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.
When the animated opening credits of Warner Bros. Going the Distance begin a barrage of colorful images envelope the screen shaking and shifting to the sounds of contemporary pop-rock like a hipster-chick in a SoHo lounge. It sets the tone for a lighthearted but levelheaded romantic comedy that like the music is cool and crafty but not completely above the clichés of the tried-and-true genre.
Making her feature-film directorial debut Oscar-nominated documentarian Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes) set out to make a film that as she put it “would feel as real as possible” – a tough job when taking on a studio comedy. But with a relatable premise a punchy script and a cast that possesses a ton of personality she succeeds at delivering a surprisingly fresh film that chronicles the pros and cons of a long-distance relationship between Justin Long’s Garrett and Drew Barrymore’s Erin.
The first half hour is filled with the standard situational set-ups and character introductions that one expects from any film. We learn everything we need (and want) to know about Garrett and Erin: He’s a New York record label workhorse and she’s an aspiring journalist interning at a metropolitan newspaper. They frequent the same dive bar in downtown Manhattan and have a beer and barbeque-wings fueled fling which turns into a steady summer-long relationship. But all good things must come to an end and as September approaches she prepares to head back to Stanford for another semester much to their mutual dismay. However the feelings between them are sincere and they decide to give their spatially challenged relationship a shot.
Real-life couple Long and Barrymore have a few touching moments throughout the film mostly when the trials of their long-distance relationship take a toll but they are a bore in comparison to the supporting cast. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day bring frat-house etiquette and bro-mantic charm to the movie as Garrett’s best friends Box and Dan. Together they are the living embodiment of testosterone and man-child — archetypes that have become all-too common in current rom-coms — but with legitimately funny performances they really pay off. Christina Applegate is good for a load of laughs as Erin’s older sister Corinne who is skeptical of Erin’s eagerness to engage in yet another risky romance; she steals the show with her unrelenting commentary.
Going the Distance doesn’t break new ground within the genre or redefine cinematic romance but it balances the sweet and sour moments of its story very well. Burstein minimizes the drama and keeps the comedy raw to maximize the entertainment value of the movie which should please all who purchase a ticket. Somehow the long distance dilemma hasn’t been tackled on film before and that makes the movie appear to be more original that it really is but in a year where so few romantic comedies have brought the goods (The Back-Up Plan Sex and the City 2) Going the Distance does just that.
The Expendables is being sold as the ultimate action flick: the alpha and omega of explosions, the Ur-muscle flick, the action film to end all action films. It has all the stars, all the cliches, and all the genre trappings - from the bandoliers of bullets to the the scantly-clad, vaguely ethnic love interest. Sylvester Stallone's movie is poised to take off, and when it does, you know it’s only a matter of time before rival producers, directors, production companies and distributors jump on the “ultimate film” band wagon. After all, why make five formulaic, derivative romantic comedies when you could mash them into one (just think of the money they’ll save on writers!)? In honor of The Expendables' approach to filmmaking, we’re bringing you pitches for ultimate Horror films, Rom-Com chick flicks, and Oscar-Bait tearjerkers. If you happen to be the head of a major production company and are reading this, feel free to give us a call.
The Horrifying Horror Flick
This April, you're only a fool if you're not afraid. From legendary horror directors John Carpenter and Wes Craven comes April Fools, the harrowing tale of a prank gone wrong and one man's psychotic reign of terror…
Jonestown, Iowa: April Fools Day, 1990. When brilliant but misunderstood Malachai Lester's (Paul Dano) beloved girlfriend Mira Lowen (Ashley Greene) accidentally decapitates herself on April Fools Day attempting a harmless prank, Lester is blamed for her gruesome death and chased to the outskirts of town by a mob led by Mira's aggrieved father, the Reverend Tim Lowen (Bill Moseley). Though Lester manages to hide in the old abandoned psychiatric ward, Hollen Asylum, the deranged preacher incites the mob to set fire to the building, despite the protestations of his son, Abel. Consumed by the flames and the town's thoughtless hatred, Lester is scarred beyond all recognition but somehow fails to die.
Twenty Years pass. Surviving on the meat of rats caught in his twisted, elaborate deathtraps, and kept alive by his crazed desire for revenge, Lester (Crispin Glover) emerges from the wreckage of the asylum prepared to play a series of nightmarish April Fools jokes on the children of Jonestown.
