of Japanese cinema, and not just those of Kurosawa, Nogami's delightful memoirs are a genuine treasure trove.
link source: www.midnighteye.com
posted by udin di Friday, September 21, 2007
* Alternate premiere
* Extended season finale
* Kyle XY Declassified - "Kyle File" secrets are revealed in an immersive feature
* Audio commentaries - with Matt Dallas, April Matson and writer Julie Plec
This Set Contains
posted by udin di Friday, September 21, 2007
Sep 20, 2007
Looks like J. Lo's jumping on the pregnancy bandwagon. Mrs. Marc Anthony sported a baby bump at her fashion line's recent show, and now inside sources are confirming that she has a little Lopez on the way.
"She's about twelve weeks pregnant," says a source. "She's due in the spring." She's been trying to get pregnant using in vitro fertilization for years, and has finally been successful. There's even a possibility she's preggers with twins! Friends say Jennifer has been dreaming of becoming a mother for some time now, and is elated about the pregnancy.
The Evil Beet
Celebrity gossip with an evil twist.
O.J. Simpson was released from jail Wednesday after posting bail in connection with the armed robbery of sports memorabilia collectors at a Las Vegas hotel.
Simpson, wearing a light blue sport coat and dark blue pants, carried a black bag as he strolled to a gray sedan with his lawyer and drove away from the Clark County Detention Center.
He did not speak to reporters or to at least one bystander who cheered.
Another spectator shouted, "Justice for Nicole, justice for Ron," as Simpson walked to the car _ a reference to Simpson's acquittal in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and her friend Ron Goldman.
Simpson's lawyer has said he expected the former football star to return to his Florida home.
Simpson, who spent three nights in the Las Vegas jail, was freed about two hours after appearing in court, where a justice of the peace set his bail at $125,000.
Also Wednesday, a key witness in the case was arrested in Las Vegas for a parole violation.
Alfred Beardsley, 46, was arrested by a fugitive task force at the Luxor hotel and casino, the U.S. Marshals Service said.
Beardsley is one of the two sports memorabilia collectors accusing Simpson and other men of barging into a hotel room and stealing autographed footballs.
Authorities said Beardsley was wanted on a California warrant for a parole violation. He was jailed pending extradition to California.
Earlier in court, Simpson did not enter a plea but said he understood the charges against him, including first-degree kidnapping, which carries the possibility of life in prison with parole.
He answered quietly in a hoarse voice and nodded as Justice of the Peace Joe Bonaventure Jr. laid out restrictions for his release, including surrendering his passport to his attorney and having no contact with co-defendants or potential witnesses.
Unlike his arraignment over a decade ago in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend, when Simpson declared he was "absolutely 100 percent not guilty," he was subdued throughout the proceeding Wednesday.
"Mr. Simpson do you understand the charges against you?" the judge asked.
"Yes, sir," said Simpson, wearing a blue jail uniform and handcuffs.
Attorney Yale Galanter said Simpson would plead not guilty.
Simpson posted bond through the "You Ring We Spring Bail Bonds" company, said bondsman Miguel Pereira, who drove Simpson's relatives and girlfriend to and from the courthouse in a black SUV.
Pereira said he wasn't nervous about accepting the bond, which can cost between 10 and 15 percent of the $125,000. The company is responsible for ensuring Simpson attends court hearings.
"He's not a flight risk. I have a gut feeling and I'm good at my job," Pereira said.
Security at the courthouse was tight for the arraignment hearing. People entering the courtroom were screened by security officers and Las Vegas police with bomb-sniffing dogs.
The case has attracted a swarm of media, including Marcia Clark, who unsuccessfully prosecuted Simpson for the 1994 murders and was reporting for "Entertainment Tonight."
Simpson, 60, was arrested Sunday after a collector reported a group of armed men charged into his hotel room at the Palace Station casino and took several items that Simpson claimed belonged to him. He has been held since then in protective custody in a 7-foot-by-14-foot cell.
The Heisman Trophy winner was charged with kidnapping, robbery with use of a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Authorities allege that the men went to the room on the pretext of brokering a deal with two longtime collectors, Beardsley and Bruce Fromong. According to police reports, the collectors were ordered at gunpoint to hand over several items valued at as much as $100,000.
Beardsley told police that one of the men with Simpson brandished a pistol, frisked him and impersonated a police officer, and that another man pointed a gun at Fromong.
"I'm a cop and you're lucky this ain't LA or you'd be dead," the man said, according to the report.
"One of the thugs _ that's the best thing I can call them _ somebody blurted out 'police!' and they came in military style," Beardsley said Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show. "I thought it might have been law enforcement or the FBI or something because I was ordered to stand up, and I was frisked for weapons."
"At no time did Mr. Simpson hold any type of firearm at all," he said.
Beardsley also cast doubt on the authenticity of a recording of the confrontation made by Tom Riccio, the man who arranged the meeting between Simpson and the two collectors. Riccio reportedly sold that tape to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com.
"I do not believe that these tapes are accurate," Beardsley said. He said information was missing and the recordings should be professionally analyzed.
"Simpson confronted me, saying 'Man what's wrong with you, you have a turn-over order, you have a turn-over order for this stuff, man,'" Beardsley said, but he said that part wasn't on the tapes.
The Los Angeles Times reported that court records show Riccio has an extensive criminal history from the 1980s and '90s, including grand larceny in Florida, possession of stolen goods in Connecticut and receiving stolen property in California. According to the newspaper, Riccio acknowledged his past in a telephone interview late Tuesday.
Riccio said he was not concerned with how his past might affect his credibility "because everything's on tape. That's why it's on tape."
He also said he had been promised some form of immunity by prosecutors.
The memorabilia taken from the hotel room included football game balls signed by Simpson, Joe Montana lithographs, baseballs autographed by Pete Rose and Duke Snider and framed awards and plaques, together valued at as much as $100,000.
