January 19, 2013 7:01am EST
The funny thing about Sundance is that any person at any time could be a star. On the street you're just waiting to peer under a pair of aviators or a fur-trimmed parka hood to see someone totally famous. Everyone is looking for the same thing in the movie theaters too. You go out to see the stars, like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in the new movie Mud, but the problem is, while the stars show up, the movie always doesn't. Mud is a movie filled with great performances not only from the biggest names on the marquee, but also American Horror Story mainstay Sarah Paulson, Oscar nominee Michael Shannon and the two teenage newcomers Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland. The problem is, they're the best thing about the movie.
There are things to like about writer/director Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter) heartwarming coming-of-age story, but its problems outweigh its delights. It's biggest problem is that the 130-minute running time is about 40 minutes too long. The second, and boy is it a doozy, that the movie is so close to verging on misogynist that the more feminist leaning parts of the Internet should rev up their keyboards now. There is not a woman in this movie who doesn't betray her man, cheat on him, use him, steal his home, rob him of his authenticity, make him move to a boring condo complex in the suburbs, or otherwise force him of his natural and driving male essence.
The story is about two boys, Ellis and the wonderfully named Neckbone, two kids who live along a river in Arkansas and one day stumble upon a fugitive (McConaughey) living in a boat stranded on an island in the river. He is a sweet-talking charmer (does McConaughey play anything but) who is on the run from the law after killing the man who beat up the woman he loves (Witherspoon). He has nothing but a pistol and a magic shirt that he uses for protection (the irony of the oft-topless McConaughey having a magic shirt should be lost on no one) and he needs the boys to bring him food. Slowly they get embroiled in his plot to escape with his girl Juniper and avoid both the law and the dead man's family that is hunting for him. This is all while Ellis' father and mother are getting a divorce and he's dealing with falling in love with his first girlfriend, who, of course, cheats on him and then humiliates him in public. This thing might as well be a river fort with a giant "No Girlz Allowed" sign out front.
The takeaway to the story seems to be that the only people you can count on in this world are your male friends and your father figure. At the end of the movie, after all hell breaks loose as Ellis and Neckbone's entanglement with Mud gets crazy and deadly, we see each male character have a touching moment with his father figure. None of them are any good – Ellis' father can't make money, Mud's adopted father is a deadly "assassin," and Neck's uncle treats women possibly the worst of any of them – but, heck, in a man's world it's the man who teaches you how to man like a man that man man man. And some of the man manning that men masculine you with is hatred of women. Ellis' father (the wonderful Ray McKinnon) tells him at one point, "Women are tough. They set you up for some." Eventually, when Ellis confronts Mud about how much girls suck, Mud replies, "If you find a girl half as good as you, you'll be all set." See, a woman can never be as good as a man. At least not a man who is loyal to other men. The movie ends with the Beach Boys song "Help Me, Rhonda," which a character explains earlier is about a man who needs to get over a girl by having sex with another girl. Even as the credits are rolling this movie is telling us that women are fickle and replaceable, good only for sex, and not nearly as good as the men in life.
For all of its gorgeous cinematography and Southern charm, this is a well-told story. Film festivals need another movie about teenage boys coming of age and their complicated relationships with their father like a Big Mac needs more calories. And it's not especially adept in its storytelling. There is a mention of snakes in the first 30 minutes followed by a complicated explanation that everyone in the theater sees is going to end in a snake bite and a redemption. The ending isn't as saccharine and predictable as you might think, but it's close. And of course that redemption in the end is only for those in the possession of at least one Y chromosome. Seriously, our stars deserve better than this.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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April 04, 2012 7:32pm EST
If the rumors are true, Lorne Michaels is about to get some news that will rock the Not Ready For Prime Time Players. An insider tells Us, "Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg and Jason Sudeikis are all leaving after the end of the season. It will be a huge blow to the show. Without Andy's video shorts and Kristen saving every skit, they'll need help!"
