The Ides of March are upon us, and the impressive teaming of the classic George Clooney and the vibrant Ryan Gosling is inspiring. In fact, it’s such a potent power duo that it makes us think of other great pairings of the past.
What films have provided us with such superhuman stardom? Whose forces have joined to relinquish unmitigated glory? Let’s take a look…
Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia
The Power of Hanks: Tireless relatability. Putting the everymanest everyman ever in the taboo position of being a gay man afflicted with AIDS makes the situation seem more real, less alien, and far more sympathetic to those who had discounted it prior.
The Power of Washington: Extreme intimidation. Maybe you can brush off a message that someone else might deliver to you…but if Denzel tells you that you should feel something in a movie, you’re terrified not to feel it. He might hear about it. Then you’ll be in trouble.
When They Join Forces: We get one of the most powerful movies of the 1990s—sympathetic, hard-hitting, not without humor, even in the darkest parts (that’s life, after all), and definitely something that’ll get through to you.
Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in Fight Club
The Power of Norton: Brooding psychological fragmentation that couldn’t possibly have been more appealing to the aging Gen-Xers to whom this movie was dedicated.
The Power of Pitt: The ability to make you—no matter how happy you were with your life at the time of stepping into the movie—wish you were Tyler Durden. You begin to question the merit of your cookie-cutter life, your “surface value” job and relationships, and even your own morals. All because Brad Pitt is just so damn cool.
When They Join Forces: We get the iconic story of every single over privileged young adult in the 1990s coming to terms with himself, his world, his mind, his choices, and his taste in music. The Pixies record sales must have shot up like a thousand times that year.
Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs
The Power of Foster: The perfect balance of courage and fear. Foster as an FBI agent braving both the waters of a male dominated industry, and taking on an incredibly dangerous case with the help of an incredibly dangerous individual to boot—but none of it ever seems hokey, thrill-driven or making-a-statement-esque on the part of the actress. She plays a very human character very humanly.
The Power of Hopkins: Horror. Not just because he eats people—although that’s not exactly one of his more affectionate qualities—
When They Join Forces: We get one of the strangest, most unforgettable partnerships (and, if you would be so bold as to call it this, friendships) in cinematic history, and one of the most haunting and intriguing movies of the past few decades.
Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino in Heat, The Godfather Part 2, Righteous Kill
The Power of DeNiro: Reservation. DeNiro has his tipping point, but he keeps it bottled well until absolutely necessary. That’s what’s great about classic Bobby D performances: you know what’s coming, you just don’t know when.
The Power of Pacino: The exact opposite of reservation. Al Pacino comes flying onto the screen like a bat out of hell. His idea of a subdued performance is only one heart attack on set. But it’s never overdone.
When They Join Forces: We get a big heap of cement (that’s DeNiro), speckled with chunks of gravel (that’s Pacino) to form arguably the mightiest duo in Hollywood.
Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive
The Power of Ford: That grimace. That clench-jawed, grumbling grimace that says, “Get off my plane,” “Give me back my family,” “Why did it have to be snakes?” and “Greedo never shoulda shot first.”
The Power of Jones: What powers does Jones NOT have? He can play the ultimate badass. He can play a craven coward. He is a true warrior of cinema, and is nearly unrivaled in superhuman acting abilities.
When They Join Forces: We get an unstoppable powerhouse cataclysm dynamite volcano explosion of wonder. Or, you know…something in that neighborhood.
Christian Bale and Johnny Depp in Public Enemies
The Power of Bale: Heightened strength and agility, superb detective/analytical skills, advanced technology including the Batmobile…oh, wait. Wrong movie…um, chiseled jaw?
The Power of Depp: The Baritone Salamander. That’s his superhero name. When not overdoing it in Burtonian hyper-roles, Depp is actually a prized performer
When They Join Forces: We get a clash of the swift-winged titans—and probably the handsomest face-off in recent history.
Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County
The Power of Streep: Authenticity. It has been said of Meryl Streep, “She’s so authentic. [You] really believe everything is actually happening to her. There's no acting there” (Elaine Benes). Well, who are we to disagree?
The Power of Eastwood: Grrr…
When They Join Forces: We get a pleasant surprise. As music soothes the savage beast does the whimsical Streep to the gruffled and grisly Eastwood. Sure, when we think Clint, we think shoot outs and war stories. But is this not a timeless romance, appreciated by all—except that one woman in In & Out? It is.
Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in Rain Man
The Power of Hoffman: Complete and utter dedication. Dustin Hoffman gets so incredibly immersed into character that he was famously mocked by Sir Laurence Olivier for being far too over-prepared for his roles. But it pays off in spades—
The Power of Cruise: Narcissism. That’s not a dig at the actor, it’s one at his characters. Cruise manages to channel perfectly the ideas of entitlement and self-absorption, injecting them quite well into stories like Rain Man, which was more about his struggle to open his heart to something than about his brother’s trials with autism.
When They Join Forces: We get truly moving film about, more than anything else, family. Sure, Cruise’s character had no idea that Hoffman’s was his brother for the first three decades of his life…but the connection was organically formed between the two least likely of hosts. It’ll get ya.
Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption
The Power of Robbins: Stoicism. Andy Dufresne was in control from the get-go…or at least after the whole cheating wife debacle. Something clicked in him right around the presumed time he “quit drinking,” and he managed to chauffer us all through a journey about understanding yourself and your world.
The Power of Freeman: Fatherliness. Even in the dark pit of a jail cell full of deranged psychopaths, if you’ve got Morgan Freeman on your side, you can never feel too unsettled.
When They Join Forces: We get friendship. An incredibly meaningful friendship. Shawshank is a story about freedom—more internal freedom than literal—and part of Red’s freedom came from his acquirement of a true friend from whom he could learn things about life.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic and Revolutionary Road
The Power of DiCaprio: Humanity. In so many DiCaprio roles, these included, he is gruffled, yet clean-cut. Good guy, yet dirtbag. Whether a middle class sell-out or an impoverished young artist who lies his way into the company of an aristocratic beauty, Leo is always firing on all cylinders.
The Power of Winslet: Her powers are innumerable. She’s never delivered a role that was anything below spectacular.
When They Join Forces: We get heartbreak. Either both of them die, or their marriage sours to the point of irrevocability. Either way, it’s a somber tale of the experience of love. But hey—that’s Hollywood!
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
DeGeneres comes in second behind Apple boss Tim Cook on Out magazine's 2011 Power 50 List. Cooper is third and Ross is 10th.
Designers Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford, film producer Scott Rudin, Glee creator Ryan Murphy, blogger Perez Hilton, music mogul David Geffen and actor Neil Patrick Harris make the top 20.
Jodie Foster, singer Adam Lambert, Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black and The Kids Are All Right director Lisa Cholodenko also make the 2011 list.
Making an earnest cinematic argument for the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife without delving into mushy sentimentality is a difficult task for even the most gifted and “serious” of filmmakers. Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson discovered as much last year when his sappy grandiose adaptation of the ethereal bestseller The Lovely Bones opened to scathing reviews. Critics by and large tend to bristle at movie renderings of what may or may not await them in that Great Arthouse in the Sky.
And yet filmmakers seem determined to keep trying. The latest to make the attempt is Clint Eastwood who throughout his celebrated directorial career has certainly demonstrated a firm grasp of the death part of the equation. His filmography with a few notable exceptions practically revels in it: of his recent oeuvre Invictus is the only work that doesn’t deal with mortality in some significant manner. With his new film Hereafter Eastwood hopes to add immortality to his thematic resume.
The film's narrative centers on three characters each of whom has intimate experience with death and loss. Their stories in true Eastwood fashion can ostensibly be labeled Sad Sadder and Saddest: Marie (Cecile de France) is a French TV news anchor who’s haunted by disturbing flashbacks after she loses consciousness — and briefly her life — during a natural disaster; George (Matt Damon looking credibly schlubby) is a former psychic whose skills as a medium are so potent (the slightest touch from another human being triggers an instant powerful psychic connection a la Rogue from X-Men) they’ve left him isolated and alone; Marcus is a London schoolboy who retreats into a somber shell after losing his twin brother in a tragic car accident (both brothers are played rather impressibly by real-life twins Frankie and George McLaren).
Humanity offers little help to these troubled souls surrounding them with skeptics charlatans users and deadbeats none of whom are particularly helpful with crises of an existential nature. Luckily there are otherworldly options. Peter Morgan's script assumes psychics out-of-body experiences and other such phenomena to be real and legitimate but in a non-denominational Coast-to-Coast AM kind of way. Unlike Jackson’s syrupy CGI-drenched glimpses of the afterlife Eastwood’s visions of the Other Side are vague and eery — dark fuzzy silhouettes of the departed set against a white background. Only Damon’s character George seems capable of drawing meaning from them which is why he’s constantly sought out by grief-stricken folks desperate to make contact with loved ones who’ve recently passed on. He’s John Edward only real (and not a douche).
Marie and Marcus appear destined to find him as well but only as the last stop on wearisome circuitous and often heartbreaking spiritual journeys that together with George’s hapless pursuit of a more temporal connection (psychic ability it turns out can be a wicked cock-blocker) consume the bulk of Hereafter’s running time. We know the three characters’ paths must inevitably intersect but Morgan’s script stubbornly forestalls this eventuality testing our patience for nearly two ponderous and maudlin hours and ultimately building up expectations for a climax Eastwood can’t deliver at least not without sacrificing any hope of credulity.
It should be noted that Hereafter features a handful of genuinely touching moments thanks in great part to the film's tremendous cast. And its finale is refreshingly upbeat. Unfortunately it also feels forced and terribly unsatisfying. Eastwood an established master of all things tragic and forlorn struggles mightily to mount a happy ending. (Which in my opinion is much more challenging than a sad or ambiguous one.) After prompting us to seriously ponder life’s ultimate question Eastwood’s final answer seems to be: Don’t worry about it.
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.
