If Pixar could ever be said to have a red-headed stepchild it would be 2006’s Cars. Other studios would be doing backflips and buying self-congratulatory Variety ads if their tentpoles earned Cars’ 74% Rotten Tomatoes rating but for Pixar it represents an all-time low. Scan the positive reviews and you’ll notice they’re mostly filled with praise of the qualified kind as in “It’s no Toy Story or Incredibles but…”
So why bother with a sequel? Because even a studio of such vaunted artistic integrity as Pixar must occasionally bow to the dictates of the market: Cars may be among Pixar’s lesser-regarded and lesser-performing films (though a $461 million worldwide gross hardly constitutes failure) but it is astonishingly successful as a brand second only to the Toy Story franchise in its worldwide merchandising haul. The prospective numbers alone – Cars 2 is expected to outstrip Toy Story 3’s multi-billion-dollar retail sales tally – made another Cars installment all but inevitable.
That’s not to say Cars 2 is just some naked cash-grab. As the Toy Story follow-ups demonstrated Pixar and producer-director John Lasseter take their sequels seriously and never embark upon them without a plan that allows a reasonable chance at surpassing the original. And their plan in the case of Cars 2 calls for a wholesale overhaul.
The story begins with racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) now a four-time Piston Cup champion accepting a challenge by arrogant Italian Formula One racer Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro) to compete against him in the World Grand Prix a series of races in Japan Italy France and England. But once Cars 2 arrives in Tokyo the setting of its first race the plot pulls an audacious switcheroo morphing into a rollicking spy thriller. (This is presaged by its opening sequence an elaborate take-off of classic Bond-movie prologues.) Lightning the hero of the first film retreats to the sidelines as the story shifts its focus to his dim-witted tow-truck sidekick Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) who through a case of mistaken identity is thrust into the center of a conspiracy involving efforts to thwart a revolutionary alternative fuel called Allinol.
On the trail of the mysterious green-energy haters are British secret agents Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) the spitting image of 007’s iconic silver Aston Martin DB5 (actual brand names are for the most part avoided) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) a plucky purple roadster who believe Mater to be an American agent under deep cover. Fumbling toward gallantry his ignorance and clumsiness attributed to his elaborate disguise Mater’s arc echoes those of the protagonists in Being There and other works in which simpletons inadvertently elevated to positions of significance. Heroism it seems knows no IQ.
All told Cars 2 represents a solid upgrade – lighter quicker sleeker and brighter than the original model. Leaving the provincial confines of Radiator Springs the setting of the first film is a boon to the animators allowing them to showcase breathtaking 3D renderings of exotic skylines and cityscapes. The film boasts an earnest if artlessly conveyed pro-environmentalist message but I would hesitate to call it a message film. In fact it may be Pixar’s least-serious film to date: silly whimsical and crammed with one-liners and throwaway sight gags. It lacks the immense depth of feeling that characterizes more esteemed Pixar releases like Toy Story 3 or Up! but it's by no means hollow either. Those wishing for that old familiar Pixar profundity may simply have to accept that a world made up exclusively of anthropomorphized cars just isn’t conducive to it.
All of which suggests that Cars 2 is principally geared toward the audience’s younger and more distractible members who may lose track of the conspiracy plotline or fail to grasp its energy politics but will devour the rest of the film like a supercharged pixie stick. A handful of vehicles actually die in the film though never on-screen. The implied vehicular carnage probably won’t traumatize the little ones but it could prompt a few uncomfortable “Do cars go to heaven?” conversations.
Adults’ appreciation for Cars 2 may ultimately hinge on their respective tolerance for Mater’s bumbling redneck shtick and the film’s reliance (some might say overreliance) on fish-out-of-water/culture-clash humor. The comic tone of Cars 2 is about what you’d expect from a film in which Larry the Cable guy gets the lion’s share of the dialogue which is to say: exceedingly lowbrow. I tired of it shortly after the first act; your mileage may vary.
November 04, 2010 6:48am EST
Following is a roundup of American Film Market deals making news over the past day.
Voltage Pictures has closed a host of pre-AFM sales for indie political drama The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz, Variety reports. Territories to acquire the project include Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Hong Kong, Latin America, Taiwan and the Middle East. UTA is selling the pic for the US.
Also per Variety, Maya Entertainment has acquired US rights to Sympathy for Delicious, Mark Ruffalo's directorial debut. Plans are to release in the spring. Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Orlando Bloom and Laura Linney star.
London-based WestEnd Films has boarded international sales for The Song of Names, directed by Vadim Perelman and starring Anthony Hopkins and Dustin Hoffman.
Per Screen, the project will be shot by Oscar-winning DP Pawel Edelman. Script is by Oscar-nominated writer Jeffrey Caine with a score composed by Oscar winner James Horner.
