Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
Today's a big day for fan-boys around the world, and an even bigger day for those in New Mexico. Walt Disney Pictures has officially begin production on The Avengers, Marvel Studios' uber-anticipated superhero spectacular which brings together the company's core characters for an expansive action-adventure experience unlike the world has ever seen.
Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Hawkeye, The Black Widow, Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will all assemble for this incredible film, written and to-be-directed by Joss Whedon. According to the official press release, which you can read below, Tom Hiddleston's Loki (who will battle his brother Thor on May 6th) will appear as the villain in the film, though I expect a few other familiar bad guys to show up in support of the demigod. In addition to the press release, have a look at the awesome set photo which shows the chairs of the respective heroes to get you amped up for what is easily the most hyped film of next year!
Production has commenced today in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Marvel Studios' highly anticipated movie "Marvel's The Avengers," directed by Joss Whedon ("Serenity") from a screenplay by Whedon. The film will continue principal photography in Cleveland, Ohio and New York City. Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") returns as the iconic Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") as Thor, Chris Evans ("Captain America: The First Avenger") as Captain America, Jeremy Renner ("Thor," "The Hurt Locker") as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are Alright") as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson ("Iron Man 2") as Black Widow, Clark Gregg ("Iron Man," "Thor") as Agent Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") as Nick Fury. Set for release in the US on May 4, 2012, "Marvel's The Avengers" is the first feature to be fully owned, marketed and distributed by Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009. Continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Thor," and "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Marvel's The Avengers" is the super hero team up of a lifetime. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, "Marvel's The Avengers" brings together the mightiest super hero characters as they all assemble together on screen for the first time. The star studded cast of super heroes will be joined by Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother) as Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tom Hiddleston ("Wallander") and Stellan Skarsgård ("Angels & Demons," "Mamma Mia!") who will both reprise their respective roles as Loki and Professor Erik Selvig from the upcoming Marvel Studios' feature "Thor." "Marvel's The Avengers" is being produced by Marvel Studios' President, Kevin Feige, and executive produced by Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Louis D'Esposito, Patty Whitcher, and Jon Favreau. Marvel Studios' Jeremy Latcham and Victoria Alonso will co-produce. The creative production team also includes Oscar nominated director of photography Seamus McGarvey ("Atonement"), production designer James Chinlund ("25th Hour"), Oscar winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), Oscar winning visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs ("Iron Man 2," "The Matrix"), visual effects producer Susan Pickett ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2"), stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell ("Superman Returns"), and four-time Oscar nominated special effects supervisor Dan Sudick ("Iron Man," "War of the Worlds"). The editors include Oscar nominated Paul Rubell ("Collateral") and Jeffrey Ford ("Crazy Heart"). Marvel Studios most recently produced "Iron Man 2" which was released in theatres on May 7, 2010. The sequel to "Iron Man," starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow as well as Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke, took the number one spot its first weekend with a domestic box office gross of $128.1 million. To date the film has earned over $620 million in worldwide box office receipts. In the summer of 2008, Marvel produced the summer blockbuster movies, "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk." "Iron Man," in which Robert Downey, Jr. originally dons the super hero's powerful armor alongside co-stars Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, was released May 2, 2008 and was an immediate box office success. Garnering the number one position for two weeks in a row, the film brought in over $100 million its opening weekend and grossed over $571 million worldwide. On June 13, 2008, Marvel released "The Incredible Hulk" marking its second number one opener of that summer. The spectacular revival of the iconic green goliath grossed over $250 million in worldwide box office receipts. Source: Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios
The majesty of the Emerald Isle is on full display in Leap Year an opposites attract romantic comedy starring Amy Adams (Julie & Julia Enchanted) and Matthew Goode (A Single Man Watchmen). Director Anand Tucker (Shopgirl Hilary and Jackie) shooting entirely on location in Ireland takes us on a whirlwind tour of the country’s breathtaking landscape reveling in its fabled fairy-tale charm.