Although Simpson was acquitted of murder charges in the deaths of his ex-wife and Goldman, a jury later held him liable for the killings in a wrongful death lawsuit and ordered him to pay a $33.5 million judgment. On Tuesday, a California judge gave a lawyer for Goldman's father a week to deliver a list of items Simpson was accused of taking from the hotel room, raising the possibility that they could be sold to pay off the judgment.
"He's ordered to pay us millions of dollars," Goldman's sister, Kim Goldman, said Wednesday on NBC. "If he went to Vegas to go collect on those things so we wouldn't, there's some irony in that."
She also said she felt some satisfaction with Simpson's arrest.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I do feel a little bit of elation to see him in handcuffs," she said. "I hope that in some way the pressure that we put on him for the last 13 years drove him to this."
Two other defendants, Walter Alexander, 46, and Clarence Stewart, 53, were arrested and released pending court appearances. Stewart turned in some of the missing goods and Alexander agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, authorities said. A fourth suspect, Michael McClinton, 49, of Las Vegas, surrendered to police Tuesday.
Police were seeking two other suspects, whom they had not identified.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
And a million fanboys' hearts explode in unison.
CULVER CITY, California — With films like "Just Friends" and the "Scary Movie" franchise, Anna Faris has given us so many deep belly laughs that it's hard to not develop an equally deep appreciation for her comedic talents. But as she revealed to us on Tuesday, her next film will not only be Faris' most difficult role yet, but will also offer the actress one more chance to get deep.
"There's a project about Linda Lovelace, the porn star, that we're really hoping to put together soon," Faris said of a dramatic biopic that will cast her as the infamous "Deep Throat" actress who dragged the X-rated movie into mainstream culture. "It's a really deep, dark drama — and it would be cool for me to do."
The affable 30-year-old beauty hopes to get cameras rolling on the film with enough time to finish it before the impending writers' strike in June, she and has targeted the subject of the 2005 documentary hit "Inside Deep Throat" for her most dramatic role yet. For those who aren't versed in filthy '70s cinema, Lovelace was the stage name Linda Susan Boreman adopted before starring in "Throat," the 1972 flick about a frustrated woman exploring (and exploring, and exploring again) her sexuality.
"It's called 'Inferno,' " Faris said of the film, which she is currently putting together alongside a first-time filmmaker. She said other stars haven't been cast yet but that director Matthew Wilder will helm the flick.
Lovelace became a household name after "Deep Throat" became a pop-culture phenomenon that had stars like Johnny Carson and Jack Nicholson attending showings. Porn became chic, and the film has to date grossed more than $600 million worldwide (some believe it is still be the most profitable movie ever made).
In the years that followed, however, Lovelace reinvented herself as an anti-porn crusader, toiled in poverty and insisted that she had a gun held to her head off-camera during those infamous "Throat" scenes, blaming the experience largely on her manager/husband Chuck Traynor.
"We've yet to find Linda's husband," Faris noted of the casting call she's currently working on with Wilder. "That's sort of our hang-up right now; we're trying to get that.
"This would be incredibly intense," Faris said of the script about Lovelace, who died in 2002 following a car accident and several weeks on life support. "It would be the most difficult thing I've done, and I'm really nervous."
Although known primarily for comedies, Faris has made small appearances in dramas like "Lost in Translation" and "Brokeback Mountain." She's in the process of wrapping the Playboy-bunny comedy "I Know What Boys Like," hopes to start shooting "Inferno" in the next few months and is currently preparing by immersing herself in Lovelace's history.
"It's a pretty tragic story," Faris admitted with earnest. "It's going to be a challenge, definitely."
:link source: www.mtv.com
Nuclear cinema: The Omega Man, The Road Warrior, and Night of the Comet
The T-virus has decimated billions, zombies have taken over, and, in the middle of a Nevada desert, only Milla Jovovich and her caravan of survivors stand a chance of saving the world. Such is the premise to Resident Evil: Extinction. Its the final installment to the popular action/horror trilogy and this week we'll inspect its cinematic roots.
Post-apocalyptic movies are experiencing a surge in popularity. Children of Men (91 percent on the Tomatometer) was a Certified Fresh, Oscar-nominated phenomenon, while 28 Weeks Later (72 percent) fared well with critics and audiences alike. And the future boasts two lit adaptations about wiped-out societies: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The rush of bleak futuristic movies likely stems from the issues we face today: political scandals, global warming, and nuclear fears. But the subgenre also represents a unique challenge to filmmakers. Whether the budget's $350,000 (Mad Max, 94 percent), $175 million (Waterworld, 38 percent), or, like Resident Evil, somewhere in-between, how effective a post-apocalyptic flick is limited only by a director's ingenuity. They can be grand in scope and small by design, and explore not only themes of loss and isolation, but also the possibility of hope and renewal. Let's take a look at three earlier genre flicks that have given the barren and desolate wasteland its good name.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Charlton Heston starred in a trifecta of sci-fi classics that are still making waves through pop culture today: Planet of the Apes (86 percent), The Omega Man (61 percent), and Soylent Green (72 percent). Thanks to a memorable spoof in a Simpsons Halloween episode, a new generation of viewers is aware of The Omega Man's plot, which revolves around Heston's Robert Neville as the "last" man on Earth. He's on the run from decaying ghouls who believe he represents the technology that previously destroyed the world whilst being courted by a small band of survivors who need his untainted blood.
The Omega Man is definitely a product of its time: Heston sings along to footage of Woodstock and eventually shacks up with one of the Foxy Brown-ish survivors. But the film's lengthy scenes of downtown Los Angeles, deserted and ruined, remain eerie and effective. A clear inspiration for films like 28 Days Later and Night of the Comet. Director Boris Sagal portrays Neville as an obvious Christ figure (another common conceit nowadays), creating a movie that Variety calls "an extremely literate science-fiction drama."
