WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Set in 1985 in an alternate universe the U.S. is in bad shape. Nixon is running for his third term (!) war is about to break out with the Russians and superheroes have become outcasts in a world so complicated even THEY can’t get enthusiastic about saving it. When one of them a former member of the Watchmen named The Comedian is sent hurtling to his death by an unknown intruder in his apartment it brings his former associates forced into retirement back together (sort of) to help solve this geek-laden whodunit. Among them are Rorschach a sociopath whose face is concealed by a mask that changes patterns with his moods (hence the name); Dan a gadget nerd who used to soar as Nite Owl but now is rendered impotent in every way imaginable; Adrian who lives off merchandising his glory days as “genius” Oxymandias; Laurie aka Silk Spectre II still living in the shadow of her faded superhero mom the aging Sally aka the original Silk Spectre; and above all else Jon Osterman who as the result of a government accident has morphed into the physically imposing almost always naked and very blue demigod named Dr. Manhattan. He eventually leads a life in exile on Mars.
WHO’S IN IT?
Although the busy visual landscape and CGI nature of this sprawling comic book epic doesn’t usually lend itself to memorable acting turns this well-chosen cast acquits themselves nicely particularly Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) who manages to embody Rorschach with a Bogart-like noirish flavor. Haley’s Little Children co-star Patrick Wilson gives a quirky turn as Dan Dreiberg who longs to relive his Nite Owl days but seems stuck in a life cycle that has him spiraling downward into mediocrity. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey's Anatomy) also does a convincingly chilling job as The Comedian a man with very little morals and even less patience. Matthew Goode (Match Point) as the ego-driven Adrian doesn’t make much of an impression. Neither does Malin Akerman (The Heartbreak Kid) as Laurie who is pretty to look at but has some of the worst dialogue. As her mother however Carla Gugino succinctly portrays a woman who has seen better days. Billy Crudup has a few touching moments as Osterman but is mostly upstaged by his alter-ego Dr. Manhattan whose ripped physique and superhero powers steal the show. A lot of guys will want to sign up for this kind of CGI makeover.
Director Zack Snyder has taken Alan Moore’s revered “un-filmable” graphic novel and given it a movie life that crackles onscreen. Snyder is the real star of this show who first proved with 300 and now here that he is a cinematic visionary in a class by himself. Watchmen’s effects work is top of the line dazzling.
Snyder is almost too reverential to his source material. The movie is so loaded with plot and individual storylines that at 160 minutes it tends to put your senses on overload. A little less would have gone a long way but still Watchmen is like no comic book movie you have ever seen – and that’s a very good thing.
It has to be the opening sequence in which a fairly powerful intruder beats the whaley out of The Comedian and sends him flying through his high-rise apartment's plate glass window to his untimely demise on the New York pavement below. Gets the blood pumping right away.
After Rorschach has been arrested and thrown in jail he is confronted by all the villains he has put behind bars who all want a piece of him. But he tells them "You think I'm locked up with you but it's YOU who are locked up with ME!" Oh if they only knew.
Meeting the Crazy Eights cast we have: Brent (Frank Whaley) an obnoxious self-obsessed nerd; Beth (Gabrielle Anwar) a troubled freakish girl; Gina (Traci Lords) a sexy carefree bimbo; Jennifer (Dina Meyer) a smart sensible girl; and Wayne (Dan DeLuca) the cool handsome guy who all get together when they receive an invitation to the funeral of an old friend. They were brought together for more nefarious reasons however which are revealed when they unearth a trunk that contains a time capsule of items buried two decades ago. The trunk also contains the body of a girl and it's that girl's spirit that ends up haunting them all. A kind of treasure map in the trunk leads them to a barn which in turn guides them to a tunnel to a creepy abandoned hospital. It's there at the hospital where their collective memories recreate what happened to the little girl and why they were really brought together for this funeral-and future funerals to come. The bottom line to this story is: The past never leaves you. In the 8 Films to Die For series of this year's Horrorfest 2007 Crazy Eights definitely contains the most recognizable cast—and it’s hard to remember a low-budget B horror film with a more noteworthy cast including Whaley (Pulp Fiction) Meyer (the Saw series) Gabrielle Anwar (Body Snatchers) DeLuca (HBO’s The Wire) and former porn star Lords. Sure some of the characters are cookie-cutter stereotypes from a typical horror ensemble piece but Whaley plays the jerk well and Lords is practically good at being typecast. DeLuca is also Crazy Eights producer and co-writer and most likely gave himself as the juicier part. He could become a credible leading man in his own right. DeLuca co-wrote the film with horror veteran James Koya Jones and additional rewrites by Ji-un Kown and Patrick Moses and they may have added a few of the twists and turns in the plot but nothing is outstandingly different. The special effects aren't too elaborate and thankfully most of the goriest death scenes are done just off screen and left more to the imagination. The looming abandoned hospital is used to a great extent and allows for some of the best surprise shocks. It's big creepy and haunting and is practically one of the scariest things in the film. And of course any time there's a ghostly little girl you’ve got some chills. Crazy Eights is a keeper.