Story follows a man searching for a childhood friend, who mysteriously vanished one day when they were teenagers.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Anchor Bay Films has acquired all distribution rights for the US, UK and Australia/New Zealand to Joker Films' Daydream Nation. Michael Goldbach's feature debut stars Kat Dennings and Josh Lucas.
TF1 International is handling two Canadian projects: Hobo With a Shotgun and :) 388 Arletta Avenue.
Latter is produced by Vincenzo Natali and Steven Hoban. Starring Nick Stahl, the found-footage film is Paranormal Activity meets Rear Window, says TF1.
Hobo is from director Jason Eisener, who originally won top honors in the Grindhouse Trailer Contest with a faux trailer for the project. Rutger Hauer stars in the vigilante tale.
France's Memento Films is handling the English-language debut of Palme d'Or winner and Oscar nominee Laurent Cantet, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates' Foxfire.
The project, per Screen, is set in 1950s America and follows a group of headstrong teenage girls. Memento previously handled Cantet's lauded The Class.
StudioCanal has sold all Japanese rights on horror hit The Last Exorcism to Comstock Group.
Indomina Releasing, says Screen, has acquired all North American rights from Films Distribution to French horror project The Pack, which premiered in Cannes and stars Yolande Moreau and Emilie Dequenne.
Magnolia International has closed multiple territories on Norwegian creature feature Troll Hunter. According to Screen, the film has sold in the UK, Australia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and Thailand.
Finally, Strand Releasing has picked up all US rights to Catherine Breillat's Sleeping Beauty from Pyramide Intl. The film will be released next spring.
Source: Hollywood Wiretap
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When all-American girl Susan Murphy is inadvertently hit by a falling meteor on her wedding day she grows to be nearly 50 feet tall. The U.S. military gets wind of this renames her Ginormica and locks her away with a slacker group of other “monsters” in a top-secret compound. But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc these good-hearted but inept creatures are called into action by the President and must band together as a team to save the world from certain catastrophe.
WHO’S IN IT?
As usual Dreamworks has assembled a stellar A-list voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon as Susan/Ginormica. Playing one of the rare female animated heroes Witherspoon’s sweet/confused demeanor — in light of her highly unusual status as a fearsome freakazoid — hits just the right tone generously letting her zanier colleagues steal scenes from right under her (a long way down by the way). Chief among these are a not-so-bright gelatinous blue mass named B.O.B. hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen; the genius Dr. Cockroach Ph.D in the capable hands of House doc Hugh Laurie; and Will Arnett’s half-ape half-fish The Missing Link. In the human roles there’s Stephen Colbert as the idiotic U.S. President Kiefer Sutherland as the monster’s prison guardian Paul Rudd as the ego-driven weatherman fiancé of Susan; and a deliciously villainous Rainn Wilson as Galaxhar the alien determined to take over Earth.
Superb 3-D effects aren’t overdone and add immeasurably to the ginormous fun of the film but even seeing it in theaters that only show it in regular 2-D doesn’t spoil the pure joy of this cartoonish War of the Worlds. Throw in parodies of every cheap '50s sci-fi movie you can think of and you have the ingredients for a silly monster mash sure to appeal to just about anyone who wants to laugh. Despite the impressive production elements it’s the smart and clever script that really sets it apart from its competitors — and that even includes the similar Monsters Inc. from Pixar.
Like any kid-oriented comic ‘toon today the action can be a bit too frenetic and Monsters vs. Aliens piles a lot of it on in its trim 95 minutes. Still the lovable characters carry the day and somehow make it all palatable.
When Susan now Ginormica brings her new friends home to meet her parents chaos ensues and so do the laughs. Also impressive are the large action scenes that make fine use of CGI animation breakthroughs.
BEST SUPPORTING BLOB:
It's easily the one-eyed lame-brained blue lug of a people hugger named B.O.B. perfectly matched to the talents of Rogen. He rolls away with the movie and inevitably the merchandise tie-ins.
The Constant Gardener is leading the pack ahead of next month's British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards after picking up 10 nominations.
Rachel Weisz, who won the Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Golden Globe on Monday, is nominated for Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the adaptation of Graham Greene's novel, while Ralph Fiennes is up for Actor in a Leading Role and filmmaker Fernando Meirelles is put forward for the David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction.
Hot on the heels of The Constant Gardener are gay cowboy heartbreaker Brokeback Mountain and politically charged Crash, which have both received nine nominations for the Feb. 19 awards ceremony.
Taiwanese filmmaker Ang Lee is nominated for the David Lean Award, and his stars Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams have all received recognition for their performances.