Pity then that such a magnificent setting is so mercilessly defaced by Leap Year’s unrelenting mediocrity. The film’s dubious premise testing the already loose limits of rom-com believability casts Adams as Anna a type-A career girl who flies to Ireland intending to pop the question to her feet-dragging boyfriend on February 29th aka Leap Day. Why Leap Day? Because according to some idiotic old Irish tradition that’s when women are allowed to do such things. (Click here to watch Adams herself try to explain the plot.)
Unfortunately for Anna weather problems force her plane to land far away from Dublin and her would-be fiance. Trapped in a tiny coastal town with no reliable transportation at her disposal she enlists the help of a scruffy abrasive barkeep named Declan (Goode) to drive her cross-country so she can reach her destination by the 29th. And thus begins the traditional rom-com mating ritual of sexually-charged bickering followed by moments of abrupt awkward intimacy.
While watching Leap Year I swear I could hear the Irish countryside quietly weeping as it witnessed Goode and Adams slog through the film's succession of trite misadventures the talented actors straining in vain to manufacture some semblance of romantic chemistry as an assortment of jolly Waking Ned Devine types futilely spurred them on. Oh if only Greenpeace could have intervened and put a halt to such wanton environmental desecration. It's the worst thing to come out of Ireland since The Cranberries.
On its first day of release in Britain, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone sold an astounding 1.25 million video and DVD copies, breaking the 1.1 million sales record set by Titanic in 1997. Some stores even opened at midnight Friday to sell the video and reported large crowds, The Associated Press reports. Harry Potter videos and DVDs, which are distributed by Warner Home Video, are set to go on sale in the United States on May 28.
Madonna made her West End debut in the play Up For Grabs at London's Wyndhams Theatre on Monday evening. While members of the press were not allowed into the auditorium, fans who saw the preview show commented that the pop star got off to a nervous start but that her performance improved as she went along, according to the BBC. The show opens for a 10-week run starting on May 23.
Nicole Kidman's camp is dismissing rumors that the Aussie star is dating Spider-Man thesp Tobey Maguire. "They hung out together some, a couple of weekends ago. End of story. No romance," a spokeswoman said. Funny--we never even heard of the rumor until now.
"It's all untrue." That is what ex-football star O.J. Simpson is saying about an article that appeared in Ohio paper Toledo Blade, which alleges he did illegal drugs, the AP reports. According to the article, admitted drug dealers told federal agents they snorted cocaine with Simpson as far back as 1999 and sold him the drug as recently as seven months ago.
Sylvester Stallone, Thandie Newton, Gabriel Byrne and Stuart Townsend will star in Damian Nieman's directorial debut, Shade, for RKO Pictures. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film is set in the world of poker hustlers working the clubs and martini bars of Los Angeles. Production begins in Los Angeles May 30.
Friends star Matthew Perry has agreed to star in two films for Paramount Pictures, including One of Us, a drama in which he falls in love with an alien who's cloaked in human form, Variety reports. Perry will follow that film with a comedy. The deal comes after Perry filmed Paramount's Serving Sara, alongside Elizabeth Hurley, which hits theaters this August.
In the Biz
Paramount has more than the Friends star up its sleeve. The studio, along with MTV Films, has teamed up with Ludacris and Original Film to develop a feature film based on the rap star. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Skip Day will be a sort of House Party meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Ludacris starring as a teenager who is transferred from an inner-city school to an uptight suburban prep school.
Following the success of the hit series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Amazing Race, producer Jerry Bruckheimer is churning out four new shows for CBS this fall. The network has already picked up Bruckheimer's CSI: Miami and Without a Trace, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
A new Gallup Poll shows that Johnny Carson is ranked the best late-night talk-show host of all time, CNN reports. Respondents were asked to pick from six hosts, including David Letterman, Jay Leno, Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Dick Cavett.
Richard Karn, who played Al on the successful series Home Improvement, will become the host of Family Feud, the AP reports. Karn will replace Louis Anderson.
U2 frontman Bono and U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill will begin a 10-day tour of Africa on May 20, the AP reports. The duo will visit Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Ethiopia to visit schools, AIDS clinics and various World Bank development projects.
Indiana Jones star Harrison Ford accepted an award from Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment on Monday, the AP reports. Ford was honored for his work with the board of Conservation International, in helping to save various plants and animals around the world.
