Starting near the end of his short 24-year life and then told in flashback this film version of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace’s (Jamal Woolard) rapid rise from the streets of Brooklyn to fame is told in standard-issue Hollywood biopic style. We see this Catholic honors student (played by his real life son Christopher Jordan Wallace) become a teenage drug dealer and accidental father before a chance recording finds its way to Sean “Puffy” Combs (Derek Luke) who engineers an almost immediate rise to fame fortune -- and trouble. “Biggie” now must juggle his newfound recording career a marriage to fellow artist Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) his romantic encounters with female rap comer L’il Kim (Naturi Naughton) and a major East Coast/West Coast rivalry with Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) that leads to tragedy for both. As Wallace Brooklyn rapper Woolard is almost indistinguishable from the real man himself. He’s completely convincing performing B.I.G’s biggie hits and proves himself to be a first-rate dramatic actor as well -- at least in a story like this that he can clearly relate to. As his mother Angela Bassett makes the most of limited screen time (despite top billing) and expertly conveys the angst of a parent fighting a losing battle for her son. Luke again shows why he is so promising playing Puffy with just the right amount of flash and supreme confidence. Unfortunately the “balanced” portrait of Combs and many others in B.I.G’s life is tainted by the fact this film was produced by some of the real life players including his managers mother and executive producer Combs. George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) directs this by-the-numbers account of Biggie’s life in a style we have seen countless times before. Except for a couple of occasions he doesn’t even let the rap sequences play out to give us an idea of how this guy whose songs reflected his rough Brooklyn lifestyle could climb to the top so fast. Whatever was special is lost in what appears to be a brazen attempt to sell soundtrack albums.
Director Steven Soderbergh creates a $60 million dollar art film aimed to be an epic look at the life of famed Argentinean rebel Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro). Split into two parts that may be shown either together or in separate engagements the director seems intent on rewriting the book on biopics and in doing so has completely muted a potentially interesting study of the man who became a revered figure in Fidel Castro’s rise to power in Cuba. Part I aka The Argentine charts Che’s beginning career as a charismatic young doctor who meets Castro and sails to Cuba with the common goal of overthrowing corrupt dictator Fulgenico Batista. Proving himself to be a crafty and smart fighter particularly when it comes to guerilla warfare Che becomes a heroic figure among his colleagues and the Cubans. In Part II aka Guerrilla Che is portrayed after his peak power days when he mysteriously disappears only to re-emerge in Bolivia where he organizes the Latin American Revolution. Largely focusing on the grunt work of the battles this section details his dedication to a cause that ultimately will also become his tragic downfall. When an even LONGER version of Che premiered in May at the Cannes Film Festival international reaction to the film was decidedly mixed at best -- even though Benicio Del Toro’s performance was universally praised. Although he’s physically perfect for the role his approach is to basically mumble through the proceedings like a faux Marlon Brando in his Viva Zapata period. If Del Toro was indeed born to play this part it doesn’t really show as he fails to connect with the audience. In the livelier first section -- in which the material is more political and intriguing -- Del Toro almost comes alive especially when visiting New York and the U.N. but frustratingly he mainly chooses to underplay to the point of tedium. The shootouts in the last part of the film come across as amateurish something out of a ‘50s TV Western. The rest of the mostly Spanish cast does what they can with the hackneyed script with standouts Rodrigo Santoro as Raul Castro Catalina Sandino Moreno as Che’s second wife and Demian Bichir who manages to be quite convincing as Fidel Castro. Unlike the lively portrait director Walter Salles achieved in the far more engaging and pertinent The Motorcycle Diaries the usually talented Steven Soderbergh (Traffic Ocean's Eleven) paints a dry profile of Che Guevera diminishing whatever excitement may have existed in his life. By concentrating on these two narrow portions of Che’s life the director fails to deliver even the tiniest proof or argument as to why this man was so revered and remains so iconic to this day. The film completely skips over major points and fails to find the character’s flaws. And the reported $60 million dollar budget is nowhere to be seen -- Che even looks dull and unexciting. It’s clear Soderbergh simply got too close to the subject after seven years of research and somehow viewed this wannabe bio-epic as his own Lawrence of Arabia. Far from it. See it only if you need a good nap.
