May 08, 2013 4:05pm EST
Ben Stiller was on the rise after breaking mainstream ground in There's Something About Mary. Robert De Niro was at the peak of his shift from Scorsese dramas to screwball comedies. The script was approachable and amicable, but not without its edge. Meet the Parents was prime crowd-pleasing comedy. Since the film's release in 2000, we've seen a number of other attempts at the in-law-centric comedy of errors, ones destined from conception to live in the shadow of Jay Roach's modern classic. The latest is the Tyler Perry production Peeples, a film that borrows more than just the basic "guy meeting his fiancée-to-be's family" formula from the Stiller/De Niro comedy. In fact, upon leaving a screening of the film on Tuesday night, I heard a fellow viewer remark that Peeples was "Meet The Fockers, but with music." Understandable, but not entirely fair.
Peeples sees the likable Wade Walker (Craig Robinson), an aspiring child psychologist who writes and performs songs to teach kids about expressing themselves verbally, struggling to impress his uptight girlfriend Grace's (Kerry Washington) rigid and tyrannical father, Judge Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier) upon meeting him and the family for the first time during a weekend getaway to their summer home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Yes, at times, the new movie seems like it cited the script of Parents with a checklist in hand: both films take place in prosperous Long Island, pit a sensitive working class dreamer against the hard-nosed professional patriarch, and involve the gradual surfacing of family secrets. For a while, there, it seems as though the movie is setting up for a rip-off of the too-well-known-to-be-reproduced Meet the Parents. But a few leagues into Wade's increasingly ill-fated vacation with the Peeples clan, the movie actually begins to one-up its predecessor.
With performers like Stiller and, to a greater degree, De Niro, Parents felt comfortable using its supporting cast as set dressing. There wasn't much for anyone else to do in the film: Teri Polo, Stiller's romantic interest, was flat and unsubstantial. Blythe Danner had some words of reason, but hardly anything to contribute to the comedy. Even De Niro's stoner son (Jon Abrahams) didn't have anything in the vein of a story. Stiller didn't meet the parents, much less the family. He met the dad. But here, Peeples is champion. Chism invests a little something in each member of her cinematic family: father Virgil is an overbearing, hypermasculine A-type (an identity that clearly stems from his relationship with his own father, whom we meet briefly). Grace has, as a result of her rearing, and her dad's well-documented favoritism, become a somewhat self-destructive, victory-affixed obsessive-compulsive, opting desperately to hide her imperfections from everyone in her life.
And Grace isn't the only Peeple to get an industrial treatment: her sister is, in the same vein, trying to hide her homosexuality from her abrasive father. Her brother is a kleptomaniac, and a contentious scientific genius with low self-esteem. Her mother is a recovering addict and a former music artist whose career and glory were overshadowed by her husband. The characters in Peeples are given full plates. And as Wade gets to know them through the film, he finds himself connecting with each of their individual stories.
Unfortunately, Peeples throws the lot of this out the window in the third act. In a 90-minute romantic comedy, there's only so much room for a full-fledged supporting cast, at least as far as the film is concerned. Each of these characters' conflicts, all far more engaging than that of Wade and Grace, are discarded when it comes time for the big, sweet ending. Even Grace's proclivity for dishonesty and judgment, not to mention her subtle Elektra Complex, are ignored in the end: the movie doesn't give its superior material a fair chance to shine, opting instead for your typical genre conclusion.
Throughout the movie, the gags are standard and predictable, with the performances of Robinson and Malcolm Barrett (playing Wade's goofy brother Chris) offering a few laughs here and there. The real meat of the movie is its devotion to the characters. Unfortunately, that devotion fades away instantly when the time comes from a sweeping romantic ending and dynamic musical number. But really, in a genre where these are the norm, couldn't we have spent a little more time solving the Peeples' problems?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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March 11, 2013 10:53am EST
He's played both James Bond and Batman. He's driven faster and more furiously than Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. He's bested dozens of Hollywood's biggest names — including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, and Hugh Grant — on the race track. He held a starring role on one of the UK's top rated television shows for eight years. And yet, chances are you wouldn't recognize him if you passed him on the street.