If the three heavyweights, who joined the cast in 2005, exit the show, there will still be plenty of talent in Studio 8H. However, cast members like Abby Elliott and Bobby Moynihan have yet to prove that they can carry a sketch on their own. SNL has already hired Kate McKinnon of the Upright Citizens Brigade in an effort to fill the funny lady vacuum that will be left by Wiig's exit, but if the show loses Samberg and Sudeikis as well, it's going to have to hire a whole new batch of comedians who can write, act, and do a passable Hillary Clinton impersonation.
So how can SNL survive? First, it can turned to some underused talent who are already on the payroll. Jay Pharaoh has been featured on the show since 2010, and his impressions of stars including Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, and Will Smith always bring down the house — so why do we only see them on every third episode? Writer John Mulaney has done a few "Weekend Update" segments, but it's time for him to pull a Tina Fey and start doing more work in front of the camera. Just watch his hilarious segment on Girl Scout Cookies:
In the past, comedians hoping to make it big had to land a role on SNL or a network sitcom, but the existence of YouTube has changed all that. Some of these comedians' work has probably made it to your inbox, but they deserve to have a crack at making the next "Lazy Sunday":
Second City's Danielle Uhlarik has forever changed the way we look at Disney movies with her popular web series, "Advice For Young Girls From A Cartoon Princess"
This UCB alum has done small roles on TV and is currently writing for the animated show Allen Gregory. She's best known for her [definitely NSFW] video "F**k Me, Ray Bradbury," which was the second most downloaded comedy single on iTunes the week it was released.
As he proved in the viral series "Fake Chloe Sevigny," Droege isn't afraid to tackle celebrity impersonations, even if he looks nothing like the star in question.
Helbig has served as a correspondent on G4's Attack of the Show! and created the My Damn Channel web series Daily Grace. Check out her one-woman Hunger Games reenactment:
You've seen him in TV shows like Bored to Death and Curb Your Enthusiasm (as well as FiOS' "cable guy" commercials). The New York Times described him as a "John Belushi-like madman," and that's got to count for something.
Daniella Pineda is an actor, writer, and producer of hilarious online videos. Here she sends up the fashion industry turning Native American into a trend:
When asked about Wiig, Samberg, and Sudeikis leaving the show, an SNL spokesperson said, “No decisions have been made and won’t be until the end of the summer.” But even if all three exit, the show will manage to carry on. Anytime beloved SNL cast members leave, it seems like the show will never be the same. Yet, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joined the cast just as Will Ferrell was preparing to leave, just as Wiig signed on shortly before they left the show. SNL made it through the disastrous 1985-1986 season, which resulted in everyone being fired except Jon Lovitz, and it can definitely survive the latest round of departures.
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October 28, 2010 5:00am EST
The Oscar-winner's mother found the actress-turned-producer dead at her home in Little Rock, Arkansas on Wednesday (27Oct10).
The Pulaski County Coroner, Garland Camper, has stated that Blount most likely passed away two days earlier on Monday (25Oct10), but he ruled there were no signs of foul play.
Blount was best known for her work onscreen in 1982 movie An Officer And A Gentleman alongside Richard Gere, as well as her role in John Carpenter's 1987 horror Prince Of Darkness and TV show Profit.
Blount later stepped behind the camera and became a successful producer, sharing an Academy Award with her actor/director husband Ray McKinnon for their 2001 short film, The Accountant.
Blount's cause of death was not known as WENN went to press.
April 27, 2007 5:38am EST
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.
