After starting what he thinks is just another day by methodically brushing his teeth the way he always does IRS Agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) gets a visit from an uninvited auditory guest--Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) the author of his life. Little does she know while writing a book about a character named Harold Crick that the real Harold can hear her narrations loud and clear; little does Harold know that her novels don't have happy endings--that is until he hears it in her narration which states that he is to die. Luckily she's in the midst of writer's block so he has some time to find out well how much time he has to live. He immediately consults a literary professor (Dustin Hoffman) who instructs Harold to further pursue a relationship with an anarchistic baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) he is currently auditing in order to learn more about the course the novel will take. The relationship flourishes and he’s happy for the first time in a long time but will art imitate--or end--his life? Ferrell seems to be mimicking the exact path of his direct comedic-superstar predecessor Jim Carrey even down to his first serious-ish role: Carrey’s first dramatic foray was the equally quasi-existential though much better Truman Show. Ferrell has no problem whatsoever making the transition--that’s just what abundant natural talent affords certain actors. But his crossover attempt should’ve been more subtle since audiences have come to expect at least one “streaking” scene per Ferrell film. As Ferrell’s heavily tattooed love interest the ubiquitous Gyllenhaal scores again. Fresh off roles as a stripper single mom (Sherrybaby) and a frantic pregnant 9/11 wife (World Trade Center) she proves that no matter her character’s physical appearance or mindset she can do no wrong. Ditto for Thompson who spends much of the film in pajamas and the throes of writer’s block--the "writer" prototype--much to the dismay of her publisher-appointed assistant played well by Queen Latifah. Rounding out the cast is Hoffman whose professor isn't totally unlike his answer provider in like-minded I Heart Huckabees. His character’s quirky humor is child’s play at this point for the veteran but a select few scenes between him and Ferrell are extremely satisfying. To liken Stranger Than Fiction to a Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Adaptation et al) script/movie is not totally without merit. Fiction captures the “vivid yet distant” essence that is common with Kaufman’s stories and subsequent movies. But whereas Kaufman doesn’t go out of his way to coddle audiences’ minds amidst his often obtuse movies writer Zach Helm and director Marc Forster seem to have audience appreciation (read: box office) on the brain. Helm’s idea is nothing short of genius in a way that’s different from the oft-mentioned screenwriters he’s compared to but somewhere en route he and/or Forster (Finding Neverland) compromised the vision. Because what starts out as a complex intriguing movie turns stale quickly especially given the inexplicable ease with which it transitions from a metaphysical story into a straightforward one. And Forster's tendency in the movie to undercomplicate is just as detrimental as the opposite extreme. The dialogue also falls somewhat flat often neither funny nor off-kilter enough buoyed only slightly by superb cinematography set direction and indie music featuring Spoon (whose frontman Britt Daniel reworked some of their best songs for the movie)--but we’ve come to expect that trifecta from similar movies.
Michael (Zach Braff) is 29 and living the dream. He’s got the perfect girlfriend Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) a secure architecture job and a solid support system from his buddies (Casey Affleck Eric Christian Olsen Michael Weston). But when the ramifications of Jenna’s pregnancy begin to set in--“no more surprises ” as he puts it--life is a dream no longer. While in the beginning stages of his early-midlife crisis at peak vulnerability Michael comes upon a very willing and eager college girl Kim (Rachel Bilson) and winds up doing something spontaneous for the first time in forever: Kim. As Michael tries to explain to Jenna what may or may not have transpired on that fateful night her parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson) are going through another rough patch in their old decrepit marriage and his friends are tangled up in yuppie blues. It seems no one is ready for his or her last kiss. Ensemble films are generally well acted but Last Kiss’ cast might be Oscar-good. Braff the centerpiece will predictably get flak simply because he’s the ‘It’ dude du jour but don’t hate him just ‘cause everyone likes him. He shows his range more than ever and still maintains his relatability even though he’s out of his career-sustaining element of Mr. Nice/Sensitive Guy. “Voice of a generation” tags are neither accurate nor fair; simply “capable actor” will do. Barrett (Poseidon and yes The Real World!) has good chemistry with Braff and even better emotional sensibilities. She goes loud to soft on a dime--emotionally and decibel-wise--as though she’s been through this nightmare before; let’s hope not! Bilson (The O.C.) makes a very strong feature-film debut although she is there more to serve as the impetus for emotion than to emote herself. The best performances come from Wilkinson the most underemployed actor in the world and Danner. The very embodiment of the devolution of love into ennui they are believable and Danner for her amazing histrionics is deserving of serious (supporting) award consideration.
