It was 1999, and David O. Russell was new to the industry — he had only directed two films to date, fostering stars like Jeremy Davies (Spanking the Monkey) and Ben Stiller(Flirting with Disaster). And then came Three Kings. The filmmaker's first straight drama, his first pickup by a Big Five production company, is also his first collaboration with Mark Wahlberg: his muse in the making.
Following Three Kings, Russell and Wahlberg partnered on the offbeat comedy I Heart Huckabees and the Oscar-nominated drama biopic The Fighter. And for a while, it was expected that Wahlberg would take the lead in Russell's upcoming romance/dramedy, Silver Linings Playbook. But top-billing in that picture ultimately landed in the hands of Bradley Cooper, whom Russell has cast in his next movie, an untitled project formerly named American Bulls***. On top of this, Russell discussed with The Hollywood Reporter on a desire to work with Cooper on a third film: American Sniper — a property to which Cooper presently has the rights.
So, the days of Russell/Wahlberg might be over. But will Russell's partnership with Cooper really be able to reproduce, or perhaps top, the magic he and his first muse managed in Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees, and the critical/popular topper of the lot, The Fighter?
It's not like it hasn't been done — there have been plenty of directors who have moved from one acting muse to another, for whatever reason, resulting in some fantastic work:
Original Muse: Robert De Niro
Collaborations: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Mad Dog and Glory, Casino
Replacement Muse: Leonardo DiCaprio
Collaborations: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street
Original Muse: Matt Damon
Collaborations: Oceans Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, The Brothers Grimm, Syriana, Ocean's Thirteen, Che, The Informant!, Contagion
Replacement Muse: Channing Tatum
Collaborations: Haywire, Magic Mike, The Bitter Pill
Original Muse: Tarantino has collaborated with several people on multiple occasions — Samuel L. Jackson, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth — but the director's true original muse is undoubtedly Uma Thurman
Collaborations: Pulp Fiction, the Kill Bill movies
Replacement Muse: Christoph Waltz
Collaborations: Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained
Original Muse: Diane Keaton
Collaborations: Play It Again, Sam, Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan, Radio Days, Manhattan Murder Mystery
Replacement Muses: Diane Wiest, Mia Farrow, Daryl Hannah, Judy Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz...
Collaborations: Every remaining movie he has ever made
So is it possible? Heck yes. Clearly, Russell has found something in Cooper that inspires him. That's all it takes for two talented people to make magic. I Heart Huckabees-level magic, though? Hard to say...
[Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company]
TIFF 2012: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence Give Career Bests in 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Amy Adams in 'American Bulls**t': How Many ‘Fighter’ People Will This Film Involve?
Bradley Cooper Can't Get Enough of Oscar Winner Russell, Re-teams for 'American Bulls**t'
Ten years ago, if you'd have told me that the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun might be the next Tarantino star, I'd have been skepitcal. But if you told me that this morning,...well, I'd probably ask why you're still referring to Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun. He's been in a ton of films since then. And his possible next venture might very well be the best of all: Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Word has it, the 50/50 and Inception star might be joining the Civil War-era Western from the Inglourious Basterds director.
Tarantino movies are capable of inspiring excitement over apparently mediocre casting decisions; the director has derived unforgettable performances from otherwise forgettable actors. So, when we hear that someone we're all very into lately might sign up for a Tarantino role—especially someone with the quirky versatility of JGL—it produces an almost unhealthy level of glee. If cast, Gordon-Levitt will join Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson in the film.
The closest thing Gordon-Levitt has done to anything Tarantino-esque was probably the rhythmic, stylistic 2005 neo-noir Brick, in which he played a lonely teenager investigating a drug ring at his high school. Nonetheless, Tarantino's twisted world would be a leap for the actor, which makes it all the more exciting.
Again, Tarantino movies are known from provoking unexpected tour-de-force performances from unappreciated actors. After John Travolta had lost a chunk of his credit as a talented actor, his performance as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction catapulted him to a level of profound respect. Likewise, these films have also brought out sides to actors we never imagined we'd see: who really expected Daryl Hannah to be so chilling, or Eli Roth to be so gripping?
So what new things could we experience with Gordon-Levitt in Django Unchained? His recent film run has hit us with a few pleasant surprises already. If this deal does come into fruition, we can bet that whatever it does end up showing us will be nuts.
I could probably come up with a better pan for Mr. Popper’s Penguins than “flightless and foul ” but that would entail expending more creative energy on the film than its makers did. Directed by Mark Waters (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past The Spiderwick Chronicles) and based on a 1938 children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater it is so empty and artificial and formulaic that if I didn’t know better I would have pegged it as a very cynical parody or perhaps a film within a film about some desperate mafioso’s questionable money-laundering scheme.
