Magnolia Pictures via Everett Collection
Actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley is reportedly set to adapt author John Green's Looking For Alaska for the big screen. Bosses at Paramount Pictures are in talks with the Dawn of the Dead star to work on a script and potentially direct the film version of the best-selling debut novel by The Fault In Our Stars author Green, according to Deadline.com.
Paramount executives bought the rights to the 2005 novel, about a 16-year-old boy and his adventures in an Alabama boarding school, the same year the book was released, and hired The O.C. creator Josh Schwartz to write and direct the film. Green stated on his website that despite the fact that he "desperately loved" the screenplay, "there was no enthusiasm for that kind of movie at Paramount".
However, thanks to the success of The Fault in Our Stars, which recently surpassed the $166 million (£98 million) mark at the worldwide box office, studio bosses have since revitalised the project.
Green's 2008 mystery novel Paper Towns is also set for a big screen adaptation, reuniting him with The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone, and actor/singer Nat Wolff, who appears in the cancer drama alongside Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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They say it's the golden era of TV – what with dramas like Mad Men and Homeland on the air (not to mention the recently dearly departed Breaking Bad), it's hard to argue with fact. But even with stiff competition from more recent critical darlings, Slings and Arrows (off the air for almost ten years now) is still one of the best TV shows I've ever seen.
Helmed by unstable artistic director Geoffrey Tennant (Paul Gross), ghost (yes, ghost) Oliver Wells (Stephen Ouimette), and resident diva Ellen Fanshaw (Martha Burns), the performances on this show are superb. Oh, and series writers Mark McKinney and Susan Coyne are equally blessed in acting gifts as they are in writing gifts (lucky bastards). You'll also want to look out for pre-fame Rachel McAdams taking her turn as Ophelia, Sarah Polley figuratively killin' it as Cordelia, and William Hutt literally killin' it as Lear.
Full of theater archetypes that you know and love/hate – the "ingénue" who chooses to play Ophelia as if she's stoned, the constantly harangued stage manager, and Darren Nichols, who perfectly embodies every pretentious douchebag director you ever saw (down to the ratty scarves and tinted, black-framed glasses) – Slings and Arrows is (probably literally) a laugh a minute.
And that's not even taking into account the way it deftly adapts some of Shakespeare's most loved plays: season one tackles Hamlet (cheer up, you melancholy Dane!), season two takes on the Scottish play, and the final season does King Lear (and no Lear is complete without a heroin-shooting lead actor, right?). The original tagline for the show was, "The real show is backstage," and it lives up that statement. The drama of the actors and production team mirrors, transforms – and dare I say, elevates? – Shakespeare's magic.
This show has an inherent beauty (not to mention a wonderful sense of humor) that everyone will be able to respond to. So queue up that Netflix Instant Watch!
With 50/50 hitting theaters this week, we’re taking a look at cancer movies. A rather grim concept, we know, but as the Seth Rogen/Joseph Gordon-Levitt dramedy proves, not all movies about the disease are straight tearjerkers – in fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find two ‘"big C" movies that are that similar.
Here are the ones that, be it for their harsh realism, uplifting nature or superb performances, we think got it right.
My Life Without Me
Sarah Polley stars in this subtly devastating drama, as a 23-year-old woman diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, a secret she keeps and uses as a impetus to live like she never has before. The movie is a tad manipulative, but the acting – from Polley and costars Scott Speedman and Mark Ruffalo – more than makes up for it.
Terms of Endearment
Widely considered one of the forefathers of the dramedy, James L. Brooks’ 1983 Oscar behemoth isn’t necessarily about cancer, but the disease plays a large part—and when it strikes star Debra Winger, Brooks depicts it for what it can be: a cruel disease that sometimes even movie protagonists can’t fight off.
This HBO movie unfolds like the Pulitzer-winning play on which it is based, featuring Emma Thompson – whose Vivian Bearing is bedridden with terminal ovarian cancer – often looking into and speaking to the camera. Thompson’s remarkable, Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated performance, coupled with a somewhat refreshing spin on the terrible disease, make Wit one of the best cancer movies of all time.
Life as a House
While emotionally predictable from the get-go, the metaphor-heavy Life as a House is an ultimately touching movie—especially for the teenaged set. Kevin Kline elevates what might otherwise have been a decent TV movie to a solid father-and-son dramedy.
Better known for its chemistry than quality (and the line "Love means never having to say you're sorry"), Love Story is still widely considered the definitive on-screen...well, love story. And nothing tugs at the audience’s heartstrings, viewing after viewing, more than the side story of Jenny’s (Ali MacGraw) condition, assumed to be leukemia.
It’s hard to say where it ranks in Akira Kurosawa’s canon, but on the cancer-movie list, Ikiru is way up there. The legendary Japanese director told the story of a terminally ill cancer patient trying to find meaning during his final days—long before that became a sort of template for this subgenre—in an exploratory, satirical and always brilliant fashion. Ikiru is a gem from the early ‘50s that is definitely worth tracking down.