Leonardo DiCaprio will star for Mel Gibson in an untitled period drama about Viking culture. William Monahan is writing the script. Variety reports that Graham King will produce with Gibson and Tim Headington in a co-production of King's GK Films and Gibson's Icon. Gibson will direct the film in fall 2010.
The principals confirmed the project but would not divulge many details, Variety says. However, the trade does say that DiCaprio will play a Viking in a storyline that will be "as unsparing as Gibson's other period directing efforts, Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.
King previously teamed with DiCaprio and Monahan in The Departed and just worked with Gibson and Monahan in the Martin Campbell-directed drama Edge of Darkness.
"This will be an awe-inspiring story, created with some of the industry's finest cinematic talent, and I am just over the moon to be making this film with Mel, Leo and Bill," King said.
DiCaprio will likely take a film before this one. He just completed the Christopher Nolan-directed Inception and will next be seen in the Martin Scorsese-directed Shutter Island. Gibson just finished the Jodie Foster-directed The Beaver.
Kathryn Bigelow's hard-hitting war drama The Hurt Locker has emerged as an early Oscar favorite after picking up a string of nominations for the upcoming Gotham Independent Film Awards, one of the season's first big prizegivings.
The movie will be up against Amreeka, Big Fan, The Maid and A Serious Man in the Best Feature category, while star Jeremy Renner will fight for the Breakthrough Actor prize, and he and his castmates are up for Best Ensemble Performance.
Meanwhile, director Bigelow will be among the filmmakers and stars honored with tributes at the 19th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, held in New York on Nov. 30. Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci and producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will also be presented with career tributes.
Meanwhile, Chris Rock's Good Hair will compete with Food, Inc., My Neighbor, My Killer, Paradise and Tyson for the Best Documentary prize, and Cruz Angeles (Don't Let Me Down), Frazer Bradshaw (Everything Strange and New), Noah Buschel (The Missing Person), Derick Martini (Lymelife) and Robert Siegel (Big Fan) will fight for the Breakthrough Director award.
Up against Renner in the Breakthrough Actor category are Ben Foster (The Messenger), comedian Patton Oswalt (Big Fan), Catalina Saavedra (The Maid) and Souleymane Sy Savane (Goodbye Solo).
Adventureland, Cold Souls, A Serious Man and Sugar will compete with The Hurt Locker for the Best Ensemble Performance honor.
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The movie will be up against Amreeka, Big Fan, The Maid and A Serious Man in the Best Feature category, while star Jeremy Renner will fight for the Breakthrough Actor prize and he and his castmates are up for Best Ensemble Performance.
Meanwhile, director Bigelow will be among the filmmakers and stars honoured with tributes at the 19th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, held in New York on 30 November (09). Natalie Portman, Stanley Tucci and producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will also be presented with career tributes.
Meanwhile, Chis Rock's Good Hair will compete with Food, Inc., My Neighbor My Killer, Paradise and Tyson for the Best Documentary prize and Cruz Angeles (Don’t Let Me Down), Frazer Bradshaw (Everything Strange and New), Noah Buschel (The Missing Person), Derick Martini (Lymelife) and Robert Siegel (Big Fan) will fight for the Breakthrough Director award.
Up against Renner in the Breakthrough Actor category are Ben Foster (The Messenger), comedian Patton Oswalt (Big Fan), Catalina Saavedra (The Maid) and Soulemane Sy Savane (Goodbye Solo).
Adventureland, Cold Souls, A Serious Man and Sugar will compete with The Hurt Locker for the Best Ensemble Performance honour.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
British film Atonement leads the nominations for the 2008 Golden Globe Awards with nods in seven categories.
Keira Knightley has been shortlisted for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for the romantic epic, and her costar James McAvoy picked up the same honor in the Best Actor category. Joe Wright has also received a Best Director nod for the critically lauded adaptation of Ian McEwan's 2001 novel.
Atonement will be competing for the coveted Best Motion Picture (Drama) award with American Gangster, Eastern Promises, The Great Debaters, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood.
Hollywood star George Clooney joins McAvoy in the running for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama) prize for his role in Michael Clayton, as do Daniel Day-Lewis, for There Will Be Blood; Viggo Mortensen, for Eastern Promises; and Denzel Washington, for American Gangster.
Knightley will be battling it out with Cate Blanchett, for Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Angelina Jolie, for A Mighty Heart; Julie Christie, for Away From Her; and Jodie Foster, for The Brave One.
Sweeney Todd has been nominated for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director for Tim Burton and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) for Johnny Depp. Depp will be up against Ryan Gosling, for Lars and the Real Girl; Tom Hanks, for Charlie Wilson's War; Philip Seymour Hoffman, for The Savages; and John C. Reilly, for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) are Amy Adams, for Enchanted; Nikki Blonsky, for Hairspray; Helena Bonham Carter, for Sweeney Todd; Marion Cotillard, for La Vie En Rose; and Ellen Page, for Juno.
Ridley Scott, for American Gangster; Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, for No Country for Old Men; and Julian Schnabel, for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, will be in the running with Wright and Burton for the Best Director prize.
The awards ceremony will take place at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles on Jan. 13.
(Click here for the complete list of nominations.)
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