There's a new player in Disney's executive game of musical chairs. Chief Michael Eisner has named ABC chief Robert Iger as president, filling the hole left by Michael Ovitz when he jumped ship in 1996, says The Associated Press.
Iger's appointment, along with other managerial promotions, is expected to help the entertainment giant overcome its recent troubles, which included sagging stock prices and the departure of Disney studio chief Joe Roth. Seems things are already in turnaround: Disney also announced a 7 percent jump in first-quarter earnings.
INDUSTRIAL COUPLE: Time Warner, which already seems to own everything, is making another deal -- this time with British music giant EMI. It was announced today that the two would merge music businesses to create a new monster -- er, company, worth $20 billion.
Time Warner, whose labels include Warner Bros., Elektra, Atlantic and Rhino and is home to Madonna and Alanis Morissette, will now be able to add EMI's Garth Brooks, the Beastie Boys and legacies such as The Beatles and Frank Sinatra to its family.
The new giant will be called Warner EMI Music, according to Daily Variety. The deal is expected to close in the second half of this year. No word if this marriage will result in some new duets: for instance, guitar crooner Jewel giving props with rapper Master P, or the Spice Girls with that other seasoning group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
GOLDEN COUPLE? The most intriguing pair at Sunday's Golden Globes was Jodie Foster and Russell Crowe, who arrived at the ceremony cozily hand-in-hand. Those who watched the broadcast through its credits also caught a glimpse of Crowe, 35, pointing and smiling at the camera, then pulling Foster, 37, in for a whisper or nuzzle, we couldn't tell. Was it staged?
"That was the intention," the best dramatic actor nominee ("The Insider") told the New York Daily News of the sensation they created. Foster joked, "He paid me."
For the record, Foster's rep says the two are friends and might be pairing up for a film. Well, let's hope it's a love story, because they did look mighty fine together.
GOLDEN COUPLE, PART II: We told you last week the rumor about Jim Carrey, 37, giving Renée Zellweger, 30, a $200,000 diamond "friendship ring." The couple was asked about the ring -- and their status -- at the Golden Globes. "Yeah, wasn't it nice?" Zellweger said on the red carpet, holding out her hand -- only to show no ring in sight. The two laughed about it but would only say that they're "friends." Still, 22 million people saw the Golden Globe winner (for "Man on the Moon") give his "friend" a big smooch on the lips before accepting his award.
LITTLE MAN FARROW: Mia Farrow's son might be heading off to college. But she'll have to drive him, since he's only 12 years old. Seamus Farrow has applied to attend Columbia University in the fall and already takes college classes in Massachusetts. But his mother worries about it; not the difficulty level, but the arduous commute to New York City from their home in Bridgewater, Conn.
"It's such a long ride," she told the New York Daily News. "Part of me would like to put it off, but he's intent on going."
CELTIC PRIDE: Gabriel Byrne is proud to be an Irishman -- so proud, in fact, that he's taking shots at everyone else going Irish.
The 49-year-old actor, who last played Satan in the actioner "End of Days," is a bit perturbed about his homeland's use in Hollywood and speaks his mind in an interview in Irish America magazine. "I don't think it's necessarily a good thing that Mel Gibson and Steven Spielberg came to Ireland to shoot 'Braveheart' and 'Saving Private Ryan,'" he said. "Spielberg shot there because it was cheap, and he got to use the Irish Army. I don't like to see the country being used as a cheap location for huge multi-million dollar movies."
He also isn't keen on non-Irish actors playing Irish characters. "There are a lot of really brilliant Irish actors and actresses that never get a chance to do anything." Despite his love for Frank McCourt's book "Angela's Ashes," he fired off about the film adaptation. "An Irish movie?" said Byrne. "It's directed by an Englishman, Alan Parker. The screenplay is by an American writer (Laura Jones). It has a Scottish actor (Robert Carlyle) playing the father and an English actress (Emily Watson) playing the mother." We're just glad no one asked him to rate Brad Pitt's much-criticized brogue in "The Devil's Own." --