No such list would be complete without this 1971 TV MOTW, based on the true story of football players Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and their friendship during the former’s ultimately losing battle with cancer. Also known as “the movie that makes dudes cry.”
An unrelenting downer—but what else could you expect from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams)? And what else could you expect from Javier Bardem but a top-notch performance? And of course, “downer” isn’t synonymous with “bad”—the movie, about a man privately dealing with terminal cancer amid other tumult, is actually quite amazing … if you’re prepared for its constant gut punch.
This weekend's box office competition has been Rundown.
The action-comedy The Rundown, starring the formidable The Rock, premiered at the top of the box office this weekend with $18.5 million*, while the sun shined on another newcomer, the escapist Under the Tuscan Sun, which opened in second place with $9.406 million.
The Rundown shoved last week's headliner Underworld back to No. 3 with $9.4 million, while the sappy Secondhand Lion only tepidly growled into fourth place with $8.2 million. The toe-tappin' The Fighting Temptations rounded out the top five with $6.4 million.
The other wide release, the mean-spirited Duplex, only managed seventh place with a measly $4.4 million, while the indie tearjerker My Life Without Me opened in limited theaters with $40,199.
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13-rated The Rundown reigned supreme in its opening weekend with an ESTIMATED $18.5 million in 3,152 theaters, averaging $5,869 per theater.
The Rock plays a bounty hunter who heads to Brazil to retrieve his kingpin boss's son. But before long, the two must team up in order to escape hidden traps and obstacles they encounter in the jungle.
Directed by Peter Berg, it also stars Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson and Christopher Walken.
Buena Vista's PG-13-rated Under the Tuscan Sun made a sweet debut at No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $9.4 million in a much smaller release--only 1,226 theaters--making its $7,672 per theater average the highest of any film playing wide this week.
In this romantic comedy, a wounded divorcee searches for true love when she pulls up roots and impetuously buys a villa in scenic Tuscany.
Directed by Audrey Wells, it stars Diane Lane, Sandra Oh, Vincent Riotta and Raoul Bova.
Sony Picture's R-rated supernatural thriller Underworld went back under, relinquishing its top spot to take No. 3 with an ESTIMATED $9.4 million (-57%) at 2,928 theaters (+13 theaters; $3,210 per theater). In its second week, the vampires vs. werewolves thriller has accumulated approximately $37 million.
Directed by Len Wiseman, it stars Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman.
New Line's PG-rated Secondhand Lions fell two spots to fourth with an ESTIMATED $8.2 million (-32%) in 3,038 theaters (+25 theaters; $2,716 per theater). In its second week, the family drama about two grumpy uncles and their precocious nephew has taken in approximately $23.4 million.
Directed by Tim McCanlies, it stars Haley Joel Osment, Robert Duvall and Michael Caine.
Paramount Picture's PG-13-rated The Fighting Temptations dropped two rungs to fifth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $6.4 million (-45%) in 2,026 theaters (unchanged; $3,196 per theater). The church choir singin', finger snappin' musical has accumulated $20.2 million.
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, it stars Cuba Gooding, Jr., Beyonce Knowles, Mike Epps and Steve Harvey.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Sony Pictures' R-rated sequel Once Upon a Time in Mexico came in sixth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $5.1 million (-54%) in 2.922 theaters (-367 theaters; $1,745 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49 million.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek and Willem Dafoe.
Miramax's PG-13-rated black comedy Duplex debut at No. 7 with an ESTIMATED $4.4 million in 2,189 theaters, with a $2,018 per theater average.
A young New York couple buys the perfect brownstone duplex--too bad they have to share it with a nasty old lady who lives upstairs.
Directed by Danny DeVito, it stars Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore.
In another dream-house-turned-nightmare, Buena Vista's R-rated thriller Cold Creek Manor slipped three spots to eighth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $4.3 million (-48%) at 2,035 theaters (unchanged; $2,113 per theater). Its cume is $14.5 million.
Directed by Mike Figgis, it stars Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff and Juliette Lewis.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama Matchstick Men dropped three places in its third week to take the No. 9 position with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-43%) in 2,666 theaters (-45 theaters; $1,607 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.6 million.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman.
In its third week of release, Focus Features' R-rated dramatic comedy Lost In Translation rounded out the Top Ten for the second week in a row with an ESTIMATED $3.5 million (+34%) in 488 theaters (+305 theaters; $7,217 per theater average). It cume is approximately $8.4 million.
Directed by Sofia Coppola, it stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
Sony Pictures Classics' R-rated My Life Without Me opened in seven theaters with an ESTIMATED $40,199, earning a $5,743 per theater average.
The film follows the life of a 23-year-old woman who has two kids, lives in a trailer and works a blue-collar job. When she's told she only has a few months to live, she decides to live what time she has left to the fullest.