Hit British movie Pride and Prejudice has been named in six BAFTA categories including British Film of the Year and Actress in a Supporting Role for Brenda Blethyn's scene-stealing performance.
George Clooney is up for two awards—Actor in a Supporting Role for Syriana and Achievement in Direction for his handling of Good Night, And Good Luck—which has scooped six nominations.
Oscars favorites and Walk the Line co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon have both been nominated for their acclaimed acting in the Johnny Cash biopic, while Chinese beauty Ziyi Zhang is up for the Actress in a Leading Role BAFTA for her star turn in the big screen version of Arthur Golden's best-selling novel Memoirs of a Geisha.
The partial list of nominees is as follows:
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, And Good Luck
The Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year:
A Cock and Bull Story
The Constant Gardener
Pride and Prejudice
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
The Carl Foreman Award for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer in Their First Feature Film:
David Belton (Producer)--Shooting Dogs
Peter Fudakowski (Producer)--Tsotsi
Annie Griffin (Director/Writer)—Festival
Richard Hawkins (Director)--Everything
Joe Wright (Director)--Pride and Prejudice
The David Lean Award for Achievement in Direction:
Brokeback Mountain--Ang Lee
The Constant Gardener--Fernando Meirelles
Good Night, And Good Luck--George Clooney
Best Original Screenplay:
Cinderella Man--Cliff Hollingsworth/Akiva Goldsman
Crash--Paul Haggis/Bobby Moresco
Good Night, And Good Luck--George Clooney/Grant Heslov
Hotel Rwanda--Keir Pearson/Terry George
Mrs. Henderson Presents--Martin Sherman
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Brokeback Mountain--Larry Mcmurtry/Diana Ossana
The Constant Gardener--Jeffrey Caine
A History of Violence--Josh Olson
Pride and Prejudice--Deborah Moggach
Best Film Not in the English Language:
De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrêté (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)
Le Grand Voyage
Kung Fu Hustle
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
David Strathairn--Good Night, And Good Luck
Heath Ledger--Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix--Walk the Line
Philip Seymour Hoffman--Capote
Ralph Fiennes--The Constant Gardener
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Charlize Theron--North Country
Judi Dench--Mrs. Henderson Presents
Rachel Weisz--The Constant Gardener
Reese Witherspoon--Walk the Line
Ziyi Zhang--Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
George Clooney--Good Night, And Good Luck
Jake Gyllenhaal--Brokeback Mountain
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Brenda Blethyn--Pride and Prejudice
Frances Mcdormand--North Country
Michelle Williams--Brokeback Mountain
Article Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.
Hollywood opens its presents early this weekend with the arrival of a few deluxe-wrapped packages full of good holiday cheer.
"Anna and the King," a richly decorated version of the classic musical "The King and I" sans the music, should pique the interests of romantic moviegoers young and old. It stars Academy Award winner Jodie Foster and Hong Kong action icon Chow Yun-Fat.
Gifts for the kids come in the form of the studio movies "Stuart Little" and "Bicentennial Man." Based on a beloved children's novel, "Stuart Little" tells the live-action adventures of a pet mouse, with a voice provided by Michael J. Fox. In "Bicentennial Man," Robin Williams undergoes a different kind of transformation, playing an android who learns what it means to be human. "Mrs. Doubtfire" director Chris Columbus helms the film.
Other high-profile holiday films opening in limited release include "Simpatico," a drama featuring A-list talents Jeff Bridges, Sharon Stone and Nick Nolte, and "Topsy Turvy," a film about the lives of entertainers William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Mike Leigh ("Secrets & Lies," "Naked").
Below is a list of all the week's releases.
Opening Wednesday, Dec. 15
"Simpatico" (Fine Line) -- Jeff Bridges plays an affluent horse breeder whose reputation threatens to go to ruin when his penitent ex-partner played by Nick Nolte resurfaces to expose a horseracing scam the two masterminded many years ago. Albert Finney plays the innocent man who took the fall for their stint. Sharon Stone co-stars as Bridges' wife.
"Topsy Turvy" (USA) -- Acclaimed director Mike Leigh leaps back in time to enter the lives of two Londoners who were marked by extraordinary creativity: William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. The film traces the bumpy collaboration of the writer-composer team after a period of declined popularity and creative impasse. Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner co-star.
Opening Friday, Dec. 17
"Anna and the King" (Fox) -- Based on the diaries of Anna Leonowens, this film casts Jodie Foster as a British governess headed for Thailand to care for the children of the country's king, played by Chow Yun-Fat. By the end of her stay, she's managed to touch the lives of both the children and their father.