November 10, 2006 1:13pm EST
Lucy (Ashley Judd) is a small town girl just getting by with her small-town job and small-town roommate. Relationships are forgettable to her mainly because she tries to sneak out before her lovers even wake up. But Cal (Jeffrey Donovan) wants more than a one night stand. He actually cares encourages her to stay for breakfast and maybe even have a conversation. This is all new for Lucy. Someone actually cares about her feelings? How could that be when she doesn’t even care about her own? It changes her approach to all her usual routines--her boss (Stacy Keach) her family and her church. But positive change has a hard time sticking and old habits threaten to ruin Lucy’s progress. That’s about as far as we can stretch this plot description. Really it’s just sleeping around trying to stay faithful and open and going about small-town life. It’s really slow or you could call it deliberate if you’re being kind--so you’d better love promiscuous drunks to spend 90 minutes with them. Judd gives her most powerful performance in decades since her debut performance in the indie film Ruby in Paradise. She may not be playing a suicidal cutter in Come Early Morning but she gets to show real emotional pain. She cries yes but what’s really going on with her self-esteem is much more subtle. An awesome supporting cast makes sure Lucy exists in a real inhabited world. Keach is an honorable boss who hopes against hope that maybe Lucy will pick up and follow him to bigger and better places but kind of resigned in the knowledge that people don’t leave their nest. Laura Prepon (TV’s That ‘70s Show) plays Lucy’s roommate as spunky as small- town folks get but never in an obnoxious way. Diane Ladd plays what may be Lucy’s future a bitter old woman taking crap from a sexist grump. These kinds of people really exist and these actors portray them as slightly complicated people considering the simple examples they are meant to serve in the film. Donovan sure makes Cal a lovable guy and you almost root for him to find someone more stable than Lucy yet he’s never a pushover just an honest good soul. Actor-turned-director Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy) really loves the small-town setting so she lets the camera linger on loving establishing shots. It creates a believable world of folks in their routine. She cast perfect supporting players to beef up the star vehicle and really just lets them go. Some are familiar faces professional enough to tone down any personas they may have. Others are unknowns who bring more authentic color outside of Hollywood. The story gives them all quirks to show but a lot of it is just effective casting. There is nothing flashy about the style of Come Early Morning. It’s definitely an indie in the vibe of people sitting around talking but there are no extended diatribes á la Kevin Smith. Come Early Morning is focused on moving the characters’ emotional journeys forward. That’s exactly what Adams should be doing in serving this rural relationship drama. If given a subject with broader appeal or a killer hook Adams could surely have a long career behind the camera.
October 21, 2005 1:57pm EST
Although it's modern day there's a distinct Raymond Chandler-esque feel to this story about a petty thief named Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) who lucks into a movie audition and finds himself heading to Hollywood. Harry is replacing Colin Farrell as a detective in a film and to get the realism of the part he's shown the detecting ropes by Det. Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer) also known as Gay Perry--because he's gay. Then Harry runs into his old high school sweetie Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) at a Hollywood party. She believes Harry is a real detective and begs him to help her. That's when the bodies begin coming out of the woodwork. Greed torture and mayhem ensue. If there's any way to prove that Downey is back in true form this is it. He's glib charming deep and truly becomes a modern-day Chaplin in this very trampy role. Kilmer avoids some of the stereotypes of playing gay but as he points out "we're not good cop bad cop we're fag and New Yorker." Both deserve awards. Monaghan holds her own as a feisty red-head. Even Downey's real-life son Indio--who plays his character in the early flashback scenes--shows incredible promise as an actor. This is the Shane Black’s directorial debut the same guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and Long Kiss Goodnight. He knows violence that’s for sure but he also has a keen sense of humor. In Kiss Kiss he mixes them well. Black sets the mood with Downey--giving his best Bogie-like voiceover-- narrating the action along the way. This is better than Get Shorty as far as a dark look into the entertainment industry and far more entertaining. And as Harry's character promises "I've seen Lord of the Rings and we're not going to end this 17 times."
