The Croods will entertain smaller children with its bright colors and funky animal creations, but anyone looking for more than that will be sorely disappointed. The plot is, shall we say, crudely simple: A family of cave-dwellers must abandon their way of life when the tectonic plates shift, causing a ripple effect of natural disasters that threaten not just their cave but their lives. The future beckons, and the Croods' guide is Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a slightly more evolved human who knows about things like fire, shoes, and belts — specifically, a sloth named Belt who holds his pants up and acts as adorable comic relief. Guy also serves as a romantic interest for our heroine Eep (Emma Stone) and the burr in Daddy Crood's backside, an old school Neanderthal type with a low-hanging brow and a fiercely overprotective nature.
The push/pull dynamic of the Croods' fear of the future and desire to learn more about Guy's world (and also not die) is a decent foil to the more personal tension between our heroine Eep and her dad Grug (Nicolas Cage). In this world, sneaking out at night could lead to certain death, and the family has only survived so far because Grug is strong and cautious. "Fear keeps us alive. Never not be afraid," he tells his family, just in case we didn't get the point.
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Eep is at that shaky time in a teen girl's life where she's still her daddy's baby but also longs for sunshine and adventure and love. Guy's the one who urges them towards a mystical place called Tomorrow, and eventually Grug's gotta decide if he wants to keep up with the times or stay behind. The majority of the movie consists of the Croods mock-fighting with each other and chasing or being chased by large animals, strung together by hollow emotional interactions between the characters. The story itself has promise, but its execution is lacking.
The strangest thing about The Croods is that its talented voice cast is so bland as to be unrecognizable. The charming Stone is lost behind her character's muddy identity, which switches between a present-day teen and a Neanderthal with overpowering strength and the ability to walk and run on her hands and feet. Keener's character Ugga, Eep's mom, is nearly invisible, and mostly serves as a body to transport the obnoxious toddler Sandy. Cloris Leachman voices Gran, a character that allows writers/directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (Space Chimps) to flex their Catskill-era comedy skills when it comes to jokes about mother-in-laws that are too mean or stubborn to die.
Thankfully, The Croods does offer viewers something to look at while the characters go on their interminable trip. Although the Croods and Guy themselves leave something to be desired in terms of design, the environments they travel through are inventive, wildly colorful, and fun. Granted, we're not talking about a ParaNorman-like attention to detail, but it's something to look at while you're biding your time. The animals they encounter are strangely cute, too, like the weird Corgi/alligator that Thunk Crood (Clark Duke) adopts and named Douglas. The 3D is fine and doesn't feel like too much of a rip-off, but it's not necessarily going to blow your mind. Still, there's something missing if the most interesting and memorable thing in your movie is a pink sloth that doubles as a belt. Hopefully, parents are ready to hear their little ones imitate Belt's "Dun dun DUNNNN!" and buy all the Belt-branded merchandise sure to follow.
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The Spartacus star will join the likes of Warren Beatty, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Julie Andrews, who are all past recipients of the guild's Lifetime Achievement Award.
Announcing the news, committee chairman Henri Bollinger says, "No other actor personifies the term 'iconic movie star' more than Kirk Douglas. His acting talent is the underlining basis for his extraordinary success."
The awards luncheon will take place at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on 22 February (13).
De Niro was the guest of honour as he received the seventh annual Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at the event from Douglas himself, who he thanked in his acceptance speech.
Douglas turned 96 on Sunday (09Dec12) so De Niro handed the Spartacus star a special birthday present - a Raging Bull manuscript signed by himself, director Martin Scorsese and co-star Joe Pesci.
He said, "Thank you, Kirk, and happy birthday. This is the way I like to celebrate other people's birthdays, I get the present! Actually though, I do have something for you. I asked your son Michael... what you would like and he said he didn't really know you well enough to say. No, I'm just kidding. He said you might like an original screenplay of Raging Bull. So, Marty Scorsese had one. He was trying to sell it on (auction site) eBay, but he gave it to me to give it to you for $200 bucks. So he and Joe Pesci signed it and I had the girl in my office sign my name. From all of us, happy birthday, Kirk. And it's an honour to receive this gift with your name."
According to HitFix.com, Douglas told the gala's audience he planned to "retire" from presenting his namesake award, but decided to attend the ceremony one last time after learning De Niro was this year's (12) recipient.
Sometimes a director has a favorite actor that they jibe with whom they cast in a whole whack of movies in a row. Think Scorsese and DiCaprio Wes Anderson and Bill Murray or Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst. It's a sort of professional infatuation that can serve a project well but it can also lull them into self-indulgence. Although this is only the second time that Killing Them Softly's writer/director Andrew Dominik has worked with Brad Pitt it feels like they have a certain camaraderie. The symbiosis previously worked in their favor in 2007's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This time around they never quite find the same rhythm.