Zeke Carlson (Ving Rhames)'s son Trip (Bow Wow) is the first to be found dead, followed shortly by blonde cheerleader Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the daughter of Jonestown supermarket magnate Don Coleman (Robert Englund) and wife Laura (Jamie Lee Curtis). But Lester is only warming up, and he's saving his best prank for last.
As Jonestown's murder toll rises, the clues begin to come together for grizzled but warm-hearted divorcee Sheriff Abel Lowen (Timothy Olyphant), who believes he recognizes a pattern in the deaths of the children of Lester's old assailants. But the lynching of Malachai Lester remains a stain on Jonestown's collective memory, and the town's elders still refuse to mention his name. Only Lester's former psychologist, the eccentric Rube Rosenberg (Jeff Goldblum), is willing to help the Sheriff as they come to the harrowing conclusion that there remains only one way to stop The April Fools Killer before his psychopathic reign of terror reaches its terrifying, final conclusion…
The Rosy Rom-Com
This September, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant star in Love Knows, the heartwarming romantic comedy from Rob Reiner that critics are saying "will make you believe in true love again”.
Beautiful but controlling, career-oriented Kate Cartwright (Bullock) works as an editor at a prestigious, family-owned magazine, where she works under the fatherly direction of her editor-in-chief (Ted Danson). Unfortunately, her personal life is falling apart: while she has the support of her three best friends (Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Hudson, and Ethan Embry), her former model boyfriend Ryan (Orlando Bloom) dumps her and runs off with a much younger woman. Meanwhile, brash, attractive and slightly misogynistic freelance journalist Sean Falco (Grant) gets a big break from the spiteful editor of a successful blog (Stanley Tucci) when he’s given the opportunity to write the site's biggest feature yet, an article on the decline and fall of print journalism. In order to get a new angle on the piece, Sean decides to ingratiate himself with Kate by taking work at her magazine. Though the two are initially repulsed by each other and hate working together, they bond when they try to cover a prestigious political function but instead get stuck outside in the rain. Despite their differences, the sexual chemistry becomes too much to deny.
Against the counsel of his two immature best friends - the loud, obnoxious Brad (Matt Dillon) and the awkward, nerdy Renton (Jason Segel) - Sean begins to pursue a serious relationship with Kate. But tragedy strikes when Kate learns about Sean’s article, and believes their entire relationship to be a ruse. After she dumps him, Sean tries to get back to his womanizing ways, but realizes that his feelings for Kate run deeper than he had known. Can Sean ever convince Kate to take him back? Is there some sort of grand gesture that can save their relationship?
This September, only Love Knows...
The Dramatic Oscar Contender
Based on a compelling true story, Daniel Day-Lewis and Ed Norton star in Cole’s Mine, a heartrending tale of love and redemption that critics are calling a “triumph of the human spirit.”
Cole Danwoods (Day-Lewis) is a teacher at a prestigious New York City prep school in 1954, who has struggled for years to distance himself from his roots in rural coal-mining West Virginia. But after the death of his father, a tough-as-nails yet caring patriarch (Robert Duvall), who could never truly express his love for his sons, Cole must return home to care for his family. he returns to the hostility of his younger brother, Leopold (Norton), who has followed his father’s sooty footsteps into the mines; his tough-as-nails yet caring mother, Mary (Dame Judi Dench), who is secretly dying of cancer; and his older brother, Kenneth (Sean Penn), who was tragically mangled rescuing a canary from a collapsing mine, and now has the intellectual capacity of a 8-year-old.
Cole settles in to life in West Virginia by taking a job at the local school, where he tries to reach a group of tough, underprivileged mountain children with his unorthodox teaching methods, like using puppets constructed from common household implements to explain complex mathematical theory. He also reconnects with his tough-as-nails, yet caring high school sweetheart, Jolene (Meryl Streep) whose daughter is one of his students. The pair slowly rekindle their romance, though Jolene is trapped in an unloving marriage with an abusive bootlegger (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
While Cole tries to rebuild his relationship with his brothers, Leopold must struggle to reconcile his love of mining with his love of his supervisor, Larry (Paul Giamatti). But when tragedy strikes and the pair are trapped in a cave-in, Cole must rally the community together and return to his coal-mining roots to free them from a sooty grave.
This December, you’ll learn that love burns brightly even in the darkest of places...
