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.
Well this is certainly turning into a cast for the ages. Vincent Kartheiser joins Andrew Niccol's untitled sci-fi thriller about a global population that doesn’t live past 25 that also stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy.
The addition of Kartheiser adds to the level of pedigree the previously hired cast members are bringing to the film. Kartheiser plays the smarmy Peter on Mad Men and it looks like his turn on the show is bringing in some rewards on the feature front. Seyfried is a great actress when she isn’t doing stuff like Dear John and Jennifer’s Body. What do you mean that’s all she does? Oh well, hopefully this’ll get her better parts. Murphy’s biggest roles have been in the revamped Batman movies and Inception so he knows his way around a big budget thriller. And then there is Timberlake. Oh Justin Timberlake, that magnificent bastard. Word on the street (it was in chalk) is that he could be up for an Oscar for The Social Network. I’d love to see that cover of Tiger Beat.
The story is set in a world where people die on their quarter-centennial celebration (not quite a celebration then, huh?) unless they can afford to buy more time. Basically, it’s Hugh Hefner’s dream.
Anyway, Timberlake plays a punk kid who kidnaps some rich dude’s (Kartheiser) daughter (Seyfried). Murphy is a "Timekeeper", or lawman for the immortal. Little else is known about the film, but based on its cast and logline it could turn out to be a smart and futuristic thriller ala Minority Report. And with Niccol writing and directing - this being the man responsible for The Truman Show and Gattaca - I'm very excited to learn more about this ambitious project.
Once called I'm.mortal, Niccol's spec script is now untitled, which is a good thing because I'm.mortal is the dumbest name given to any piece of literature ever in the history of the written word. Actually, I’ll go as far as to say it’s the dumbest name ever given to anything in the history of the universe. Not only is it a play on words, it gets all cutesy with the punctuation. I’d like to kick that title right in the comma. But it sounds like a good movie despite its former headache-inducing title.
The hit U.S. comedy, about a high school show choir, boasts a huge list of celebrity fans, and A-list stars including Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears have been confirmed for roles in future episodes.
Glee creator Ryan Murphy recently directed Roberts in her new movie Eat Pray Love - but she is adamant he'll never persuade her to sing on the show.
She tells Reuters, "(Actor) Billy Crudup and I were in a Woody Allen musical a couple of years ago and so he said, 'Oh, you're a great singer,' and my husband said, 'You are a great singer.' So, now I'm going to say I am a great singer, (but) I'm not just going on Glee."
The show, set in a U.S. high school, has already attracted notable cameo appearances from Jennifer Lopez and Josh Groban, while Lady Gaga and Madonna have both given permission for their most famous tracks to be used in the routines.
And after working with Pretty Woman star Roberts on her new film, Glee creator Ryan Murphy is hoping she will join the cast of the hit TV programme.
He says, ""I just finished a movie with Julia, Eat, Pray, Love. She saw the rough cuts and fell in love with the show. I don't know if Julia's gonna do it, maybe. But she loves the show."
The Poker Face hitmaker has signed up to join the cast of the all-singing-all-dancing series following a request from show bosses.
Glee creator Ryan Murphy says, "We reached out to Lady Gaga and she said, 'Yes, I'd love to be a part of it.' So we will be doing Lady Gaga this season."
Murphy has also praised Madonna for giving him permission to use 10 of her songs in an upcoming tribute episode to the Material Girl, insisting she "cooperated in every way possible."
Other stars who have made cameos in the show include Jennifer Lopez and Josh Groban.
A string of Hollywood heavyweights are lining up behind the project, which will be directed by Dreamgirls' Bill Condon and produced by Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Pryor's widow Jennifer.
Condon is currently in negotiations with Columbia Pictures and Sandler's Happy Madison company and hopes production on Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? can begin next spring (10) with a budget of $20 million (£13 million), according to Daily Variety.
If the deal is done, it will conclude a long battle for Condon, whose plans to cast Eddie Murphy in the lead role collapsed when a number of studios rejected the stars' pay demands.