Of course Killing Them Softly has an entirely difference cadence than that golden-hued meditative Western; it's stylishly violent and blackly hilarious. After all the catalyst for this whole affair is a half-cocked scheme cooked up by a wanna-be gangster nicknamed Squirrel (Vincent Curatola) and carried out by a desperate ex-con (Scoot McNairy) and a scummy Australian junkie (Ben Mendelsohn) who steals and sells purebred dogs for cash. Their plan to knock over a mobbed-up card game is air tight (or so it seems): the game runner Markie (Ray Liotta) has confessed to setting up a heist of his own game in the past. The knuckleheads think the card-players will blame him again.
Unfortunately for them Jackie Cogan (Pitt) is called in to investigate the matter. His record is impeccable his glasses mirror-slick and his hands steady. His technique is of course to kill his victims "softly " from a distance. "It's so embarrassing " he comments to a middleman played by Richard Jenkins to watch his targets plead and cry and lose control of their bodily functions. It's just as embarrassing to see his colleagues lose their mettle like Mickey (James Gandolfini) a gangster he called in to help out. Mickey is a dogged drunk and a womanizer who's given to rapturous platitudes about a prostitute he knew in Florida. "There's no ass in the whole world like a young Jewish girl who's hooking " he tells an increasingly frustrated Jackie. Grossly funny scenes like this the scatological problems one encounters while driving dog-napped pups across country and an explosion gone awry are outweighed by a weirdly bloated narrative that makes pits stops so characters can loll in junkie nods to the tunes of the Velvet Underground.
The changing political climate of the era is used as a clumsy foil for this underground economy. At first it's interesting and makes you feel a bit clever to notice the TV in the background playing an old clip of George W. Bush droning on about the economy or a huge political ad on a billboard looming over a desolate area. As time goes on Bush is replaced by Obama (first as senator later as president) on TV but nothing really changes for these people or their situations. Midway through it's obvious and by the end overbearing especially as Jackie lectures Jenkins's lawyer (and us) about why the system is as screwed as the characters. "America's not a country it's a business. Now f**king pay me " he tells Jenkins's Driver in an echo of the classic Goodfellas line uttered by Liotta.
Dominik has only made three films but he's a formidable writer and director with a keen eye for assembling ensemble casts. It's possible that time and multiple viewings will treat Killing Them Softly as well as it has The Assassination of Jesse James or Chopper but for now it works better as a character study or perhaps a showpiece for its talented performers than an overall experience.
"Michael's family always thanks me for bringing in reality, some fresh air. The way he grew up, well, let's just say I didn't grow up like that. I wasn't raised by nannies. My parents, they're very down-to-earth. Michael's family really gets a kick out of it." Catherine Zeta-Jones' in-laws love her simple upbringing. Her actor husband Michael Douglas is the son of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas.
The Touched By Love star passed away in hospital on Wednesday (21Nov12) after losing her battle with leukaemia, one year after she was diagnosed with the blood cancer.
Raffin began her career in the 1970s with roles in films including 40 Carats, The Ransom and Once Is Not Enough with Kirk Douglas, and she landed a Golden Globe nomination for playing a caretaker in the 1980 drama Touched By Love.
She is also said to have been the first Western actress to embark on a promotional film tour of China after her movie Nightmare in Badham County became a box office hit in the Far East.
Raffin also ventured into business in 1985 when she founded the audiobook firm Dove Books-on-Tape with her then-husband, music producer Michael Viner.
Hollywood legends including Burt Reynolds and Sir Roger Moore were among the stars who narrated audiobooks for Dove.
A memorial service for Raffin will be held on Sunday (25Nov12) in Culver City, California, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Hilary Duff, Matt Bomer, Zachary Levi and Blair Underwood also volunteered to help feed the less fortunate at the Los Angeles Mission, on the eve of the official U.S. holiday on Thursday (22Nov12).
The annual charity event is hosted by veteran actor Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne.
They weren't the only celebrities to spread a little festive cheer - actress Kyra Sedgwick spent Thanksgiving day taking supplies to New Yorkers affected by superstorm Sandy last month (Oct12).
The movie star will be the guest of honour at a black-tie gala dinner at the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, California on 8 December (12), when he will accept his latest accolade from Douglas himself.
The movie veteran, who the award is named after, says of De Niro, "I am a great fan, not only for what he does on screen, but also for establishing the Tribeca Film Festival... It brought joy back to lower Manhattan in the aftermath of 9/11."
De?Niro will join an illustrious group of past recipients of the award, including Kirk's son Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Ed Harris, John Travolta and Kirk Douglas himself.
The Spartacus star and his wife Anne recently pledged a massive $50 million (£31 million) donation to five different charities through their Douglas Foundation, including a $5 million cheque to the Anne Douglas Center for Women at the Los Angeles Mission.
Now the 95 year old has doubled his promise to the facility, which opened in 1992 and helps women get back on their feet by providing housing and job training.
The gift was announced at a Hollywood event to mark the organisation's 20th anniversary on Wednesday (12Sep12).
Douglas also presented his love of 57 years an award for her outstanding commitment to the community, according to the Associated Press.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.