The age-old debate over fate vs. free will has been and always will be a tough theme to crack in any medium but with the benefits of modern filmmaking technology the theory can be explored in ways that Philip K. Dick never imagined. However when one relies too heavily on spectacle to tell a story a piece of cerebral science fiction can quickly become just another action extravaganza. In this day and age there’s a fine line between the two; The Matrix walked that tightrope with style and grace while Next never found its footing in the first place. Fortunately the precious work of novelist Dick has for the most part been treated with respect by Hollywood (the aforementioned Nic Cage dud notwithstanding) but that doesn’t necessarily mean movies based on his stories are completely faithful to his vision.
Case in point: George Nolfi’s directorial debut The Adjustment Bureau an adaptation of Dick’s short story “Adjustment Team.” The film stars Matt Damon as David Norris a successful businessman and rising political candidate who after a chance encounter with the girl of his dreams (Emily Blunt) loses a crucial election. He happens to run into her on a Manhattan bus the following week before finding his office swarming with masked men who are “adjusting” everyone inside. Richardson (John Slattery) the man in charge captures Norris who unsuccessfully flees the scene after seeing behind “a curtain he wasn’t even supposed to know existed” as the enigmatic figure puts it. From that point on Norris must live with the knowledge that he (and we for that matter) is not in control of his own life. Rather the choices he makes fit perfectly into “The Plan” that’s been written by “the Chairman”.
In relation to my earlier statement I have to say that Nolfi’s picture looks stunning but his natural urban aesthetic doesn’t overpower the story. Sleek contemporary production design and elegant costumes characterize the high-concept story and the wraithlike agents who shape our destinies. Topically we’re dealing with some heavy material but Nolfi and editor Jay Rabinowitz move the action along at a brisk pace that keeps you engaged and entertained without having to try. The film is properly proportioned as a chase thriller romantic adventure and sci-fi fantasy and thankfully no component overshadows another.
Setting the film in the world of politics and big business helps make its larger-than-life revelations a bit more accessible (as do appearances from Michael Bloomberg Jon Stewart and Chuck Scarborough) while providing sub-text about the corruption involved in elections and campaigns (there are conspicuous shades of The Manchurian Candidate in the movie) but the writer-director often tries too hard for broad appeal. For a film with existential implications as severe as they are here the dialogue is at times hokey and superficial. Dick’s source material is far more abstract and Nolfi for the sake of commercial success panders to the palette of soccer moms and mallrats.
What’s worse is his unwarranted exposition of the Bureau a shadowy organization whose major allure is anonymity. Some secrets are best kept and less can be so much more when crafting a mysterious atmosphere; Nolfi reaches that level of magnetic curiosity but squanders it as he reveals the truth about the Bureau and its grand scheme. On the other hand he brushes over the technical lingo between agents Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) McCrady (Anthony Ruivivar) and others without explanation perhaps hoping that the ambiguous terminology will fool you into thinking that his script is smarter than it really is.
Even though Nolfi’s allegorical conclusions are uncomfortably ham-fisted the chemistry between Damon and Blunt alone is enough to enchant you; this is one highly watchable cinematic pairing that should be revisited as soon as possible. Their innocent relationship blossoms organically and together they make it seem as natural on screen as it is for their star-crossed characters. Even if you have a hard time believing in higher powers or manipulative Orwellian forces you’ll have faith in David and Elise’s fated relationship one of the most captivating couplings I’ve seen on the big-screen in some time.
The British actor, best known for playing Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the cult show, passed away in London on Tuesday (22Feb11) after a short illness.
Courtney started his acting career with appearances on U.K. TV series including The Avengers and The Champions before landing his role on Doctor Who.
He made his first appearance in the sci-fi hit in 1965, and went on to star in more than 100 episodes until 1989.
Courtney is survived by his wife Karen and two children, Philip and Bella.
Kevin Spacey is in talks to join the cast of Horrible Bosses, media outlets are reporting.
The New Line comedy will start production next month in the tale of three co-workers who hatch a plan to kill one another's bosses. Harkening back to his turn in Swimming with Sharks, Spacey will play one of the bosses along with Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston. Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are set to play the co-workers. Jamie Foxx is also on board.