Ben Collins, who acted as a stunt driver in The Dark Knight Rises, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Fast & Furious 6 and others, is one of the top precision stunt drivers working today — and he gave Hollywood.com a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to get ahead in his adrenaline-pumping industry.
Daniel Craig is renowned for doing his own stunts (including much of the driving) as Bond, but Collins played an instrumental role in one of the film's most heart-stopping car sequences. While actress Naomie Harris was behind the wheel of the Land Rover in the film's opening chase, Collins was the one controlling the vehicle… from the roof. "Basically I was on the roof in what's called a pod system. It's like a metal cage with the steering and the pedals and the gears, so that basically I'm driving it from the roof with the actress underneath," Collins says. "It's pretty spooky for the actress."
"I guess I'm like expensive luggage sitting on the roof," Collins jokes. "I'm caged in there where I belong, and I'm strapped into a chair. It's got a normal seating position so from the outside it feels normal — but driving from the roof desperately takes some getting used to because you feel a lot more momentum at the top. And because you are the end of the seesaw, basically, when you go around a corner it feels like the car's going to tip over. They made a lot of modifications to make sure it stayed on the ground."
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Becoming 007's driving double is the most recent development in Collin's long career as a driver; the road to stunt driving has been paved with achievements on the race track and on television in his native Britain. He has been racing for 20 years, he says, and was "on the ladder's rung to reach Formula One," the most elite racing circuit in the world. During his time as a race car driver, Collins participated in the endurance racing event 24 Hours of Le Mans — which Collins describes as "cars racing at speeds of over 220 mph for 24 hours on this very high speed freestyle track in France" — as well as NASCAR in the U.S. Then, Collins landed his big break; he was cast as The Stig on BBC's long-running series Top Gear. The only catch: he couldn't tell anyone about it.
The Stig, who pushes cars to their limits as well as teaches celebrities to race on the show, "is this mysterious character in a white suit," Collins says. "And basically I never took the helmet off so no one ever knew who I was, what my name was, I never spoke in front of anybody who wasn't the crew. So for 8 years I carried on that role — 500 million viewers never knew who was doing all the driving. That was my career basically."
While on Top Gear, Collins (as The Stig) was challenged with teaching Hollywood's who's-who how to steer a car around the track. Who stands out in his mind as being the most adventurous? The one and only Tom Cruise. "He was absolutely ballsy," Collins says. "When he was going for the lap time in the Top Gear lab he was pushing so hard to set the fastest time. He did, but he actually crossed the line on two wheels — the car nearly tipped over. And he never got off the gas pedal, which I think says a lot about his nature."
In 2010, Collins decided to leave Top Gear and published an autobiography called The Man in the White Suit. While Collins had already left the show at the time of its publication, the book prompted a legal battle between Collins and Top Gear producers over confidentiality agreements.
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With eight seasons of TV under his belt, Collins set his sights a little higher: the big screen. Collins reached out to Gary Powell, stunt coordinator on a number of Bond films, including Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall. Powell brought Collins on board for Quantum, where he found himself seated behind the wheel of Bond's iconic Aston Martin. "I got involved with that incredible car chase, driving the Aston Martin, doubling James Bond, and pinching myself — it was hard to believe I was doing it," Collins says.
While the actors who have stepped into Bond's tuxedo — Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Daniel Craig, and the others — are the films' faces, the franchise is just as well known for its wild car chases and insane stunts. Behind the wheel of a Bond car, be it the Aston Martin or a Land Rover, Collins knew he had some large driving gloves to fill. "The great thing is, you've got a huge thing to live up to. With Bond, you're being handed a baton that's been passed through 50 years from one incredible stuntman to the next. So you've got a lot on your shoulders to live up to," Collins says.
"I grew up watching Bond with my family … So when someone pats you on the shoulder and says, 'It's your turn now,' you just think, 'I better not mess this up.' And you give it your everything to make it as good as what you remember seeing," Collins says. "So with the Bond character you are absolutely in awe of it. And you just try to keep calm on the day and make sure that you get the maximum performance out, that's what counts. You try and forget the nostalgia and just focus on the job."