With stories like this who even needs the “Inspired by true events” shield? Primeval tells of the world’s most prolific killer Gustave. You see Gustave is a crocodile and he remains at large to this day. His thirst for human blood goes unpublicized until he chows down on a white woman at which point an American newsman Tim Manfrey (Dominic Purcell) his cameraman Steven (Orlando Jones) and TV personality Aviva (Brooke Langton) head down to Burundi Africa where they hope to document the capture of Gustave. They’re joined by a wildlife preservationist of sorts (Gideon Emery)—a rare breed in a post-Steve Irwin world—who doesn’t want to harm Gustave. The deep jungles of Africa become a veritable obstacle course when the locals embroiled in a long-standing civil war and unwilling to have some damn Yankees televising their homeland stand in the crew’s way not to mention Gustave proving an evasive 20-foot-long um little bugger! The names might not ring a bell but you’ve seen these three stooges before--all on TV in fact. Purcell is currently enjoying about half the 15 minutes of fame of Wentworth Miller on Fox’s slipping Prison Break. Purcell plays Tim with steel and virility as he hides his Aussie accent for the most part but he’s still got a ways to go to reach Clive Owen’s caliber of acting--and more importantly Owen’s caliber of roles. Langton of The Net (the TV show adapted from the Sandra Bullock movie of the same name) and Melrose Place fame shows off the beauty that will afford endless opportunities to prove herself as a “real” actress—which is ironically similar to her character’s plight—but will never get there with roles in movies like Primeval. And Jones still best known for and plagued by his 7-Up commercials is in true negligible-sidekick mode here--worthy of a snicker approximately once out of every dozen times he tries overzealously to get one. Jaws may come to mind based on the water creature-stalking-man plot but well it’s tough to even mention those two in the same sentence. Director Michael Katleman a TV fixture himself at least doesn’t even aim high enough to reach that level. No from the get-go he’s shooting more for an Anacondas feel—and yes that’s the horrific sequel to the so-terrible-it’s-fun J.Lo “original.” Katleman almost reaches Anacondas-ian highs but not quite. Among other notable problems the director cannot for one moment strike the right balance between the aforementioned level of guilty pleasure-dom and genuine horror. Instead he catches us off guard with what are supposed to be the thrills—and also with the comedy. Finally once Gustave is revealed which should essentially be the moviegoers’ reward the croc looks more a prop sitting in a theme-park lot. And the script from John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris (Terminator 3 co-writers)—well let’s just hope with the story being uber-derivative and cheesy enough as it is Orlando Jones ad-libbed all of his unlaughable comedy!