No this is not Garden State 2 and no Braff did not direct or write. In fact the only true similarity Kiss bears to State is its soundtrack in which Braff did have a hand. Instead it was another actor/director Tony Goldwyn (Ghost: actor; A Walk on the Moon: director) at the helm. Goldwyn’s best ability seems to lie with the high-drama scenes in that no scene turns maudlin on his watch. His style contains a bit of Robert Altman jazz which set against such a superb ensemble cast gives each of the many characters a turn in the crisis carousel: each character’s dilemma has a different distinctive pitch. But writer Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby Crash)--who only appears to have written every past current and future movie--gives the film that extra mustard. Haggis manipulates us with high tension but unlike others who’ve come close to his level it’s all always palpable if not always completely plausible. Throw in some of his incredible dialogue and it’s easy to see why he’s been in such high demand since 1977 when he wrote for The Love Boat.
Lucy Liu splits and finds new love
Charlie's Angels beauty Lucy Liu has reportedly split from fiancé Zach Helm--but has already embarked on a new romance. The pair got engaged in April, after they had been dating for ten months. At the time, Liu described the 29-year-old screen-writer as her "soulmate" and the pair were expected to share a private and intimate wedding in the near future. But although the wedding plans have been abruptly called off, Liu has allegedly already found a new love. According to In Touch magazine, the 36-year-old actress is dating Elf actor Will McCormack, the brother of actress Mary McCormack.
Beckinsale wanted to quit Aviator
Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese reportedly had to beg Kate Beckinsale not to quit The Aviator, after she began to doubt her acting career. Sources claim Beckinsale threatened to walk off the set of the Howard Hughes biopic, leading to tension between her and the film's committed star DiCaprio. A source tells British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, "Kate was Leo's first choice to play Ava, and, with the director Martin Scorsese, he managed to persuade her to star on. "Kate is a consummate professional, and it wasn't that she didn't believe in the film, but it was more that she was wondering whether acting was really for her. Leo was passionate about the film and obviously this created tensions between them." Beckinsale, 31, recently revealed she is reconsidering her career, because she has reached the age her actor father Richard Beckinsale was when he died of a heart attack. She said earlier this month, "I'm in a funny year as I am the age my father was when he died, and my daughter is the age I was then (five). I think it is completely inevitable for me to have a bit of a review at this point, in the spiritual sense."
Winslet's primitive Christmas
Kate Winslet and her family were forced to spend Christmas in a primitive outhouse, after builders failed to finish work on their new home in time. Winslet, director husband Sam Mendes, daughter Mia and baby son Joe moved into the $6.65 million estate in England's Cotswolds weeks ahead of the festive season--but, despite spending thousands on the sumptuous pad, they still can't move into the main mansion yet. Winslet's pal says, "There is a skip in the garden and the main house is still not ready, but Kate and Sam were so determined to be in by Christmas they decided to move in to one of the outhouses. She's delighted to be on the estate, even if she's not in the main house."
Wahlberg to toughen up for role
Mark Wahlberg is poised to propel the brutal Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) into the mainstream in a new movie. The Boogie Nights star is in negotiations to muscle-up for the film about the sport, in which combatants engage in bloody, bare-knuckle brawls in an octagon-shaped ring. UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta are onboard as executive producers, while 15 Minutes movie-maker John Herzfeld has signed up to write and direct the project, reports PageSix.Com. The Feritta brothers recently completed 13 episodes of The Ultimate Fighter, a reality series for Spike TV.
Connery recycles shoes
Former James Bond star Sean Connery never buys shoes--preferring to wear the same pairs over and over again. The 74-year-old actor can't understand why women need to continuously shop for footwear, because he's quite content to still use the ten pairs he was given for free years ago. He says, "Why are women obsessed with buying shoes the whole time? Years ago I was given ten pairs when I was making a film. I still wear them."
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