September 16, 2005 5:05am EST
The socially inept Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) is a workaholic doctor who never leaves the hospital. Her married sister Abby (Dina Waters) tries in vain to set up with a good man to no avail. But fate is about to intervene. On her way home from a long shift Elizabeth gets into a head-on collision with a semi-truck and suddenly the lines between life and death are blurred. Jumping forward we meet David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) a guy wallowing in self-pity from the death of his wife two years earlier who to find some solitude moves into a fabulous furnished apartment. What he doesn't know is the previous tenant hasn't left not really. That's right it was Elizabeth's apartment and for whatever reason (seriously they don't entirely explain it) Elizabeth--or her spirit I guess--hasn't grasped the idea that she is in well limbo. Only David can see her of course as she yells at him for leaving sweat rings on the coffee table but Elizabeth eventually grows on him. She elicits his help in finding out what happened to her and with a little help from the eccentric Darryl (Jon Heder) a bookstore employee who has the gift for sensing spirits David and Elizabeth find that heaven and earth are not really that far apart.
As our romantic pair Witherspoon and Ruffalo do an adequate job adhering to the staid romantic comedy formula. Witherspoon is one of the more consistent comedic actresses these days and has the sweet but controlling ingénue routine down to a science. But it may be time for her to take a break from the standard fare and head back to the indies getting down and dirty like she did in Election. Ruffalo does a pretty impressive job for his second time as the romantic lead. As he did with 13 Going on 30 Ruffalo at least tries to add some quirky twists to a boring character. Still he should also probably stick to showcasing his dramatic acting talent in cool indies much like he did in You Can Count on Me. It's Heaven's side characters who have all the fun. Waters (The Haunted Mansion) does a nice turn as the caring sister who's own hectic life as a mother of two rambunctious kids always seems to interfere with what she's doing. Donal Logue (TV's Grounded For Life) as David's therapist best friend too has a fun time yuking it up. But the real standout in an otherwise dull universe is Napoleon Dynamite himself Jon Heder in his second feature film. He's still a geek but at least this time he's a mystical one who knows a thing or two about wandering spirits. Of course he also gets the best lines: "I'm 99.9 percent parched here. I need a cola." I'm going to use that one from now on.
As the director of the satirical Mean Girls and the cutesy Freaky Friday Mark Waters may be out of his element with an out and out romantic comedy. The initial idea about a women whose stuck in the spirit world until she finds the true love she never sought after in life is somewhat intriguing. But rather than play with that the film just ends up your standard romantic comedy while also stealing from other films such as Ghost and The Sixth Sense. Just Like Heaven also has some serious logistical flaws. For example seeing how Elizabeth is supposed to be a ghost--that she can't touch anything tangible and can walk through walls tables and just about anything else--she is later seen laying on top of a table. It doesn't make sense as to how she can walk through it at one moment and be on it the next. And the fact you are paying attention to these inconsistencies means you just aren't caring that much about the rest of the film.
December 03, 2003 9:35am EST
Sundance Film Festival officials have announced entries for dramatic, documentary and "American Spectrum" categories of the 2004 festival, which runs Jan. 15 through Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the competitive categories at this year's festival include big-name actors appearing in films by relatively unknown directors, and a record-breaking number of projects from black filmmakers and projects influenced by Sept. 11:
Actor Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, star alongside hip-hop artist Mos Def in The Woodsman, directed by Nicole Kassel. It revolves around a convicted pedophile who returns to his hometown after 12 years in prison and tries to start a new life.
Courteney Cox Arquette stars in November, directed by Greg Harrison, about a Los Angeles photographer who struggles to put the tragic circumstances of her boyfriend's death behind her.
John Curran's Adultery, starring Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts, follows two couples who are friends and whose relationships are intertwined.
Writer/director Rodney Evans' Brother to Brother is about an 18-year-old, gay, black artist who discovers the hidden legacies of gay and lesbian subcultures within the Harlem Renaissance. The film is one of a dozen projects that center on the black experience or are by black filmmakers--the most ever on a Sundance roster, according to the Reporter.
"We have 12 features that are either about, produced by or directed by African-American filmmakers," Festival director Geoff Gilmore said. "What's good is that it indicates that there are a lot of African-American filmmakers working in the independent arena because these are works that would not have been made for studios. It's really of interest to me to see a whole range of people now trying to produce independent work."