Spacey's role, per The Hollywood Reporter, is described as meaty and integral to the movie and New Line was in talks with several names, including Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jeff Bridges, before nabbing Spacey.
Brett Ratner and Jay Stern are producing with Seth Gordon directing.
The project was set up in early 2005 based on Michael Markowitz's spec script. Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley rewrote the script.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
The Lookout begins like what might seem a teen horror flick with a convertible full of prom kids speeding and then crashing along a dark road at night. Luckily what follows is decidedly adult. The driver of the car Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) suffered brain trauma as a result of the accident and in the four years since has struggled with memory and sensory lapses. He lives with a man named Lewis (Jeff Daniels) who has his own handicap: blindness. Chris helps with everything Lewis can’t see and Lewis in return mentors his much-younger friend about life. But Lewis is rendered helpless in Chris’ latest conundrum. After an encounter with an old friend (Matthew Goode) Chris is persuaded to aid in the robbery of the Kansas City bank at which he is a night janitor. He likes the rediscovered sense of autonomy the proposed heist brings him and the rebelliousness of robbing the bank whose boss won’t let him become a teller; he also likes the girl (Isla Fisher) that’s apparently a throw-in. But when it comes time to literally and figuratively pull the trigger Chris is rattled by second thoughts--and clarity. Whereas the Lindsays and Britneys of Hollywood perpetuate the "Former Child Star" cliché Gordon-Levitt makes it a title worth being proud of. The former Third Rock from the Sun star has stayed pretty much under the radar for the past several years on his way to becoming one of the best young actors former child star or not but he can only resist big paydays for so long with such talent. In The Lookout Levitt is able to grasp the less-is-more concept that is usually only understood by actors decades his senior. In so doing he adds depth mystery and suffering to a character that probably would’ve been played quirkily by most of his peers. But Levitt never needs to play for laughs because he’s got Daniels--speaking of quirky--for that. The ever-self-reinventing actor continues his odd role choice and great performances in the film by serving up primarily much-needed comic relief. Fisher (Wedding Crashers) has breakout potential and leading-lady looks and acting chops but she’s inexplicably offscreen too much while Goode (Match Point) who will make the female viewers blush is ominous from the first scene he’s in--and that’s a compliment. The Lookout's writer-director Scott Frank is a first-time director but don’t call him a rookie. One of the most highly regarded screenwriters of the past 20 years Frank has twice worked wonders with Elmore Leonard novels (Out of Sight Get Shorty) and done justice to sci-fi god Philip K. Dick (Minority Report) in addition to penning his own material (Little Man Tate and others). Indeed the man knows his drama. While The Lookout may not appeal to some of the aforementioned authors’ fans Frank’s story is wholly original and in many ways seems adapted from his own crime-fiction novel--he’s a true writer’s writer. Frank relies on the occasional flashback an unfortunate form of exposition but with such deep rich characters that he thought up one little crutch is forgivable even necessary. As a director Frank could do a lot worse and more pretentious than The Lookout for his first of hopefully many efforts; in fact the vast majority of his veteran contemporaries should be so lucky as to have their best dramas be as engrossing as Frank’s first.
The Toronto Star assigned Daphne Gordon, its "Totally Blonde Entertainment Reporter," to write its review of Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon: It begins: "I've decided that while it's fun being beautiful, and it's fun being smart, it's even funner being beautiful and smart. I decided this last night, after I saw the cool new flick Legally Blonde. I totally loved it because it made me feel like it's okay to have highlights and still have big-time aspirations like becoming Prime Minister of Canada, or at least marrying a politician's son." Kenneth Turan -- hair color unknown -- of the Los Angeles Times is not nearly so enthusiastic: "Legally Blonde is basically Clueless Goes to Harvard," he writes. "Nothing wrong with that notion, but, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I've seen Clueless and this is no Clueless." On the other hand, Philip Wuntch comments in the Dallas Morning News: "As a comedy that celebrated shallowness while ostensibly scorning it, Clueless boasted sharper dialogue and direction. But Ms. Witherspoon far outdistances Clueless' Alicia Silverstone." Susan Wloszczyna in USA Today says the movie amounts to "Perry Mason Meets Miss Clairol." Her verdict: "Guilty of inciting a near-laugh riot thanks to an irresistible leading lady whose comic instincts are as impeccable as her manicure."
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.