Any post-apocalyptic movie that takes place in the outlands will always owe a small debt to George Miller. While his wasn't the first to depict nuclear deserts (Miller has cited A Boy and His Dog [77 percent] as a major influence), his Mad Max popularized the presentation of it, grossing over $100 million against its miniscule budget in 1979. Returning for the1981 sequel The Road Warrior (100 percent), Mel Gibson, as Max, wanders the open desert and dry plains, scavenging precious gasoline for his V8 Interceptor. Aside for chastising humanity for pollution and war in the opening scene (a Miller obsession, as evidenced even up to his latest movie, Happy Feet [74 percent]), this is a ravishing and convincing vision of post-apocalyptic cinema.
With its terse dialogue and gorgeous desert cinematography, the movie is like the greatest graphic novel come to life. Miller films his car chases with the same kind of daring invention that made The French Connection (97 percent) legendary, but the freedom of the Australian outback allowed him to use elaborate camerawork, more rhythmic pacing, and stunning, death-defying stuntwork. The Road Warrior raised the bar for pure, CGI-free car chases that has rarely, if ever, been met. As Paul De Angelis of culturevulture.net notes: "Relying mostly on image and motion to tell its story, [The Road Warrior is] a classic action film representative of cinema at its purest."
Three years later, Thom Eberhardt took post-apocalyptica to the streets. Though none of this versatile director's films are widely remembered, the one that seems most primed for cult resurrection is Night of the Comet (83 percent). Everything you'd expect from a 1984 horror/comedy is here: zombies, a 20-song pop soundtrack, and humanity's destruction, with the burden of civilization falling on two boy-obsessed Valley girls. Night of the Comet also takes the kids-versus-the-establishment ethos prevalent in the 1980s to an amusing extreme: not only do the girls have to contend with zombies, but resentful adult scientists who need the girls' blood in order to create anti-zombie serum.
While the premise seems to invites broad caricatures and dumb jokes, Eberhardt is surprisingly subtle. After humans turn into red dust when a comet passes over the Earth, Eberhardt juxtaposes an empty Los Angeles with shots of useless suburban creature comforts (sprinklers automatically turn on, pools chlorinate themselves) that have outlived their human masters. There are some great one-liners, decent gore, and a unique wit that set the tone for future post-apocalyptic comedies like Tank Girl (36 percent). Vincent Canby calls Night of the Comet "[a] good-natured, end-of- the-world B-movie, written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, a new film maker whose sense of humor augments rather than upstages the mechanics of the melodrama."
These movies, and Resident Evil: Extinction, admittedly conform to a very entertaining, very Hollywood view of the apocalypse. As further reaches go, Japan naturally takes a more personal and disturbing inspection of life after holocausts with movies like Virus, After the Apocalypse (89 percent), and the anime masterpiece Akira (86 percent).
::link source: www.rottentomatoes.com
Sep 16, 2007
Based on the popular Dead or Alive video games, this action flick focuses on a group of gorgeous, highly trained and — to distract their horndog adversaries — scantily clad female fighters.
Cast Devon Aoki, Jaime Pressly, Matthew Marsden, Sarah Carter, Holly Valance, Natassia Malthe (more)
Director(s) Corey Yuen
Writer(s) J.F. Lawton, Adam Gross, Seth Gross, Granz Henman
Status On DVD
Release Date June 15, 2007
DVD Release Date Sept. 4, 2007
Running Time 87 minutes
MPAA Rating PG-13 - PG-13 for pervasive martial arts and action violence, some sexuality and nudity.
Web Site Official Site for DOA: Dead or Alive
Keywords Action, Scantily Clad Women
buy the DVD at amazon:
Name: Evan Rachel Wood
Birth Name: Evan Rachael Wood
Birthdate: Sept. 7, 1987
Birthplace: Raleigh, N.C.
1-MINUTE RESUME FOR EVAN RACHEL WOOD
When she was 7 years old, Wood auditioned for the child lead in 1994's Interview With the Vampire, which ultimately went to Kirsten Dunst. Soon thereafter, she and her family packed their bags for Los Angeles, and Wood quickly found herself in TV shows and films like 1998's Practical Magic (opposite A-listers Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman). From 2000-2002, she was a regular face on Once and Again and was one half of an onscreen relationship with Mischa Barton. She shared the spotlight with her onscreen father Al Pacino in 2002's S1m0ne. The following year, Wood became a Sundance darling in Thirteen, a script written by Nikki Reed at age 13. But her boldest move to prove her adulthood: dating alt-rocker Marilyn Manson.
1. She received her high school diploma at age 13.
2. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
3. She was set to star in both Mean Girls and Raise Your Voice, but she was unable to accommodate production schedule changes. The roles went to Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff, respectively.
4. She is Jewish.
5. In 2003, Vogue Magazine named her one of the "It Girls of Hollywood."
On receiving the script to Down in the Valley: "I got a call from my mom and she was like, 'This new script arrived, and Edward Norton's attached to it.' He's one of my favorite actors, so right away I was like, 'Of course I'll read it.'"
— Interview Magazine, May 2006
2004: Golden Globe nomination: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama), Thirteen
Across the Universe - (2007) - Actor
King of California - (2007) - Actor
Running With Scissors - (2006) - Actor
Down in the Valley - (2006) - Actor
The Upside of Anger - (2005) - Actor
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Sites for Evan Rachel Wood
by Dave White
Who's in It: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Julia Stiles, Paddy Considine
The Basics: It would really help if you've seen the first two movies in this series, because it kind of assumes that you already know that Jason Bourne is a guy with amnesia on the run from some other guys. Thing is, you think the other guys are the bad guys and that Damon can't possibly be bad himself, except that he's just so good at decimating anyone who gets in his way. If you haven't already deduced that he just might have something resembling a dark past, then you haven't really been paying much attention.
What's the Deal? This is, hands down, the best action movie of the year so far. I know I said that Live Free or Die Hard was my favorite not long ago, but Paul Greengrass (who also directed The Bourne Supremacy and United 93) just plain makes smarter, tougher movies. This is not to slight the cartoon craziness of Die Hard and all the stuff that blew up so awesomely there, but this one feels more hard-edged and laser-focused and intense. The chase sequences alone will leave you shouting for more.
