Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.
Georgina (Heather Graham) is a 30-something Brit who worries that the impending onset of early menopause means she will never be able to give birth something she is itching to do. Unfortunately Zak (Tom Ellis) her boyfriend of six years is not ready to be a father. This causes a major conflict in their relationship forcing him to move out while she commiserates with best friend Clem (Mia Kirshner) and gay pal Justin (Orlando Seale). When she is given (false) reason to believe Zak has started playing around with an associate she takes it as license to begin a desperate four-day quest to find a man--ANY man--to get her pregnant before its too late. This leads her to fertility clinics nightclubs the Internet funerals strip clubs--even her own employees at the construction company she runs. She even resorts to a turkey baster at one point exclaiming “I can’t believe the potential father of my child is a kitchen utensil” (we’re not making this up!) Will she get pregnant? Will she and Zak get back together? If you don’t know the answer you have never taken Romantic Comedy 101. Milwaukee-born Graham pulls a Renee Zellweger and dons a British accent á la Bridget Jones to play a woman whose maternal instincts are on overload and biological clock running out. Graham is an attractive actress who has never gotten her due but she won’t be getting it here playing a character who is so silly and clueless that you wonder why her boyfriend even bothered to stick around six years in the first place. We’d like to root for Graham but the sheer shrillness and single-mindedness of Georgina is so annoying it’s hard to imagine any woman being able to identify with her especially as she is willing to let just about any Tom Dick or hairy guy help her conceive the child she says she craves. So much for bringing a kid into a healthy environment! Ellis as Zak is not given much to do except look perplexed (we feel your pain) while another non-Brit Mia Kirshner (Showtime’s The L Word) does her best British impression in the standard best friend role. Everyone else is pretty much one dimensional stereotypes used as props in her quest for motherhood at any cost. There is a germ of a decent idea in Miss Conception that should have played as an all-out raunchy over-the-top comedy. But director Eric Styles seems more interested in doing a Four Weddings and a Funeral/Bridget Jones Diary-style flick which just doesn’t ring true in any sense of the word--and the “words” these actors are given don’t help the cause. “Women have needs and I need these needs to be tended to ” Graham whines to a potential donor. Oy. The recent Baby Mama proved that a similar concept could make a smart funny comedy but Miss Conception just doesn’t gel in any way shape or form. What Styles doesn’t seem to get is that we all know how a romantic comedy ends up but it’s how we get to that point that matters. This thing is a 103-minute chore to endure both for it’s target female audience and any poor guy dragged along. Its distributor is giving it only a limited release in theatres on a quick route to basic cable DVD hotel rooms and airplanes. If it turns up on your flight we suggest sitting next to the closest emergency exit.
Imagine only being able to communicate through blinking. Now imagine trying to dictate your memoirs in this grueling and time-consuming fashion. That’s how Jean-Dominique Bauby had to put his life and thoughts down on paper. The editor of French Elle suffered a stroke so severe that it rendered him almost entirely paralyzed for the remainder of his short life. He died less than 18 months later just days after the publication of his 1997 memoirs. Making amends for his laughable adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera Ronald Hardwood pays homage to Bauby’s remarkable achievement with an eloquent screenplay that examines the power of the mind over the body. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly begins on the day when Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) wakes up from a coma and is alarmed to find himself in a hospital completely paralyzed and unable to speak. But his mind is sharp as it ever was. Flashbacks reveal Bauby to be a man who lived life to the fullest and relished every challenge that came his way. So being stuck in a body that no longer functions as it once did is clearly pure hell for Bauby--until his therapist Henriette (Marie-Josee Croze) teaches Bauby to communicate by blinking his left eye. Bauby suddenly decides to honor a book contract he had signed before his stroke--and in the process he discovers his raison d’être. Like My Left Foot’s Daniel Day-Lewis before him Amalric indelibly proves that the mind can and will thrive even when the body is broken and beyond repair. Amalric though has less to work with than the wild-eyed Day-Lewis who had the luxury of drawing you into his performance by tapping into Irish author Christy Brown’s abrasive personality and larger-than-life presence. It’s mesmerizing to watch the intrepid Amalric at work even though he’s practically motionless for the entire film bar for a few flashbacks. While the rest of his face remains frozen solid Amalric eloquently expresses Bauby’s innermost hopes and fears through the mere blink of his left eye. There’s never a time when you don’t know how Bauby feels. And his narration is laced with gallows humor which helps keep Diving Bell free from drowning in sentimentality. As Bauby’s therapist Croze personifies patience dedication and resourcefulness we all expect and demand from health-care professionals but don’t always receive. Emmanuelle Seigner maintains a brave face as Bauby’s neglected wife Céline. You wait for Céline to crumble especially as Bauby never stops asking about his mistress but Seigner reveals Céline to be caring and forgiving. The most heartbreaking moments come between Amalric and Max von Sydow who plays Bauby’s father who is much trapped inside his apartment as Bauby is inside his body. There’s great sadness and regret to be found in von Sydow’s every word as he comes to the painful realization that he will outlive his rich and successful son which no father wants to do. Yes Diving Bell is the latest in a long line of inspirational fact-based films about physically and/or mentally challenged people mastering their disabilities. But director Julian Schnabel distinguishes himself and the film by shooting the first act solely from Babuy’s perspective. We see everything Bauby sees through his one good eye from the moment he comes out of his coma. What follows is confusing disorienting and taxing. And darkly humorous as evidenced by Bauby’s admiration of his females nurses. Schnabel’s approach though works to dramatic effect because we receive a greater understanding and appreciation of what Bauby’s experiencing. Stay the course and you will be rewarded for your patience. Once Bauby comes to terms with his fate and refuses to spend the rest of his days wallowing in self pity Schnabel finally turns his camera on Bauby to reveal his post-stroke physical appearance. It’s a quiet but ingenious way for us to accept Bauby as he accepts himself. Schnabel then concentrates on Bauby’s Herculean effort to dictate his autobiography which is occasionally interrupted by poignant flights of fantasy (it’s not hard to guess what the diving bell and the butterfly symbolize). Equal amounts of joy and regret are be found in Bauby’s reminiscing but Schnabel never tries to romanticize his subject or ignore to his past transgressions. Diving Bell doesn’t set to turn a flawed man into a hero but Bauby’s will and determination ultimately reinforces the notion that anything’s possible if you set your mind to it.