"Bicentennial Man" (Buena Vista) -- Robin Williams plays an android who is purchased as a household robot to perform menial tasks. His proud owners quickly learn that they don't have an ordinary robot as Williams begins to exhibit emotions and creative thought. Sam Neill, Oliver Platt and Embeth Davidtz co-star.
"Stuart Little" (Sony) -- Based on the classic children's novel by E.B. White, this animated feature combines live-action with state-of-the-art visual-effects technology to bring the lovable rodent and his adopted human family to life. Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie co-star. Michael J. Fox, Jennifer Tilly and Bruno Kirby provide voices for the animated characters.
"The Emperor and the Assassin" (SPC) -- Renowned Chinese director Chen Kaige and actress Gong Li reunite in this tale of power and ruthless ambition set in feudal China. Li Xuejian portrays a power-hungry king obsessed with becoming the first emperor of unified China, and Li co-stars as his devoted concubine abetting him in the enterprise.
"Magnolia" (New Line) -- "Boogie Nights" director Paul Anderson heads back to the San Fernando Valley for this modern-day tale of intersecting stories that feature "Boogie" alums Julianne Moore, Luis Guzman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Philip Baker Hall. Oh, and megastar Tom Cruise.
"Onegin" (Samuel Goldwyn) -- Set in 1820s Russia, Ralph Fiennes stars as a dashing aristocrat who's brought to the countryside through his inheritance of a large estate. There he acquaints Liv Tyler, a doting young woman whose love he refuses. Six years later, the two meet again on vastly different terms -- he's fallen obsessively in love with Tyler while she's comfortably married to another man.
"Ride With the Devil" (USA) -- Directed by Ang Lee, this Civil War drama stars Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich and Jeffrey Wright as three friends who are avid supporters of the Confederate cause. Fighting as civilians, the three men pledge their allegiance to the South by killing unsuspecting Union soldiers. Singer-songwriter Jewel makes her acting debut as their love interest.
"The Cider House Rules" (Miramax) -- Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("What's Eating Gilbert Grape") and adapted from John Irving's best-selling novel, this coming-of-age story casts Tobey Maguire as a young man who has spent his entire youth in an orphanage. Hungry for experience, he sets out to explore the world outside. Charlize Theron and Michael Caine co-star.
The awards season has officially kicked off, and "American Beauty" has its first trophy on the mantle.
The dark satire was named Best Film of the year Dec. 8 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Directed by first-timer Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, "Beauty" was released in September to widespread acclaim and solid box office.
Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of "The English Patient," was named Best Director for "The Talented Mr. Ripley," starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, which was reportedly shown to the board in an unfinished print.
Best Actor honors went to Russell Crowe for his portrayal of tobacco industry whistle-blower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider," co-starring Al Pacino, and British actress Janet McTeer was named Best Actress for the mother-daughter film "Tumbleweeds."
After "American Beauty," the rest of the group's top 10 were named in order: "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Magnolia," "The Insider," "The Straight Story," "Cradle Will Rock," "Boys Don't Cry," "Being John Malkovich," "Tumbleweeds" and "Three Kings."
"Magnolia," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and opening Dec. 17, won honors for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. Hoffman was named Best Supporting Actor by the New York-based board for his performance in both "Magnolia" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Moore was named Best Supporting Actress for four films: "Magnolia," "A Map of the World," "An Ideal Husband" and "Cookie's Fortune." Anderson's film also won an award for its ensemble, which includes Jason Robards, William H. Macy and Tom Cruise.
"The Insider" director Michael Mann won a Freedom of Expression award, along with Joan Chen for "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl." Tim Robbins, who wrote and directed "Cradle Will Rock," will receive an award for Special Achievement for Filmmaking in 1999.
"Boys Don't Cry" director Kimberly Peirce was named Best Debut Director, and star Hilary Swank was chosen for the Breakthrough Performance award along with Wes Bentley for "American Beauty."
Best Screenplay honors went to novelist John Irving for adapting his novel "The Cider House Rules," which stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine. Clint Eastwood was the recipient of the group's Career Achievement Award, and director John Frankenheimer received the board's Billy Wilder Award.
Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" was named Best Foreign Film. The rest of the top five was "Run Lola Run," "East-West," "The Emperor and the Assassin" and "Cabaret Balkan."
This year, the Board of Review gave special nod for outstanding independent films. They are "A Map of the World," "A Walk on the Moon," "Election," "Go," "Limbo," "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Man of the Century," "Stir of Echoes," "This is My Father" and "Twin Falls Idaho."
The 90-year-old board, which includes film teachers, actors, writers, critics, film production workers and others, will present the awards at its annual dinner Jan. 18 in Gotham's Tavern on the Green in New York.
Awards by film critics' groups, which also includes the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, are deemed early indications for the Academy Awards, which take place March 26 in Los Angeles.