What Jason Bourne Has in Common With Jason From Friday the 13th: If this were real life, this guy would be in a full body cast 24/7 and suffer from constant internal hemorrhaging. But he takes insane abuse and violence and murder attempts in stride and just keeps on turning the tables on his attackers and generally not-dying like he's supposed to. I like that in a fictional character.
Why I'm Now Convinced That Matt Damon Is a Wizard: He seems to have the ability to change the shape of his skull depending on how likeable a character he's supposed to be. For example, in Good Will Hunting he's supposed to be adorable so he's got this soft, round face that's lit by Gus Van Sant like it's a remake of Rocco and His Brothers. But here? Mr. Squarehead.
Surprising Myself Here By Not Hating: Julia Stiles.
by Dave White
Who's In It: Billy Mitchell, Steve Wiebe, Mr. Awesome
The Basics: Men love to fight. It's why there are civil wars and Spanish Inquisitions and Hell's Kitchen and Puck from Real World: San Francisco. It's also why I watched a movie about competitive air-guitaring earlier this year and why I just watched this one about two dudes who want to Donkey Kong each other into an early grave. Chicken-wing retail pioneer, hot-sauce CEO and reigning high-scoring Donkey Kong champ Mitchell gets his record challenged by high school science teacher Wiebe. Then the soundtrack plays a song from The Karate Kid. Yeah, it's like that.
What's the Deal? Unlike spelling bees and dog shows and drag balls and air-guitar competitions, no one really seems to care about Donkey Kong smackdowns. I mean, yes, someone does, but their numbers are small. More people will probably watch this than will ever actually take time out of their lives to witness an ultimate grudge-match battle live and in person. And that's why this is cool: It compels you to be almost affectionately concerned about the fates of these two weirdos for a full 80 minutes, but mostly for Wiebe the science teacher, because Mitchell, with his prince-of-darkness persona, has long since crossed the line of hard nerd no return.
How to Explain Mr. Awesome: Nearly impossible. He's a supporting character in this geek-a-thon; he likes Missile Command, and he's very good at it. But even fewer people care about Missile Command than give a flying heck about Donkey Kong. This makes him upset. And you will witness that. He's not that awesome.
Best Scene: Wiebe seems like a good father, but even good fathers have moments where they neglect their children. Unfortunately for Wiebe, he had his while the cameras were on. So when his little kid needs help in the bathroom while Dad's busy playing Donkey Kong, you might not know whether to laugh or cringe when the child shouts, "Dad! Wipe my butt! Stop playing!"
Who'll Hate This: Vintage video-gamers who think they are the true champions of the "sport." Also, people like my mom who can't even figure out what people are doing when they play video games. Like when I tried to explain to her once that I smoked the competition while Wii-boxing as a heavyweight Joan Didion, she just shook her head.
A group of women and one man get together regularly to discuss the books of Jane Austen. They become so obsessed with the auther, they start to believe that their own lives resemble the plots to her novels. Based on the book by Karen Joy Fowler.
View more photos | Traillers and Clips
Cast Maggie Grace, Emily Blunt, Maria Bello, Hugh Dancy, Kathy Baker, Jimmy Smits (more)
Director(s) Robin Swicord
Writer(s) Robin Swicord
Status Upcoming (limited)
Release Date Sept. 21, 2007
MPAA Rating PG-13 - for mature thematic material, sexual content, brief strong language and some drug use
Web Site Official Site for The Jane Austen Book Club
Keywords Women, Based On A Novel
Fei (Zhou Xun) and Ying (Vivian Wu) are half-sisters. Their dad, Master Li, was a rich entrepeneur before he died. While Ying is Li's legitimate daughter with his wife, Fei is the product of an affair with Li's maid. While Fei was sent off to school, after Master Li passed away, she is compelled to return home as a stipulation of his will.Already angry that her half-sister has come back, Ying only gets even more enraged when her boyfriend (Wang Zhi Wen) falls in love with Fei.
Cast Zhou Xun, Vivian Wu, Wang Zhiwen, Lisa Lu, Zhu Man Fang (more)
Director(s) Ann Hu
Writer(s) Beth Schacter, Wang Bin, Michael Eldridge
Status Upcoming (limited)
Release Date Sept. 21, 2007 — New York
Web Site Official Site for Beauty Remains
Keywords Chinese/Mandarin, Family Interaction, Love Triangle, Theatrical Release, Love Triangles, Chinese, Chin
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Sep 15, 2007
A PREVIEW OF INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
Theatrical Release Date: May 22, 2008 (Wide)
Cast & Crew:
Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone directed by Steven Allan Spielberg more »
Twenty-five years after "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Harrison Ford reprises his role in "Indiana Jones 4." more »
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Company: Paramount Pictures
Genre: Action/Adventure, Action, Adventure
The Latest News:
On Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull • Sex and the City Adds Cast, Release Date After years in development limbo, the Sex and the City feature film is wasting no time going from gr... • Breaking: Shia LaBeouf Spills New Indiana Jones Movie Title! Sunday night at the MTV Video Music Awards, Indy 4 co-star Shia LaBeouf made the long-awaited, Spiel... • LaBeouf to Be Disturbia Director's Last Man? Only a few short years ago, Shia LaBeouf was just another Disney Channel tween actor hoping to make ... • New Indiana Jones 4 Video Diary Up! If you've been eagerly waiting for a new Indiana Jones movie since the closing moments of Indiana Jo... • Karen Allen Back as Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones 4 Speaking in a live feed before a raptured audience at Comic-Con, Steven Spielberg announced that Kar... • Comic-Con Packs it in for Preview Night The unofficial start of the four-day nerd-off that is Comic-Con International really began Wednesday... • Lucasfilm Denies the Extra Indiana Jones Sequels One of the juicier movie rumors we've heard lately was that Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf had been ... • Harrison Ford Doing His Own Stunts in Indy IV He just celebrated his 65th birthday, but Harrison Ford will apparently still be doing his own stunt...
We speak with the Pride & Prejudice director about his upcoming film.