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.
Nicolas Cage has filed for divorce from Lisa Marie Presley after three months of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences, Entertainment Tonight reported Tuesday. The couple, who wed in Hawaii on Aug. 10, attended the screening of Cage's latest film Adaptation this past weekend. Responding to the divorce filing, Presley issued a statement to ET through her spokesperson, saying, "I'm sad about this but we shouldn't have been married in the first place. It was a big mistake." In turn, Cage told ET through a spokesperson, "I did not talk about the marriage and I'm not going to talk about the divorce." Cage, 38, was formerly married to actress Patricia Arquette while Presley, 34, was previously married to musician Danny Keough and pop oddity Michael Jackson.
A Georgia judge denied a motion Monday to drop charges against singer Bobby Brown stemming from a 1996 traffic stop, Reuters reports. The charges resurfaced when Brown was arrested two weeks ago in Atlanta and charged with possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, speeding and having no driver's license or proof of insurance. Brown, who appeared in court with his pop star wife Whitney Houston at his side, is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 21 and remains free on bond.
Jackass star Johnny Knoxville expressed sympathy to the family of a teen who died last week in a stunt possibly inspired by the TV show. "We've done everything we can to prevent this type of thing from happening," he told The Knoxville News-Sentinel Monday. "We don't take submissions. We never have. We have warnings at the beginning and the end. In every interview I have ever given, I have stressed: 'Don't try this at home.' We steer away from stunts that are easily imitable."
Tennis champ Pete Sampras and his wife, actress Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, have announced the birth of their first child, Reuters reports. A message on Sampras's official Web site says, "Congratulations to Pete and Bridgette on the new addition to their family: Christian Charles Sampras."
Animal rights activists said Monday that Italian model and animal rights defender Fabio demanded that Sam's Club retail chain pull its "Fabio Collection" of women's apparel when he found out some of the coats had fur collars. But Fabio's manager Eric Ashenberg told Reuters,"There's no flap. He was showcasing the line of apparel in Chicago and New Jersey the last two weeks and in any collection there are different styles." Turns out it was just a tryout for a nationwide collection next year. Added Ashenberg, "Based on Fabio's feelings, the collection will have no fur."
Britney Spears's Manhattan restaurant Nyla, which opened last June, has undergone a menu overhaul, the New York Post reports. Cajun-inspired dishes like fried okra and Southern sushi have been replaced with continental cuisine with an Italian flair, but says Time Out New York's restaurant critic Reed Tucker, the new Nyla is not unlike the old Nyla--"another bad Midtown New York restaurant that just [happens] to be owned by Britney Spears." The eatery is named for two of the pop singer's favorite places--"NY" for New York and "LA" for Louisiana.
Superior Court Judge Marilyn Hoffman refused to throw out a lawsuit Monday brought last year by the writer and director of The Exorcist, who accused Warner Bros., Turner Network Television and Turner Broadcasting System of cheating them out of profits. According to the AP, scribe William Peter Blatty and director William Friedkin allege that AOL Time Warner, which owns the three companies, sold the license to the 1973 horror film to TNT for $110,000 when it was worth three times that.
It's still business as usual for Steven Seagal, despite his break with former business partner Julius Nasso. According to Variety, Seagal has closed deals to star in a remake of the 1975 thriller The Yakuza and as a former Vietnam veteran in The Rescue. Both projects are set up at Warner Bros.-based Franchise Pictures.
Following the success of Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, Artisan Entertainment is bringing a second VeggieTales cartoon to the big screen, Variety reports. The Bob and Larry Movie, which revisits the computer-generated exploits of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, is set for a 2005 bow. The biblical backdrops of the VeggieTales franchise straight-to-video releases have made them a favorite with Christian audiences.
Leonardo DiCaprio may reunite with What's Eating Gilbert Grape director Lasse Hallstrom. According to Variety, Hallstrom has come on board to helm the A-bomb thriller Bombshell for Universal Pictures, which is eyeing DiCaprio as a potential starring lead. The film is based on former Moscow-based journalists Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel's novel Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy.
It’s the story of America's youth. It's the story of outcasts who band
together with the beat serving as their common bond in a "communal
experience." It's the story of tireless rave scenesters savvy promoters
and idealistic artists. If you're part of the scene you'll see all the
familiar phenoms and faces; if you're over 30 and don't have a clue
this is a good intro course to the techno world and from now on you'll
be able to love or hate this music with a more informed opinion.
Who the hell are all these people with names such as Frankie Bones DJ
Spooky Loop Guru Moby Scanner and so on? They're the DJs and computer
nerds who make those booming beats on their Macs and turntables and
some of their stories are pretty fascinating. With their do-it-yourself
ethic and their quest to create a new music art form these folks
actually come off as real human beings (like the guy who got into
deejaying by spinning his dead father's record collection).
If you've ever been to a rave you know that there are a few
fundamentals: A darkened empty building (usually a warehouse); loud
thumping and incessant music; weird lights and images streaming across
the walls; and of course the DJ. Director Jon Reiss who used to make
videos for Nine Inch Nails brings the party to the screen without
polishing the grit to an MTV-style gloss. See it in a theater with good