Following his first stint as Bond, Collins was given the opportunity to check another dream off every car enthusiast's checklist. He drove the Batmobile in The Dark Knight Rises. "Yeah, driving the Batmobile was awesome," Collins concedes. "It's a fantastic machine. They made this incredible car that goes 110 mph — there are about six or seven of them, but there's nothing else like it in the world."
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Collins' favorite moment of shooting from the TDKR set never made it into the film, however. "There was a point when there was three of us doing a high speed through a tunnel and Chris Nolan was in a tracking vehicle, it's like a crane mounted to the roof of the Mercedes NL55, and we had to swerve past him in quite a tight space. It was so tight that our wheel hubs were just touching the wall and sending sparks through the tunnel," Collins says. "I'll always remember that because it was the first time I really drove with [stunt coordinator] George Cottle and Terry Jackson, another famous stunt guy from America, and I knew I'd arrived. It was a fantastic moment."
With sparks flying and head-on collisions imminent, the average driver would be terrified to face the things that are all in a day's work for Collins and his team. As such, Collins says that he rarely feels as though he is in danger while attempting death-defying stunts. "I'm usually brought in as a precision driver, which means there might be some danger, but by being precise and accurate I should be able to avoid it," he says. "We rehearse [the car chases] very accurately as best we can … We make all the preparations in advance as best as we possibly can, and that gives you a feeling of being in control." That being said, Collins adds, "You're definitely aware of the danger and that's why you get the adrenaline. And I suppose that's why we're addicted to our jobs."
When we spoke with Collins he was on his way to the Fast & Furious 6 set, so we had to ask, is he a speed demon on the highway during his daily commute? "Oh well, I get the odd ticket, which is terrible, but occasionally it happens," he says, laughing. "I mean, I don't go crazy on the road. I'm very fortunate to have had a career in racing and take as much of it out, as I can, on the track. And also, what I do, the speeds are so different than anything you could possibly do on the road anyway, I don't get that much of a buzz at road pace anyway."
Collins adds, "But I do love driving day to day. We have great roads here, as well as in the States; there are some fantastic places to drive. And occasionally you get a little carried away. But I try not to."
Follow Abbey on Twitter @AbbeyStone
[Photo Credit: Motortrend; AP Images;Warner Bros. Pictures]
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February 06, 2013 8:26am EST
With Bob Iger confirming on Feb.5 what we'd already known for months, that plans were in motion to develop standalone Star Wars films beyond Episodes VII, VIII, and IX focusing on other characters of George Lucas' saga, the respective geek lobes of our brains got fired up faster than a Dug high on Death Sticks.
Now EW.com is saying that two of those projects are going to be a Young Han Solo movie and a Boba Fett movie. We already told you what we'd like to see in a spin-off movie based around Yoda, but what other denizens of that Galaxy Far, Far away are ready for the spotlight?
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We'd say a Darth Maul movie could be interesting, but the Clone Wars television series has already gotten there first. Maybe a blistering corporate satire about Nute Gunray's career titled The Trade Federation: Credits Never Sleep? For those of us who want to delve deeper into the taxation of interstellar trade routes. Maybe a podrace movie about the early years of Ben Quadinaros. The Fast & the Furious: Tatooine Drift? Or a torture-porn gorefest about how Dr. Evazan earned every one of the death sentences on 12 systems? It could be from Hostel director Eli Roth and simply called Cantina. Okay, we kid. But here are 5 characters we really do think need more attention:
Boba Fett — Disney is on our wavelength: Fett is a no-brainer for a spin-off movie. Character creator Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Captain America: The First Avenger) has even said he wants to do a standalone Fett flick. And if you wanted to set it after Return of the Jedi, to avoid the stigma of a prequel, there would be an Expanded Universe basis for doing so. The fact is, Fett survived being swallowed by the sarlacc and lived to menace Han Solo another day. Just as long as a movie about the bounty hunter doesn't become a geriatric hitman flick about an elderly Fett targeting an elderly Harrison Ford as Solo, in which he'll need a jetpack...and a walker. I keep fearing a Stand-Up Guys scenario. But if you set it during Fett's prime, just imagine the possibilities. It could be about some particularly daunting bounty he has to claim and the motley rogues he has to beat out to nab the prize. We could have cameos from Dengar (Simon Pegg's already voicing him on The Clone Wars, now he can do so in the flesh!), Bossk, Aurra Sing, and, best of all, IG-88, the assassin droid who really would be ripe for a spinoff of his own.