Go ahead and throw logic out the window on this one folks. A mysterious Tibetan monk with no name (Chow Yun-Fat) has spent a lifetime protecting an ancient document known as the Scroll of the Ultimate--a parchment that will yield unlimited power to anyone who reads it. After running around the globe for 60 years the Monk knows it's time to hang up his robes and find a new guardian but spotting a successor isn't easy in the hustle bustle of the 21st century where Tibetan traditions and rituals are almost non-existent. Maybe the next protector should be the crafty rebellious pickpocket Kar (Seann William Scott) who learned martial arts from watching kung-fu movies; after all Kar helps the Monk escape from the scroll's most avid pursuer Strucker (Karel Roden) a sadistic old Nazi who wants to use the its power to rid the planet of inferior races. Or maybe the Monk's successor is the elusive but beautiful bad girl Jade (James King) whose skills are numerous and who seems to pop up to help Kar whenever he gets in a jam. Whomever the Monk eventually chooses they must first unite to battle the ultimate enemy--and keep the scroll safe.
If it weren't for Yun-Fat Bulletproof Monk would be pretty hopeless. The charismatic actor finds a nice balance no matter what he does and in this case he resists the obvious temptation to play the Monk as a fish out of water in the big city. Since he's long been one of Chinese cinema's most well-known action heroes he's definitely in his element in Monk standing on top of a car with guns blazing and the Zen master persona he discovered in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon serves him well here too. The script requires him to spout off fortune-cookie mumbo jumbo but he manages to do it without sounding ridiculous. The petite King actually holds her own as the brawny-yet-brainy tough chick but the wisecracking Scott is completely out of his element for the first time in his career. He handles the little comedic tidbits well but in no way is it possible to believe that the "Dude" who couldn't find his car and the jackass who drank someone else's bodily fluids in American Pie can be a martial arts hero who saves the planet. It just isn't going to happen.
Bulletproof Monk relies on the ghosts of movies past including Crouching Tiger and the 1986 Eddie Murphy stinker The Golden Child for its plot which results in a film that's chock full of cliches especially the evil Nazi who has spent 60 years chasing after the scroll using his tow-headed granddaughter whose cover is an organization for human rights to do the dirty work. A few bright moments with Yun-Fat coupled with director Paul Hunter's good use of fast-paced martial arts action make the rest of this unimaginative movie somewhat palatable--even novices Williams and King look good doing the moves--but all in all Bulletproof Monk is shooting blanks.
Catherine Zeta-Jones knows how important trust is.
The new Mrs. Michael Douglas will star in the thriller "Trust," a project that is said by Daily Variety to be in the vein of 1987's "Fatal Attraction."
Originally a British miniseries, "Trust" will follow a lawyer living in New York who discovers that her psychiatrist hubby is having an affair with one of his patients.
KING OF THE 'CASTLE': "The Legend of Bagger Vance" helmer and actor Robert Redford might return to the front of the camera in "The Castle," a drama directed by "The Contender's" Rod Lurie, Variety says.
The project, which centers on an imprisoned five-star general as he rallies other prisoners into a mutiny, is also in discussions with Mark Wahlberg for a co-starring role.
'SHOW' TIME: Variety also says that Ethan Hawke, Carla Gugino and Frank Whaley have all signed on to the indie flick "The Jimmy Show," about a New Jersey guy who embarks on a doomed career in stand-up comedy.
Hawke's last screen role was in last year's "Hamlet" with Julia Stiles.
'BARK' IF YOU'RE HAPPY: Lisa Kudrow, Hank Azaria and Vincent D'Onofrio will star in the romantic comedy "Bark," Variety tells us. The film is about a young woman who has a nervous breakdown and believes that she's a dog.
'GUEST' LIST: "That '70s Show" dude Ashton Kutcher might star in the film "The Guest," The Hollywood Reporter says.
Kutcher -- who will be seen in the upcoming "Dude, Where's My Car?" alongside "Road Trip's" Seann William Scott -- would play a guy who tries to woo the daughter of his boss in the new project.
SHALL WE 'DANCE': James Coburn might join Cuba Gooding Jr. in the adventure pic "Winterdance," the Reporter informs. Based on the 1994 novel by Gary Paulsen, the story is an autobiographical account of the writer's participation in a gruesome dogsled race in Alaska.
Gooding will play the part of the dogsled racer and Coburn would play his estranged father.
LAST ROUND: Mykelti Williamson might play boxing promoter Don King in the "Ali" biopic, the Reporter says. The project stars Will Smith as the titular boxer and is expected to go into production next month.