In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with Man on a Ledge a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.
Director Asger Leth making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script from Pablo F. Fenjves provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The Pretty Woman actress stars in the big screen adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's travel memoir, which sees her travel to India as part of a spiritual pilgrimage to learn about yoga, meditation and life in an ashram.
Roberts, whose parents are Baptist and Catholic, was so captivated by the ancient religion, she experienced her own spiritual awakening during the shoot and returned home as a Hindu.
She tells Elle magazine, "I'm definitely a practising Hindu."
The actress reveals she regularly goes to temple to "chant, pray and celebrate" and even takes her husband Danny Moder and their three kids, three-year-old Henry and five-year-old twins Phinnaeus and Hazel, with her.
Roberts has also adopted the belief in reincarnation and she hopes her next life will be a "quiet" one.
She says, "Golly, I've been so spoiled with my friends and family in this life. Next time I want to be just something quiet and supporting."
Adult film star Sasha Grey is eyeing a role alongside Jeremy Piven, Thomas Jane, and Rob Lowe in I Melt With You. Zander Eckhouse, Abhi Sinha and Arielle Kebbel are also joining the cast of Mark Pellington’s microbudgeted drama.
The Hollywood Reporter provided a more detailed plot summary for the dark thriller. The film will follow “a group of college buddies (Jane, Lowe and Piven) who, now as adults, look within themselves and find emptiness when they have their annual summer reunion.” Says THR. “They resurrect a pact they vowed to live, die and kill by.” Grey, who made her clothed acting debut in Steven Soderberg’s The Girlfriend Experience last year, will play Raven, a “free spirit” who “helps one of the men realize that nirvana can only be achieved by death”. Eckhouse will play her boyfriend.
I Melt With You started off as a fairly mundane navel-gazer, but the more we learn about it the more absurd it seems. It's been years since Jeremy Piven was able to act without getting "mercury poisoning", and then there's the budget, which is supposedly under one million dollars. We're not sure what to make of Grey, either. Not that the porn star-come-actress (sorry) isn't capable, her performance in The Girlfriend Experience was generally praised, but the fact that someone decided to cast a porn star and use her to discuss Buddhist philosophy seems like a strange leap of logic.
Rob Cowan (The Crazies) and Norm Reiss, who worked with Pellington on last year’s Henry Poole Is Here, are producing the film, with Neil Labute, Heidi Levitt, Aaron Gilbert and Thomas Jane executive producing.
Two HBO stars are about to get serious. Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane, of Entourage and Hung, respectively, have joined I Melt With You, an ensemble thriller about the lives of four middle-aged men. Director Mark Pellington, of The Mothman Prophecies, described the film as “very dark and very low budget” and said that it deals with “mortality, aging and friendship”. I can’t speak for dark, but the film is definitely low budget, costing less than one million dollars despite its ensemble, and name, cast.
Rob Cowan (The Crazies) and Norm Reiss, who worked with Pellington on last year’s Henry Poole Is Here, are producing the film, with Neil Labute, Heidi Levitt, Aaron Gilbert and Thomas Jane executive producing. Pellington worked on the script with Glenn Porter, who, according to always-reliable IMDB, usually works in visual effects. No word yet if Modern English will provide the soundtrack, but I can only hope.
Since it’s probably already stuck in your head, here’s the song.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Even for young people who blank when Peter Sellers’ name is mentioned Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme means Inspector Clouseau is back—the song’s more famous than a Beyonce Knowles tune! The latest “episode”: After France’s soccer coach is murdered and his Pink Panther ring stolen an opportunistic Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) calls on Clouseau to botch the investigation and thereby make himself a hero. “Ze inspyecteur” clumsily tackles the case and almost everybody he meets along the way including his sidekick Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno) his pretty coworker Nicole (Emily Mortimer) and international pop star Xania (Knowles) the coach’s girlfriend. Clouseau ignorantly bumbles along embarrassing all in his path en route to meager investigatory work. The clean end result is obvious so the story revolves around the series of minor calamities he sets into motion on the way. Granted most viewers’ frame of reference for the film will be its cartoon series but Martin’s take on the iconic Clouseau will still be met with skepticism. His SNL mania makes cameos and the scenes from the trailer are all indeed hilarious for young and old viewers but both are few and far between. Martin does physical comedy perhaps better than anyone but it doesn’t translate to a nouveau Clouseau—only a non-blasphemous one. Then there’s Beyonce... So beautiful so glamorous such a good voice. Those strengths are apparently enough to land top billing while acting—her weakness—takes a backseat. The fact that her dubious character’s longest scene comes while inexplicably performing a song condemns the film to one of modern-vanity when it in spots feels nostalgic. Kline also contributing little makes it seem like he hammered out his role on a brief jaunt to Paris. Shawn Levy seems to be on the same page with Martin (whom he’s now directed or produced in three films) mass audiences and (thus) financiers. His mastery poor-man’s slapstick continues and is in full-swing in Panther which will possibly take him from the proverbial “cusp” to the “big times” as a director. Levy shows great skill in showcasing the best that Martin has to offer as a physical comedian. Martin who co-wrote the film and Levy do make a formidable team when it comes to pratfall humor but like their Cheaper by the Dozen collaborations “enough is enough” is the overwhelming feeling midway in. As for the big blunders think more PG-rated Naked Gun gags--complete with a Lt. Drebin look-alike—than Panther hilarity of ’63. Overall Levy again displays promise but it’d be nice to see what he’s really capable of as a filmmaker rather than a film manipulator.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.