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Lando Calrissian — Imagine an Ocean's 11-style heist thriller based around Lando Calrissian. Admittedly, Timothy Zahn already kind of did that with his recent novel Scoundrels. But I think we could go even further, add kind of a David Mamet, House of Games storyline about the former Cloud City administrator entering into a high-stakes sabacc tournament, in which he has to beat out all manner of scum and villainy, sometimes via shady means, to walk away with the prize. It could go really heavy on the fake Star Wars galaxy profanity. Every sentence should be peppered with expletives like "kriff" and "kark." By default it's gotta be better than the way Lando's depicted most of the time in the Expanded Universe. God, there was even once an arc in a series of novels about him trying desperately to find a wife. Lando doesn't do anything out of desperation...except betray his best friend when confronted by Imperial troops. But other than that? Nothing.
The Emperor — I'd like to see a standalone story about Palpatine at his prime, how he consolidated his power after declaring himself Emperor and destroying the Jedi Order. Maybe it could be about his epic campaign to enslave the Wookiees so he could use their labor to build the Death Star. So much of the prequels, Old Palpy is hiding his true malice, that it'd be fun to just see him let it rip. And, as was rumored way back in the heady days before Revenge of the Sith, Hugh Jackman could finally play Grand Moff Tarkin. Imagine Mark Strong as Thrawn! Maybe we could even get a glimpse of Darth Vader doing something cooler than just screaming "Nooooo!"
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Jabba — Okay, bear with me here. A hard-edged gangster thriller about Jabba's pre-strangulation climb to the top of the Outer Rim criminal heap, his battles with the Black Sun criminal syndicate, his torrid romance with a Twi'lek showgirl. The Clone Wars TV series already shown how his lounge singer Sy Snootles is really that Galaxy Far, Far Away's ultimate femme fatale, so she would be a must.
Salacious Crumb — Then the Jabba movie would get its own spinoff focused entirely on the cackling Kowakian monkey lizard who serves as the Hutt's jester. Totally non-verbal it could be written by the prankmeister who wrote that complete Mr. Peepers script on spec last year.
What Star Wars characters do you think should get the big-screen spotlight?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Lucasfilm]
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Year's end is close upon us and the Hollywood.com staff is finally ready to weigh in on the best of the best of big screen. We sat through movie after movie, January through December, to give you a definitive list of 2012's stand out films. Who made the cut? Read on for our writers' picks for the best movies of the year:
21 Jump Street (Picked By Kate Ward)
The reboot of the 1980s series starring Johnny Depp had everything going against it: It was released during the industry's March dead zone, which also happened to coincide with disinterested audiences' increasing desire to give all Hollywood reboots the boot. But 21 Jump Street jumped past all these hurdles, becoming not only one of Hollywood's few entertaining reboots, but one that showcased the surprising comedic talents of 2012's A-list breakout Channing Tatum. And in a year full of blockbuster tentpoles (The Hunger Games, Breaking Dawn — Part 2, and The Dark Knight Rises) and Oscar bait (Argo, Les Misérables, and Django Unchained), how could you not lend some support to 2012's true underdog?
Amour (Picked By Matt Patches)
In the last 20 years, Michael Haneke has explored every facet of human evil, no act of violence or shame too perverse for his cinematic journeys. Amour is new territory for the auteur, certainly his sweetest film to date, yet continuing his trend of forcing us to confront our deepest fears as emotional beings. With two powerful performances by French actors Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Haneke's film follows an elderly couple who grapple with staying sane in the final moments of their lives. Anne (Riva) is bed-stricken and barely aware of her surroundings. Georges (Trintignant) dedicates his every minute to taking care of her. The audiences watches, inspired, shocked, and warmed by the simple, raw drama of it all.