For the past few years, Joe Wright has had every reason to celebrate. After graduating from British television, he went on to make 2005's Pride and Prejudice (the Certified Fresh phenomenon that bred a new generation of Austenites), made history as the youngest director to ever open the Venice Film Festival, and last week became engaged to actress Rosamund Pike.
Wright's newest film, Atonement, shows little sign of breaking the streak. With a 100 percent Tomatometer from nearly 20 early reviews, critics are responding ecstatically and Oscar buzz is already percolating. Adapted from the best-selling Ian McEwan novel of the same name, Atonement is a romantic epic starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as two lovers separated by circumstance and war. (Check out our review here.) Atonement opens December 7, and Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Wright during the Toronto Film Fest to discuss the film, Method acting, and the unique pleasure of the long tracking shot.
Rotten Tomatoes: Like anything you've seen at Toronto so far?
Joe Wright: I loved The Assassination Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I thought it was wonderful. I think Casey Affleck's performance in it is genius.
RT: Atonement has a lot of strong visuals. Was it difficult finding all the locations?
JW: My designer, Sarah Greenwood, is probably my closest collaborator. And I always get her on very, very early in the process. We started looking for locations at least six months before we started filming. So the locations were being found as we were developing the script [and] we would write locations into the screenplay. That is quite important to me.
RT: You frequently collaborate with the same people, both in production and the actors. What would be difficult about filmmaking without this relationship?
JW: I like working with the same people over and over. It's like a theater company. We all know each other very well. We support each other, we know each other's strengths and weaknesses. It's just important to me. I don't like the jumping of one group of people to another. I like the continuity.
RT: Does each project get easier to do?
JW: Yeah. Well, no. Not easier and easier. It develops. You get to watch people change. I think you have to know people really well to communicate with them.
RT: It's surprising more filmmakers don't try to find their personal troupes.
JW: It surprises me as well. I come from a theater-ish background. Puppet theater. And I've always had the romantic notion of the touring theater company. So I guess I try to model my film crews on that.
RT: Atonement's performances are modeled after the British films of the 1930s and 1940s. Did you envision this during film production or while reading the novel?
JW: I saw that happening when I read the novel. I'm a big fan of films from the 1930s and 1940s, and I'm a big fan of actors from that period. You meet a lot of young actors in London these days who absurdly try imitations of Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro.
RT: You're not a fan of Method acting.
JW: I'm not a fan of Method acting. I think it has its place certainly, and I'm not dismissing it at all. But I think acting is the one area of filmmaking that has not moved on in the past 35 years at all. Young actors seem to think they're being very modern by investigating the Method. Whereas, in actual fact, they're being very old-fashioned. So I think it's time to reexamine acting as a craft and what it means. And the only way to do that is perhaps to look back, earlier, and then move forward.
To me, the best director of actors in the American system is David Lynch. I've always loved his direction of acting. And no one ever talks about his performances.
RT: His style and stories tend to obscure the other qualities of his films.
JW: Absolutely. Naomi Watts's [performance] in Mulholland Dr. is one of the most extraordinary I've ever seen. And the choice to go with that style of performance that somehow heightens realism throughout the entire movie except when she's in that casting scene and she decides to play naturalism...it flips the whole idea of artifice being natural, and naturalism being artifice. And, suddenly, that scene, that audition scene, it is so terrifying, so effective. I found [that] brilliant. I don't know how Lynch does it. I think he's one of the only directors [who's] pushing the craft into new places.
RT: Pride and Prejudice and Atonement both have elaborate steadicam tracking shots. Is this the sort of thing that excites you when you're watching a movie?
JW: It does, yeah. I like making them, for a start. I really get a kick out of them. You get an amazing adrenaline rush from making those shots because it's a big, big gamble. A lot of choreography. And also because you're spending an entire day's shoot on one shot. If [it] goes wrong, you've gambled away a lot of money and time and effort. I enjoy that gamble. It's fun.
But, also, I like the happening aspect. Do you know what I mean? You create a kind of happening. A piece of theater. Everyone engages: you have 1,600 people focusing on the same five minutes and viewing that time as such importance. It's a beautiful thing.
RT: Which are your favorite long takes?
JW: Touch of Evil's is a masterstroke. I particularly like the Russian Ark film, which I thought was staggering. I was also influenced by a British director you might know. His name is Alan Clarke. He made films like Elephant, which inspired Gus van Sant's Elephant, and another great film for TV called Road. He was one of the first people to use Steadicam in Britain, not long after The Shining.
An artist called Sam Taylor-Wood did a music video for Elton John in which Robert Downey Jr. sang "I Want Love." And that was a one take shot. I like that one very much.
RT: The original Atonement screenplay you saw was different from the novel. In what way?
JW: It digressed from the novel quite a lot. It had become much more straightforward, much more linear. They had cut the idea of replaying the same moment from different points of view, which I thought was a great shame. A lot of the structural ideas had been lost. The idea of the film in three distinct parts had been lost. And death...was portrayed in big, operatic moments. I felt that was the wrong depiction of death. I've always thought of death as something very small.
Michael Brandt and Derek Haas discuss Wanted's cast, action, and MPAA rating
Writer/directors Michael Brandt and Derek Haas had to go into production on Wanted before the comic book had even picked up steam. With only two issues published, the writers came up with their own story based on the set up.
"The first two issues were pretty much act one," said Haas. "The first two issues were a great set up, the first two issues of the comic. Then it went in a different direction than what we took the film."
The story of a loser drafted by assassins who believe he has his father's talents, the movie is action packed adventure, but not comic book-y. "Our take on the material was big, but not big like the comic book," said Brandt. "The comic book took it to crazy heights with superheroes and we kept ours kind of grounded into today's world so you could actually believe that it could take place in today's world."
Haas still promises hard action. "We really want to make a hard R movie," said Haas. "To the studio's credit, all the way through they said, 'Do it. Keep that same tone'. And then when they cast Angelina [Jolie], Morgan Freeman and James McAvoy we thought, 'Oh here it comes. Here comes the PG-13, got to have the broadest audience possible.' But, no. The whole time they said keep it the same way so that's the movie they shot."