Gilmore added that some of the entries in this year's festival are the first generation of post-Sept. 11 films. "These are films by filmmakers that were entirely conceived, developed and then produced following those events," Gilmore told the Reporter. "The insularity of America pre-Sept. 11 and the assuredness that existed in the world at that time followed by the anxiety that exists in the world we are in now. These are films about trying to find things out."
The lineup for the festival's remaining categories and the opening night film are expected to be announced later today. Short films appearing at the festival will be announced Dec. 8.
The Best Thief in the World, Jacob Kornbluth
Book of Love, Alan Brown
Brother to Brother, Rodney Evans
Chrystal, Ray McKinnon
Down to the Bone, Debra Granik
Easy, Jane Weinstock
Evergreen, Enid Zentelis
Garden State, Zach Braff
Harry and Max, Christopher Munch
Maria Full of Grace, Joshua Marston
Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess
November, Greg Harrison
One Point O, Jeff Renfroe, MarteinnThorsson
Primer, Shane Carruth
Adultery, John Curran
The Woodsman, Nicole Kassell
A Place of Our Own, Stanley Nelson
Born Into Brothels, Ross Kauffman, ZanaBriksi
Chisholm '72 -- Unbought & Unbossed, Shola Lynch
Dig, Ondi Timoner
Farmingville, Catherine Tambini, Carlos Sandoval
The Fight, Barak Goodman
Heir to an Execution, Ivy Meeropol
Home of the Brave, Paola di Florio
I Like Killing Flies, Matt Mahurin
Imelda, Ramona S. Diaz
In the Realms of the Unreal, Jessica Yu
Deadline, Katy Chevigny, Kirsten Johnson
Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army, Robert Stone
Persons of Interest, Alison Maclean, Tobias Perse
Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock
Word Wars, Julian Petrillo
CSA: Confederate States of America, Kevin Willmott
Dandelion, Mark Milgard
Dirty Work, David Sampliner
Everyday People, Jim McKay
Lbs., Matthew Bonifacio
Let the Church Say Amen, David Petersen
Mean Creek, Jacob Aaron Estes
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
MVP, Harry Davis
Open Water, Chris Kentis
Second Best, Eric Weber
September Tapes, Christian Johnston
Speak, Jessica Sharzer
July 20, 2001 1:12pm EST
In a lighthearted riff on Homer's epic poem set in the Depression-era South verbose
charmer Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and two dimwitted cronies (John
Turturro Tim Blake Nelson) break free from a Mississippi chain gang only to face
a long series of trials including a trio of seductive laundry-washing sirens
and a fearsome one-eyed Bible salesman (Homer's Cyclops of course creepily portrayed
by John Goodman). Unlike the original Ulysses Everett also must contend with
pursuing cops Southern-friend politicians and the KKK if he is to prevent his
less-than-faithful former wife (Holly Hunter) from marrying a rival suitor.
Leading goofs Clooney Turturro and Nelson gamely get into the Three
Stooges-ish tone of the piece with Clooney in particular delivering a
winking self-mocking turn that must be his broadest screen performance to
date. Nelson ("The Thin Red Line") is also a riot as a mild-mannered yokel
for whom every slow-moving thought requires visible effort. Disappointingly
Coen veterans Goodman Hunter and Charles Durning have less to sink their
teeth into than in previous outings with the brothers.
Writer-director Joel and writer-producer Ethan Coen rack up yet another enjoyable
romp featuring all of their signature elements - playfully stylized camerawork
offbeat music colorful characters distanced by dripping irony. Evoking the road
comedies of the '30s and '40s this easygoing comic adventure has an old-fashioned
flavor and (for a Coen picture at least) a relative lack of graphic violence
that links it to the brothers' underrated 1994 Frank Capra homage "The Hudsucker
Proxy." Amusing as it is however "Brother" rarely achieves the same hilarious
heights as previous Coen laughers such as "Raising Arizona" and "The Big Lebowski."