Crusty curmudgeon Sam Keinman (Peter Falk) sheepishly ends up on the doorstep of his son Ben (Paul Reiser) one night with the news that his wife of nearly half a century Muriel (Olympia Dukakis) has left him. She leaves a note on the fridge saying she has to go off and be alone and after a few minutes with Sam it's easy to see why. A bombastic bully who's never wrong Sam can't imagine what has led to his failed marriage but his son is taking him in until they figure it all out. Ben has a successful marriage to Rachel (Elizabeth Perkins) and the two of them are considering moving out of the city. So Sam accompanies his son to look at a house in the peaceful countryside of New York state. The ride no doubt gives them a lots of time to talk--as well as avoid talking. But along the way they get into a minor accident and end up buying a 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe convertible that looks just like Sam's first car. That leads to some unscheduled father-son bonding. They take the fishing trip they never took together - although neither of them are much good at baiting a hook. They head off to a pool hall where Sam shows his pool-shark abilities. They get ice cream pick apples and do lots of bickering. In a scene reminiscent of Sideways they even find themselves with two women they invite for dinner and are so self-absorbed they don't realize for a while that they've been dumped. The conversation not the action is the journey and it culminates in a mysterious letter that Muriel wrote to Sam two weeks before Ben was born. It has been sealed ever since but now is finally going to be opened.
How can any director go wrong with a cast like this? You can't especially if they're channeling past characters that the audience are very familiar with. Reiser wrote the story and plays it very much like his Paul Buchman character from Mad About You--the thoughtful and philosophical straight man who surrounds himself with funny people. Falk can't quite seem to shake his Emmy-winning Columbo persona always doing a little needling and always straying from the topic at hand. For example when the owner of the house they're looking at talks about how it was in the family since the Civil War Sam changes the subject and is more interested in the septic tank. Still the veteran actor does a nice job conveying the initial bewilderment at why his wife would leave but inevitably forced into a little soul searching. Moonstruck's Dukakis once again plays the trodden-upon loyal housewife but her brief moments are memorable funny and poignant--you yearn for more screen time. Perkins also revives her role of the smart loyal and supportive housewife who doesn't really do very much. But what it boils down to is a story between the two men and if you like both of the actors then you'll love their ad-libbed interplay. It's easy to see how Reiser and Falk make a good father-and-son team.
It seems over the past few years lots of guys are writing about their fathers in movies--Tim Burton's Big Fish and the painful Douglas family fiasco It Runs in the Family to name a few. For Reiser this is a love letter to his own parent and director Raymond DeFelitta best known for his underrated Two Family House doesn't try to rein in the performances. Instead he keeps the pace steady and languid letting the dialogue between the men create the tension and the action. A lot of the story is told in the actors' faces as they talk about the early days of Sam's marriage the meaning of life the pain of growing old and the idea of dying. It's Falk's character lines in his face and Reiser's twinkle in his eyes that keep the deep moments light and likewise bring some depth to the comedic levity. Thankfully it's not a string of one-liners that come from a sitcom mentality. Although a lot of issues are brought up it's the unspoken moments of painful silence that are just as telling. Ultimately it's a film about self-discovery and Sam says it best while he's driving in his new car: "You'll be here when your old man finds himself. While we're at it we can find you too. We can find the whole god damned family. We got a car!"
The race to mount a major motion picture about the Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great may have found its frontrunner.
Director Oliver Stone is set to direct the independently financed project Alexander, with Australian hunk Heath Ledger attached to star. Stone, who is currently in Cuba making a documentary about revolutionary Fidel Castro, is planning to start production on Alexander Oct. 16 in India, with an intent to reach theaters by Christmas 2003.
This would put the film way ahead of HBO's 10-part, $120 million biopic Alexander the Great, a project being mounted by Mel Gibson's production company Icon Productions, which is set to air in 2004. Also in the running is Initial Entertainment Group's film, penned by Peter Buchman and Oscar-winning Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). Martin Scorsese is attached to direct with Leonardo DiCaprio playing the young king. The project is still in the development stages.