Wanted is due March 28, 2008 and will be the English language Hollywood debut of Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov.
Sep 12, 2007
Evil Rears Its Pretty Little Head, Again, in a Slick Remake of 'The Omen'
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006; Page C01
Hell'z still a-poppin' in the remake -- well, it's more a tracing -- of the surprise hit of the 1976 movie season, "The Omen," which gets a rare Tuesday opening in salute to an even rarer day of three sixes.
The original was the first to put high-end stars (Gregory Peck, Lee Remick) in a blood-soaked, Devil-worshiping, supernatural, slick and -- did I say blood-soaked? -- horror movie, which had been theretofore the province of second- and third-tier faces (such as the one belonging to Vincent Price). It was such a hit, it got its director, Richard Donner, in line for a mainstream career (his next film was "Superman," and he later was founder and franchise owner of the "Lethal Weapon" series). One hopes it nicely feathered the nest of those sturdy yeomen of the American industry, Peck and Remick.
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien, Boy Devil, in a new version of the 1976 supernatural thriller, released on a satanically significant date.
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien, Boy Devil, in a new version of the 1976 supernatural thriller, released on a satanically significant date. (By Vince Valitutti -- 20Th Century Fox)
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The remake is directed by another slickster, the Irishman John Moore, who is no deep thinker (as his "Behind Enemy Lines" confirmed) but, like Donner, he's an able hack -- smooth, stylish, clever, soulless and a hoot. And so's his damned movie. And it is damned.
It's still the same old story, hardly updated, possibly because the same typist is behind the same keyboard, hitting the same keys. That writer would be David Seltzer, here as before earning a solo writing credit. He hits the same high notes as before: a horrifying moral paradox driving a taut, detective-like story ahead, well-lubricated by highly choreographed murders engineered from down under by His Satanic Majesty. Impalements, burnings, beheadings, hangings, all those nasty things done to witches in days of yore. Here they're done again, to the tune of malodorous choral music, only the victims are the chaste, the good and the pure. And on top of that: You get to see Mia Farrow get creamed.
Seltzer's plot is simple and serviceable. When the just-born son of an American diplomat dies in the postnatal care theater, the father (Liev Schreiber) knows it will break his fragile wife's heart, if not her brain. A priest points out that an unwed mother has just perished in giving birth; could we not switch the now parentless newborn for the now-dead newborn?
He doesn't bother to tell the young man that the baby's mommy was a hyena or maybe a jackal or some other slavering canine from beyond the Styx. That deed done, the son Damien grows into a beautiful boy but one with an odd sense of aloofness. He never speaks but projects a spooky sense of implacable serenity. At the same time, he can issue a laser-shot of contempt through his beady little eyes (the production must have looked for months before it came up with a tot with just such a willed coldness to his presence in newcomer Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) that would give a black cat a myocardial infarction.
When he's about 4, deaths begin happening around him, each calculated to advance his position; a nanny spectacularly hangs herself (shocking in 1976, still shocking 30 years later). Soon, lovable old Mrs. Baylock (Farrow) has shown up to take over as nanny, and she bonds with Damien and begins radiating nutcase heat waves. A priest (Pete Postlethwaite) who comes to warn the couple (Schreiber's Robert Thorn is, by dint of another weird accident, now full ambassador) seems nuts, but ends up skewered like a Vienna cocktail wienie on a really big toothpick for his trouble. A photographer (David Thewlis) notes suggestive light streaks in the photos he's taken of two early victims, implying their spectacular ends, and so he begins to investigate, first on his own, then with Thorn. Cue the beheading machine.
Anyway, soon enough Daddy begins to wonder if the boy is actually He Whom the Liturgical Chants on the Soundtrack Heavily Suggest to Be Old Scratch in Diapers; that is, the Devil himself, the Antichrist. What's a father to do?
A lot of things stay the same. The movie still has the gloss of a Lincoln Continental commercial as it prowls through swanky European backdrops (Italy, then England; it was filmed mostly in Prague). It's handsome in the way it's fast-moving: sleek, well-engineered, full of gooses and honks.
Some of the casting seems a little off. For example, the heroic parents, David and Katherine Thorn, played in the original by the patrician Peck and Remick, are played by Schreiber and Julia Stiles. Whatever you think of their talent (Schreiber has lots, Stiles less), the truth is they are too young for their roles, which insist that he ends up the ambassador to the Court of St. James's. Schreiber, hardly a patrician, looks more like the ambassador to the Kensington Gardens Courtyard by Marriott. Stiles looks like a hatcheck girl in a '40s melodrama. You keep thinking: Where are the Pecks of yesteryear? What are these kids doing in grown-up clothes?
Still, it works. Moore keeps the thing humming, leaping from atrocity to atrocity. And he gets something weird: that is, the deep and abiding pleasure certain people feel in watching the elaborate extermination tricks assembled diabolically. For Moore, anything can be a killing machine. To cite one example, when a certain character gets that extremely deep crew cut (note to cultural scorekeepers: The ever-progressive American film industry has finally surpassed the Japanese film industry in depicting that magic moment when Mr. Head goes over here and Mr. Body goes over there) he has a laff riot of a time tracking the implausibilities that lead up to it. A roofer ticks a hammer with his foot, it lands squarely on a rusty bolt, shearing it, and thus a heavy steel sign is freed to rotate on a rusty rod, its lower edge picking up the speed and fury of Mme. Guillotine, and it loops down just as today's victim is standing in the arc of its rotation and --
And Moore reiterates the other unsettling, disturbing aspect of "The Omen," which is in itself a cautionary warning of the power of film to manipulate. That is, as the movie rushes toward its finish it subverts the audience into mobhood; it makes us no longer human. It makes us yearn to break our deepest moral code, and harm a child. The guy behind me summed it up: "Kill that little freak!" he implored. Now that's scary.
The Omen (110 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for disturbing, extreme and graphic violence and some profanity.