Jim Carrey looking tired and perhaps a little embarrassed plays the title role of an arrogant self-absorbed businessman who is taught a variety of valuable life lessons by a sextet of penguins. The penguins bequeathed to Mr. Popper in his neglectful father’s last will and testament each exhibit a single personality trait which immediately makes them more emotionally complex than the film in which they appear.
They’re assigned names accordingly: there’s Captain the leader Loudy the screamer Lovey the hugger Bitey the biter Stinkey the farter and Nimrod the stumbler. I only wish this functional naming scheme were extended to the rest of the characters in the film – i.e. Clark Gregg is Nemesis Carla Gugino is Motivation Angela Lansbury is Conscience and so on. If anything it would have allowed the filmmakers to excise a healthy chunk of dialogue which in the case of Mr. Popper’s Penguins only exists to punish the brain.
The film boasts three credited screenwriters among its crew. Though I’m not privy to each writer’s specific contributions I imagine their duties were divided in roughly this fashion: 1) scrub the story of all imagination or wit; 2) remove any deviations from pat Hollywood formula; and 3) cram it with as much toilet humor as the MPAA will allow in a PG film. You’d think that a single writer could have mangled a beloved
children's book just as convincingly but you’d be wrong: This kind of
debacle requires a team effort.
British comedy Kinky Boots is heading for Broadway--the 2005 film is to be made into a stage musical.
The movie, which stars Talk to Me actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, is about a drag queen who is brought in to help revive a man's shoe company.
The rights for the project, which was not a musical, have been bought by veteran producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig and they plan to turn the film into a song-and-dance affair for their New York audience.
Roth tells the Hollywood Reporter, "The story is about relationships and I want to find the heart at the center of it."
Jerry Mitchell, the director of Broadway's Legally Blonde, is reportedly in talks to take the helm of the Kinky Boots production.
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Heaven. Hell. Us humans in the middle. It's all very complicated. But John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) seems to have a handle on it. Born with a gift he says no human should ever have he has the ability to see what he calls "half-breeds"--angels and demons that walk the earth in human skin (and apparently there are a lot of them). Of course the horror of it is too much to bear and Constantine tries to take his own life. But he fails. Now having been to hell and back again quite literally Constantine is marked as an attempted suicide with a temporary lease on life. He patrols the earthly border between heaven and hell acting as an exorcist of sorts. Of course the guy isn't doing it because he feels empathy for the human race or anything. It's for purely selfish reasons. He hopes that if he sends the devil's foot soldiers back to the depths he'll gain some kind of redemption a free get-out-of-jail card so to speak. Constantine's attitude changes however when a skeptical police detective Angela (Rachel Weisz) enlists his help in solving the mysterious death of her beloved twin sister. They end up uncovering a twisted master plan brewing between the demons and angels which could bring about a catastrophic series of otherworldly events. Perfect.
John Constantine is a little like The Matrix's Neo--an ultra-cool but tormented man of little words with a sardonic fatalistic outlook on life who kicks a myriad of nasty-looking demons (instead of a myriad of nasty-looking machines) back from whence they came. Yes Reeves has done this before but that's because he's good at it. You can't blame him for sticking with something that works. Weisz also holds her own as the devoutly religious Angela who nonetheless has a hard time believing there are actual angels and demons running around among us. That is of course until she spends about 10 minutes with Constantine and sees just how real they are. As far as the rest of the humans in the film Shia LaBeouf (Holes) does a nice comical turn as Constantine's sidekick and protégé while Djimon Hounsou (In America) works his voodoo mojo as a witch doctor who has a long-standing if strained relationship with Constantine. The not-so-human counterparts are equally intriguing. Peter Stormare (Fargo) delivers a somewhat over-the-top but devilishly eccentric performance as Satan. Tilda Swinton (The Deep End) dons the wings of the arch-angel Gabriel to whom Constantine is always asking for a reprieve but who has got her own agenda.
Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo comic-book Hellblazer Constantine is demonic eye candy. Obviously inspired by the many music videos he's helmed in the past director Francis Lawrence making his feature film debut paints a pretty dark and moody world with shadowy wet rat-infested (or cockroach-infested) corners that hide the horrific demon half-breeds as well as all other kinds of terrible baddies. Then when we get into Hades itself where the demons and seplavites--a sub-genre of the damned who are sightless mindless soul eaters--prowl it's an apocalyptic landscape. Lovely place. Unfortunately the script isn't nearly as stimulating. It must be an arduous task adapting a series of comic books so to his credit screenwriter Kevin Brodbin does do a nice job introducing us to Constantine and his world. But Brodbin seems to have incorporated too much. As the action escalates more and more plot points and characters are thrown in complicating matters. By the time the long-winded climax is over you're exhausted.