Stone has been in development on the Alexander project since the mid-1990s and originally pegged Tom Cruise to star. Instead, he found his Alexander in Ledger, who has been making a name for himself in Hollywood, especially after last year's surprise hit A Knight's Tale.
"He's the perfect age to play Alexander, who became king of Macedonia at age 20 and conquered most of the civilized world before dying at age 33 in 356 B.C.," Stone told Variety.
Executive producer Moritz Borman of Pacifica Film Development told Variety, "We intend to release the film Christmas 2003. We have no American distributor and don't need one right now. But word is beginning to circulate, and I've got three studio heads on my phone sheet, so we'll be listening to offers."
Looks like director Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio make the perfect team.
After teaming up for the upcoming film Gangs of New York, Scorsese, DiCaprio and Initial Entertainment Group are ready to join forces again to create the epic Alexander.
The script details the story of Alexander the Great, crowned King of Macedonia, centering on his ambition to conquer the world, which ultimately leads to his downfall.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, IEG has sealed a deal with writers Peter Buchman (Jurassic Park III) and Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) for a mid-seven-figure sum, billing it as a "multimillion-dollar epic."
"We have paid a significant figure for this excellent script as we believe this is a perfect vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese to join forces again following their successful collaboration on Gangs of New York," IEG CEO Graham King told the Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.
However, the duo is yet to see the national release of Gangs of New York, which has been pushed back until next year.
Pulled from its slated Dec. 21 release earlier this month, Miramax flirted with the idea of releasing the picture for a brief and limited Oscar run before the Dec. 31 deadline. But according to Reuters, it is now believed that Gangs will be released sometime next summer.
Although it is still unclear which companies, if any, will lose money because of the date change and the nixed Oscar run, IEG has created a limited liability company to finance $65 million of Gang's estimated $90 million budget.
That money, which will be used by international distributors for specific international rights, will not be paid out until the picture is released in respective territories.
Paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) vowed never to return to the now-quarantined Jurassic Park--until that is he's hired by a wealthy thrill-seeking couple Paul and Amanda Kirby (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) as a tour guide for their flyover above Isla Sorna. But the Kirbys aren't really wealthy aren't married anymore and don't intend to just visit--what they didn't tell Grant is that they plan to actually land on the island to search for their son Eric who disappeared there two months earlier on a parasailing trip with Amanda's reckless boyfriend. Grant his hunky protégé Billy (Alessandro Nivola) the Kirbys and their pilots soon find themselves running for cover from the highly intelligent raptors sharp-toothed T. Rexes and the biggest and most vicious dino of them all the Spinosaurus (new with this sequel)--while managing to find Eric (Trevor Morgan) along the way.
Neill who (perhaps for best) wasn't part of The Lost World: Jurassic Park wears his familiar role from the first movie as well as he wears his broken-in hat. Wise and world-weary he's the quintessential scientist-cum-adventurer who finds dinos fascinating and humans exasperating. Macy's ever the hapless regular Joe caught up in events he can't control. Apparently the annoying Leoni's main assignment as halfwit Amanda was to scream and thrash about as much as possible at the most inopportune times (you may find yourself rooting for her to wind up between a dino's jaws). It's the kid however who turns in a particularly nice performance as the fearless accidental castaway who's the reason they're all stuck there in the first place. Watch for Jurassic Park vet Laura Dern making a crucial cameo.
Hold onto your hats you're in for a wild ride! Jurassic Park III boogies clocking in at a whirlwind 92 minutes and the action is nonstop. Reminiscent of Spielberg's first dino flick rather than its sequel (although it's nearly impossible to recapture the jaw-dropping effect of first seeing the dinosaurs back in '93) this latest sequel tosses off some pretty amazing moments of its own--witness the flying Pterodons who mount their attack from the air and the scene in which our human friends get caught up in a stampede of panicked herbivores. This film's lack of over-the-top gore is a pleasant surprise. More emphasis on the thrill of the chase than on the potentially gruesome end result makes for a scarier movie. Some irritating moments do occur (mostly between Paul and Amanda who seem to forget they're stuck possibly for good on an island where the wild things are).