::link source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/05/AR2006060501426.html
A Film Review by James Berardinelli 3 stars
United States, 1995
U.S. Release Date: 9/22/95 (wide)
Running Length: 2:03
MPAA Classification: R (Gory crime scenes, violence, profanity)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley, Richard Roundtree, Kevin Spacey
Director: David Fincher
Producers: Arnold Kopelson and Phyllis Carlyle
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
Cinematography: Darius Khondji
Music: Howard Shore
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
Frequently, mystery/thrillers present us with a cast of about six or seven characters, set up a sequence of grizzly murders, then "surprise" us by revealing which of those six or seven characters is the guilty party. It's a time-honored method that's repeated in at least several movies each year. At the outset, Seven has all the hallmarks of this kind of motion picture. Fortunately, it turns out somewhat smarter and less predictable. Though not without significant flaws, Seven isn't transparent or moronic, and it doesn't insult the average viewer's intelligence.
When all is said and done, the mystery of Seven is not who the killer is -- there's never any question about the identity -- but how he will outsmart the police next, and what he will do as a climax to his killing spree. It's refreshing to find an intelligent maniac who is not undone by a moment of sheer stupidity. From beginning to end, Seven's murderer has the situation under control. The police are his pawns, not the other way around. Shades of Silence of the Lambs.
The good guys are a pair of detectives at opposite ends of their careers. David Mills (Brad Pitt) is new on the job, full of energy and high ideals, and ready to "make a difference" by catching the crooks. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is in his last week on the job. His long years studying crime scenes and following up on clues have left him weary and jaded. To him, being a detective isn't about nabbing criminals -- it's about methodically collecting and cataloguing evidence in case a prosecutor ever needs it.
The serial killer pursued by Mills and Somerset is choosing each of his victims based on which of the seven deadly sins (gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, wrath) they have most clearly violated. The deaths form a portion of a decidedly warped sermon.. In their quest to end this bloody, sadistic spree, the two cops appear well-paired, as together they make the perfect detective. Mills is all brawn and little brain. Somerset, on the other hand, spends long hours in the library researching Dante and Chaucer, looking for clues that will enable him to prevent the next killing.
One of the problems with Seven is that Pitt's Mills is not an especially likable character. He's cocky and arrogant, with an inflated opinion of himself. Up until the end, he's convinced that his way is always the best. Pitt doesn't turn in one of his most impressive performances here, either. There's no subtlety whatsoever. In this film, the actor has a single mode: overdrive. Somerset, on the other hand, is a subdued and balanced personality perfectly essayed by Morgan Freeman. By emoting less than his co-star, Freeman frequently steals scenes from him. Gwyneth Paltrow (Flesh and Bone, Jefferson in Paris), one of today's better young actresses, is woefully underused in the role of Mills' wife, Tracy.
Seven is unnecessarily gory and runs for a little too long, but neither of these elements detracts much from the film's enjoyability (unless you have a weak stomach). The same is true of several logical flaws -- they're there, but not overly apparent while the film is on-screen (they can be ruminated about after the credits have rolled). While Seven lacks the cleverness of the superior Usual Suspects, it's strong enough to hold its own against most other thrillers. Seven may always be grim, dark, and rainy, but at least there's a little substance beneath the atmosphere.
::link source: www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1066164-seven/
My weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” appears every Monday on www.FromTheBalcony.com. The Devil's Hammer on FTB
I am a huge fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s previous films, “21 Grams” (2003) and “Amores perros” (2000). Iñárritu is able to bring intensely felt human suffering to the screen. While the onslaught of popular films like “Hostel” and the “Saw” franchise exploit physical suffering in the extreme, Iñárritu shows us emotional pain.
It is not surprising that movie stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blachette wanted to work with Iñárritu even if it meant being a small part of an ensemble cast. Iñárritu’s films possess an emotional peak that embraces suffering everyone can relate to.
Iñárritu and his “21 Grams” and “Amores perros” screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga have fashioned a story that blends together four diverse families and countries: Richard (Pitt) and Susan (Blanchett) are on vacation in Morocco. Their youngest child has died and they are trying to mend their individual guilt over the infant’s death. Their other two children are at home in San Diego being cared for by their long-time housekeeper Amelia (Adriana Barraza).
Traveling in a bus filled with tourists, Susan is hit by a stray bullet. Dangerously close to death and four hours away from a hospital, the bus driver goes to the nearest village, where a villager provides help. The other tourists, selfish Westerners, want to leave Richard and Susan behind and continue their road trip. It is a cruel indictment of how rich people on vacation behave while the poor villagers show wordless compassion.
The bullet was fired from a rifle given to a Moroccan guide by a Japanese hunter. The man then sold the rifle to a goat herder, Anwar (Mohamed Akhzam).
Anwar gives the rifle to his two young sons to shoot jackals killing their goats. In trying to see how far the bullets will go, the youngest boy fires at the bus. Richard has a hard time getting help from the U.S. embassy but does get through to Amelia. She must stay with the children even though her son is getting married in Mexico. Unable to find another sitter for the children, she has no choice but to take the children with her and her nephew Santiago (Gael Garcia Bernal) across the border into Mexico. On the way back to San Diego, Santiago, drunk, gets stopped at the border and then bolts. Pursued by the border police, he leaves Amelia and the two kids in the desert to fend for themselves.
The story shifts to Tokyo, where a young deaf-mute teenager, Chieko (Rinko Kikuchi), is distraught over her mother’s death. Her father (Koji Yakusho) was the Japanese hunter who gave away the rifle. Being deaf in an environment fueled by rock music and sensation-driven language, Chieko indulges in daring sexual behavior as her form of communication.
Even though the title “Babel” explains the theme of the film, it resonated with me on another level. Even though the language barrier or lack thereof (the Japanese storyline) is the dominant theme, it is clear that human pain and suffering has a universal language. The old Moroccan woman understood Susan’s pain and empathized, the father’s anguish over his son’s actions required no subtitles, we understood Chieko’s naked pain, Richard’s frustration and fear did not require dialogue, and Amelia’s horror and tears were emotionally riveting.