Death is supposed to bring a family closer together. But the passing of Daniel and Robert’s father is nothing more than an excuse for these two distinctly different brothers to renew their sibling rivalry. The painfully tedious Daniel (Matthew Macfadyen) is plagued with doubts about his ability to write a fitting eulogy to his father. It doesn’t help that everyone wonders aloud within earshot why his younger brother Robert (Rupert Graves)—a critically acclaimed novelist and renowned ladies man now living in New York—is penning the eulogy. Daniel’s also concerned whether Robert whom he assumes has dollars coming out of his ears will renege on his promise to split the cost of funeral. Daniel needs the money for a down payment on a new house; Robert can’t spare the cash because his living beyond his means has finally caught up with him. Then there’s their mother Sandra (Jane Asher) who takes Daniel for granted while lavishing all of her affections on Robert. And while Robert immediately becomes the center of attention Daniel finds himself dealing with a situation that distracts him from the task of writing his father’s eulogy. His father had a secret double life which a mysterious funeral crasher (Peter Dinklage) threatens to expose if he’s not paid handsomely to keep quiet. And this blackmail attempt quickly leads to the apparent death at the funeral. Too bad director Frank Oz finds himself distracted tying up many other loose ends—including one woman’s efforts to watch over her drip of a fiancé who inadvertently ingested LSD while fending off the advances of her oily ex-boyfriend—to fully exploit the comic potential of Dinklage’s extortion plan. Guess dealing with so many big names—and even bigger egos—on The Stepford Wives took its toll on Frank Oz. How else to explain Death at a Funeral’s relatively star-free ensemble cast? Unfortunately Oz makes a huge blunder by placing the funeral arrangements on the broad shoulders of Pride & Prejudice’s Matthew Macfadyen. After trying in vain to make us forget Colin Firth’ Mr. Darcy Macfadyen treats Death at a Funeral as though it’s based on another Jane Austen literary classic. Yes Daniel’s as stiff as his father’s corpse but the terribly serious Macfadyen does nothing to make him likeable or amusing. Rupert Graves is somewhat charismatic as the prodigal son but he leaves with you the impression that his handsome rogue was written with Hugh Grant in mind. Peter Dinklage once again cashes in on The Station Agent with a performance hammier than the one he gives in Underdog. He’s a good actor but he obviously needs a director who can rein him in. Serenity’s Alan Tudyk—sporting a passable English accent—also shows no restraint. But thank heavens for that. His over-the-top theatrics—which includes prancing around on a roof dressed in just his birthday suit—generates most of the few laughs to be found in Death at a Funeral. The others come from veteran British actor Peter Vaughn who’s delightfully cranky as Daniel and Robert’s foulmouthed uncle. The ladies—especially Macfadyen’s real-life wife Keeley Hawes—are required do nothing more than stand by their men. Or in Daisy Donovan’s case stand in front of a butt-naked Tudyk. Are Frank Oz’s best years behind him? Death at a Funeral and The Stepford Wives suggest the possibility. At least The Stepford Wives had some pep to it but Funeral is utterly lifeless. One of the problems is Dean Craig’s unfocused script which incorporates an overwhelming number of eccentric characters who find themselves in one predicament after another. But you can still detect a wicked streak in Craig’s script. Too bad it’s blunted by Frank Oz’s surprisingly reserved and gloomy approach to the proceedings at hand. The action is almost completely confined to one home ensuring that Funeral feels about as stagy as one of those groan-inducing British farces by West End playwright Ray Cooney. Funeral needs a director who understands and appreciates the absurdity of the situation and possesses the ability to keep his actors on a tight leash rather than letting them spin completely out of control. Once upon a time Frank Oz was such a director. But now Frank Oz doesn’t seem to know what he wants. Worse things never get as deliciously nasty as they could be--and that’s the kiss of death for a comedy that aspires to be blacker than the attire worn by the bereaved. Let’s hope the Muppet man-turned-director has another Bowfinger or Dirty Rotten Scoundrels left in him.
Late wrestling star Chris Benoit argued with his wife over whether he should stay home more to look after their mentally challenged son days before he killed them.
The wrestler asphyxiated his wife Nancy and son Daniel on Friday and Saturday, respectively, before hanging himself on Sunday.
Daniel suffered from a rare medical condition called Fragile X Syndrome, and an attorney for World Wrestling Entertainment claims the pressures placed on his parents took its toll.
Jerry McDevitt says, "'I think it's fair to say that the subject of caring for that child was part of what made their relationship complicated and difficult, and it's something they were both constantly struggling with. We do know it was a source of stress and consternation.
"(She) wanted him to be at home more to care for the kid. She'd say she can't take care of him by herself when he was on the road."
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