Directed by Isabel Coixet, it stars Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman, Deborah Harry and Mark Ruffalo.
Overall, the box office numbers fell considerably from last weekend. The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $79 million, down 12.26 percent from last weekend, when they grossed $91.7 million. The Top 12 movies were also down nearly 14 percent from this time last year when they took in $90.1 million.
Last year's top three included: Buena Vista's PG-13-rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama premiered in the top spot with $35.6 million in 3,293 theaters ($10,826 per theater); Dreamworks' PG-13-rated spy comedy The Tuxedo debuted in second place with $15 million in 3,022 theaters ($4,980 per theater); and MGM's riotous PG-13-rated Barbershop slipped to No. 3 in its third week with $10 million in 2,051 theaters (+ 157 theaters; $4,880 per theater).
What do the Golden Globes know anyway? Last week, voters nominated John Williams' underwhelming "Angela's Ashes" at the expense of his more stirring work for "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace." And what of Marc Shaiman's brilliant satire of the musical theater, in the form of "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"? Snubbed.
Well, we're here to set things right.
Which soundtracks broke new ground, broke our hearts and broke down barriers with crossover potential? Read on for our list of the Top 20 soundtracks of 1999:
20. "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "More Music from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "Pokémon: The First Movie" -- No, we weren't very impressed with the contents of these best-selling albums, just the marketing savvy behind them.
19. "Guinevere" -- While most guys would buy this CD for Sarah Polley's cover photo alone, Christophe Beck's music combined with Thelonius Monk is a wonderfully eclectic combination.
18. "Outside Providence" -- Do you like '70s classic rock? Then you'll dig this soundtrack. A fantastic compilation of tunes by the likes of Yes, The Who and The Eagles.
17. "Dogma" -- Howard Shore's apocalyptic musical imagery conveys both the demonic and angelic moods of the hilarious and controversial film.
16. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" -- This HBO movie (starring Halle Berry) proves that the much-maligned tube can offer great music. One of the best big-band soundtracks available.
15. "The General's Daughter" -- Carter Burwell composes a moving score, including some reworkings of old Negro spirituals from the Library of Congress.
14. "Entrapment" -- Composer Chris Young takes you from Scottish castles to Malaysian street markets. A very enjoyable trip.
13. "The Mummy" / "The 13th Warrior" -- While these two movies were quite different, the scores weren't. Veteran (and prolific) tunesmith Jerry Goldsmith composed these scores within months of each other, and you can hear the similarities. Copycat syndrome or not, they're still excellent soundtracks.
12. "Sleepy Hollow" -- Danny Elfman ("Batman") strikes again! While we all knew this score would be brooding, dark and ominous, the pleasant surprise was how original the music was while maintaining Elfman's easily identifiable style.
11. "Toy Story 2" -- If you didn't cry during Sarah McLachlan's "When She Loved Me," you have no heart. The opening score track "Zurg's Planet" is pure science-fiction fun. It's just one of Randy Newman's enjoyable selections.
10. "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" -- This soundtrack is worth it for track 26 alone: "Angelus in Medio Ignis." Go choir, go!
9. "For Love of the Game" -- Basil Poledouris presents a wonderful palette of colors and emotions with this score. You can really feel the game's tense focus when the electric guitar starts to growl! Buy the Varèse Sarabande CD and skip MCA's generic song-filled soundtrack.
8. "The Cider House Rules" -- One of the most romantic, poignant scores of the decade. A perfect companion to a beautiful movie.
7. "Mickey Blue Eyes" -- While the movie may not have set any box-office records, the soundtrack is a real winner. The CD features an eclectic mix of music, from Basil Poledouris' Italian-influenced score to up-tempo oldies by Rosemary Clooney and Louis Prima.
6. "Deep Blue Sea" -- Trevor Rabin's main theme to this summer sleeper reminds us how well he can write. Don't confuse this score CD on Varèse Sarabande to the horrible Warner Bros. rap soundtrack.
5. "Tarzan" -- Phil Collins and Mark Mancina combine their talents to create an invigorating, uplifting score. The vocals are unforgettable, and the percussion will make you want to swing from the trees in your back yard.
4. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" -- This introspective look into the subconscious desires of the youthful psyche provides a gloriously uplifting foundation on which to build our hopes for world peace. Marc Shaiman's exquisite contributions elevate the music to a level not heard since ... umm ... since Beavis & Butthead?
3. "Princess Mononoke" -- Encompassing a wide range of style and melody, Joe Hisaishi's score brings us the wonder and mystery of an animated world filled with demons, gods and magic. Enthralling.
2. "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" -- While John Williams' prequel score doesn't quite equal the timelessness of the original 1977 film or its 1980 follow-up, "The Empire Strikes Back," it succeeds admirably on its own terms.
1. "Anna and the King" -- Graham Ravell's score to this just-released film encompasses all the grandeur, optimism and melody that we come to expect of an ambitious movie such as this. A wonderful achievement.