Pitt gives the emotional performance required of Iñárritu’s actors. Pitt can portray an ordinary man. And while non-actor Akhzam also finds the right emotional cord, it is Barraza who gives the performance worthy of a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at email@example.com or by visiting www.FilmsInReview.com
In this film, muckraker Michael Moore turns his eye on George W. Bush and his War on Terrorism agenda. He illustrates his argument about how this failed businessman with deep connections to the royal house of Saud of Saudia Arabia and the Bin Ladins got elected on fraudulent circumstances and proceeded to blunder through his duties while ignoring warnings of the looming betrayal by his foreign partners. When that treachery hits with the 9/11 attacks, Moore explains how Bush failed to take immediate action to defend his nation, only to later cynically manipulate it to serve his wealthy backers' corrupt ambitions. Through facts, footage and interviews, Moore illustrates his contention of how Bush and his cronies have gotten America into worse trouble than ever before and why Americans should not stand for it.
The silence before the ovation is what stays with me
Contrary to what so many of us were lead to believe, this movie does not portray a negative message. George W. Bush and his administration aren't painted as fascist tyrants at all. They appear to be fools, power-hungry but fallible. As such, their stranglehold over the American people isn't concrete. There is hope that things can change, and that seems to be the overall message in this film.
For every American soldier Moore shows talking about the adrenaline rush they get when they kill, every soldier that appears on screen as a trigger-happy madman, he shows an American soldier dead on the streets of Iraq. The film progresses as a two-hour reenactment of the thoughts that must go through so many soldiers minds, starting out as a soldier going to war, fighting for the safety of their country against enemies that surely want all Americans dead, but all certainty of their righteousness gives way to hesitation, to men and women questioning why they are there fighting a war that has no clear justification.
Moore also uses his various clips and interviews to show how similar the American civilian population are to the Iraqis. His portrayal of the Saddam-era Iraq was certainly biased, but so many people are happy, looking for joy and prosperity, something that isn't as alien as some of us would like to think of the Iraqis as being. One thing that stays in my mind now, the day after watching this film, is one Iraqi woman crying for her lost family members outside her burned and ruined home, screaming to Allah for help. Comparing that woman to Ms. Lipscombe from Flint, Michigan, who lost her son in the war, crying in her interview with Moore and asking for support from Jesus just shows how this war affects all the people caught up in it equally.
That is to say, all of the people, except those running it. Throughout the horrifying clips of war, we see Bush, who appears to be completely out of touch with how his war is affecting those who are fighting it for him. Bush's bumbling makes up the lighter moments in the film, but in retrospect, they are just as frightening as the War itself.
Moore's overall message was that hope exists, but without action on the part of the silent and downtrodden, that hope will vanish. This is a film designed to have people take action, whether it is in the form of taking to the streets in protest, or simply voting Bush out of office in November. It was a powerful message for a powerful film, and as many have said before me, it received standing ovation at the end. But it was that short moment of silence before the applause that really stays with me. That quiet collective gasp where people are trying to digest the weight of Moore's message.
Yes this movie is biased. It is the war and the world through Moore's eyes, but the message is not buried in the bias. I suppose I can sum it up best by saying this film was painfully human. It is human nature to question injustice and hypocrisy, and Moore is there to remind us of that.
::link source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0361596/
There is much to admire about Iraq in Fragments, director James Longley's Academy Award-nominated portrait of life on the ground in three parts of Iraq during the first year of American occupation.
Most striking is how it manages to be both immediate and reflective at the same time. Because Longley uses a technique that forgoes interviews and voiceover commentary in favour of observation and revealing juxtapositions, his movie puts you both in the chaos and just above it. As a result, it is easily the most thoughtful example of a veritable growth industry in non-fiction filmmaking: the Iraq doc.
Longley took his camera to three parts of Iraq in 2003-04 to record the impact of the U.S. invasion and Saddam's rout. While the situations he finds in these places have for the most part already been swept away by the country's state of constant turbulence, the snapshots they provide are still pertinent in terms of understanding the war's almost instant descent to the status of quagmire.
In Baghdad, Longley finds an 11-year-old Sunni boy named Mohammed. The son of a policeman who disappeared without a trace into Saddam's prisons, Mohammed works at a garage for an embittered veteran of the war against Iran and struggles mightily to learn reading and writing at school.
Beneath skies regularly intersected by U.S. choppers and aircraft, Mohammed lives in a world framed by uncertainty and hopelessness. Abused by his boss for his failures at school and estranged from his classmates because he's the oldest student in his grade, the boy seems doomed to fail everyone's expectations. Needless to say, these intimations of Mohammed's gloomy prospects are only made more poignant by the fact that the city he lives in has become that much more dangerous in the four years since the Mohammed segment of the movie was shot.
In two Shiite cities, Longley finds fundamentalist followers of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr preparing for elections. Their zeal for justice sharpened on the hard edges of retribution and resentment, the Sadr followers are determined to enforce Islamic law at any cost, even if it means terrorizing alleged alcohol-peddlers at gunpoint.
As it was with Mohammed in Baghdad, the situation is most fascinating for what it portends: the imminent rise of factionalist violence among fundamentalist groups and the inevitable toll about to be taken by the unleashing of mutually unyielding ideologies.
Finally, in the Kurdish regions in the north, something approaching calm prevails, as Longley comes across a farming family for whom the American presence has actually delivered what the world was told it was supposed to: freedom from tyranny, persecution and the long-dreamed-of possibility of an independent state. But it's a qualified sense of hope. We already know what's raging in the south and we're fully aware that what we're watching already belongs to the past.
The war, nearly four years later, continues without end in sight.
Easily the most challenging, ambitious and technically innovative of all the films nominated in this year's Best Documentary category of the Academy Awards, Iraq in Fragments is also the hardest sell to a mass market. That's why it's all the more remarkable that it's even being considered, surely a sign of unsettled times.
::link source: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/184853