Pryor died in 2005 from a cardiac arrest at the age of 65.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
With so many flicks in the dance genre from classics like Flashdance and Fame to more recent entries like Step Up Save the Last Dance and Stomp the Yard as well as numerous popular TV dance competitions the Wayans Brothers are right in thinking there’s material ripe for riffing here. So in Dance Flick we get a young street dancer Thomas Uncles (get it?) who meets a gorgeous white chick named Megan White (get it?) and they team up for the ultimate in dance-offs as they become part of a “crew” that battles the baddies to take the title and repay Thomas’ debt to Sugar Bear an enormous loan shark and drug lord.
WHO’S IN IT?
In the lead roles of Thomas and Megan Damon Wayans Jr. and Shoshana Bush are naturals in the comedy department — if not exactly convincing as dance champs. Most of Dance Flick’s laughs come courtesy of the supporting players particularly Essence Atkins as Megan’s confidante and Amy Sedaris (TV’s Strangers With Candy) as a teacher who likes to verbally torment her students while wearing extremely tight and revealing pants. The rest of the film is swarming with stereotypes including Brennan Hillard doing a gay take-off on Zac Efron’s High School Musical character (including a swishy production number to the tune of Fame); Chelsea Makela as the compact and chubby Tracy Transfat (lifted directly from Hairspray’s energetic teenage lead) and Affion Crockett as A-Con a guy who aspires to be a criminal when he’s not getting all jiggy. Then of course there is the bitchy adversary for Megan played to the hilt by Christina Murphy. Best of all is the imposing Sugar Bear played by In Living Color vet David Alan Grier in a 400-pound fat suit who first does a send-up of Jennifer Hudson’s showstopping number from Dreamgirls “And I Am Telling You ” then later tops that with a killer spotlight dance in the big competition sequence. In addition to Damon Jr. we counted nine additional Wayans in various cameos.
The actual dance numbers including the big two that bookend the film are hilarious over-the-top and cleverly choreographed for ultimate comedic impact. The special effects and stunt teams clearly worked overtime on some of these moves. Sporadic moments of witty invention come along in between those set pieces but the jokes are stale and uninspired for the most part.
Clearly director Damien Wayans and his all-Wayans writing and producing team (Keenan Ivory Marlon Shawn and Craig) cracked themselves up when creating these gags but the hit-to-miss ratio is about to two-to-one on the negative side. And by the time the endlessly padded slow-motion end credits roll after just 75 minutes of this stuff the spoof has completely run out of gas resorting to lame gags about non-dance flicks like Twilight and the Samuel L. Jackson flop Black Snake Moan.
BEST SUPPORTING WAYANS?
Hands-down the small comic gems that work best all belong to Shawn Wayans as Baby Daddy who is easily the worst father in cinema history. His bits rock.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Netflix. Rent it and fast forward through the really REALLY dumb stuff to get to the really dumb stuff quicker.
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.
Will Smith has been crowned the highest earning actor in Hollywood, with a fortune of $80 million.
The Hancock star came first in the Forbes ranking to find the best paid actor of last year.
Cameron Diaz was Hollywood's highest earning actress with a fortune of $50 million, with Keira Knightley and Jennifer Aniston in second and third place with $32 million and $27 million, respectively.
Coming in behind Smith was Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp, who got paid a whopping $72 million.
The top five paid actors from June 2007 to June 2008 were rounded out by Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers, who took home $55 million each, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who pulled in $45 million.
The full list of Hollywood stars' paychecks are as follows:
1. Will Smith - $80 million
2. Johnny Depp - $72 million
3. Eddie Murphy - $55 million
3. Mike Myers - $55 million
5. Leonardo DiCaprio - $45 million
6. Bruce Willis - $41 million
7. Ben Stiller - $40 million
8. Nicolas Cage - $31 million
9. Will Ferrell - $31 million
10. Adam Sandler - $30 million
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