Anna Karenina (Picked By Abbey Stone)
Jon Wright's luscious, highly stylized adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic story of love and despair divided critics, but I was captivated by it. A departure from Wright's sweeping retellings of such literary masterpieces as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, Anna Karenina is claustrophobic, physically and figuratively. By trapping his characters in the ever-moving sets of an imperial theater (used to its best advantage in a heart-stopping horse race scene), Wright illustrates the rigid, suffocating bounds of Russian society life. Tom Stoppard's screenplay, meanwhile, takes Tolstoy's tome and strips it down to simple language that conveys the most elemental of human desires. The gorgeous costumes, actors, and landscape (a literal breath of fresh air when you venture outside the stifling theater) all compliment one another to create the film's mesmerizing dreamscape.
Argo (Picked By Kelsea Stahler)
It may be a mind-bending thought to suppose that a Ben Affleck film may be in the running for an Oscar, but Argo is unavoidable in the conversation about who’ll take the awards stage in February of next year. But the reason it stands out as a favorite in 2012 isn’t owed to any fancy behind-the-scenes footwork. This film hearkens back to an older time in both setting and style; it’s got a few frill and all the suspense and soul audiences require of a great movie. Heck, it’s even got a few moments of tense humor, which is practically requisite of a film that involves the production of a fake Star Wars rip-off as a resolution to a harrowing hostage situation. Argo is by no means the most perfectly-crafted film of 2012, but it rises to the top tier as one of the more solidly enjoyable and diverting films of the year. And since it’s based on a true story, you might even learn a thing or two.
The Avengers (Picked By Sydney Bucksbaum)
The Avengers rounded up all the Marvel movie superheroes in what could have been a film reminiscent of Michael Bay: gratuitous action and destruction of major cities, with little to no plot. Thankfully, with Joss Whedon at the helm, we were gifted with a snarky, funny, cinematically stunning, emotionally deep look at what motivates the men and woman behind the masks. Plus, watching the Hulk throw Loki around like a wet towel was insanely gratifying. This movie got us extremely excited for the next phase of the Marvel superhero movies, beginning with Iron Man 3, which will commence immediately after the events of The Avengers. We’ll finally get a chance to see what happens after all the death and destruction of superhero fights.
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Picked By Aly Semigran)
Benh Zeitlin's stunning debut about a brave, fierce little girl named Hushpuppy (miniature force of nature Quvenzhané Wallis) living in a post-storm bayou with her detiriorating, alcoholic father Wink (fellow impressive newcomer Dwight Henry) is an exhilarating, overwhelming experience. (To call it a tearjerker might imply you've had any tears left afterwards.) While the film may, in part, be about the awesome power of nature, it's really about love and the incredibly strength we can find in ourselves in the most challenging situations. In addition to the brilliant performances and masterful direction, Beasts also had the best musical score of any film this year.
Cabin in the Woods (Picked By Shaunna Murphy)
After an eons-long release delay, Cabin in the Woods finally made its way to theaters this spring — and for this, I thank the vicious, vengeful Gods. I would gladly sacrifice a gaggle of idiots for this perfect blend of (dare I say it?) meta, self-aware horror-comedy. The dialogue and wink-wink horror tropes were endlessly entertaining, while still being pretty scary — and not just while you're stoned, though Fran Kranz' Marty makes a pretty good case for legalization. Also, it's Bradley Whitford's best work in years. Also also, Richard Jenkins.
Cloud Atlas (Picked By Matt Patches)
Cloud Atlas was an ambitious movie the directors of The Matrix spent years trying to convince investors could work, but the result was worth the wait. A sprawling, interconnected story chronicling life's biggest challenges and the human spirit that overcomes them, Cloud Atlas is a big screen experiment that makes full use of its canvas. Spanning the 19th Century to the post-apocalyptic future, the Wachowskis, working with co-director Tom Tykwer, used special effects and A-List actors to tackle grand themes with a three-hour movie that stands as one of 2012's only true epics.
The Comedy (Picked By Matt Patches)
Tim Heidecker has made a career out of pushing the boundaries of "acceptable" comedy, but little did we realize he was only scratching the surface of the artform's subversive nature. In The Comedy, the actor loses himself in Swanson, a terrorist of the deadpan variety. Heidecker takes privileged young people to task in a tour-de-force performance that's hilarious, terrifying, and completely mesmerizing. Director Rick Alverson strips down the New York City landscape to its ugliest, laying on a rumbling soundscape to ensure our descent into Hell isn't too comfortable. The Comedy isn't easy to swallow, but for anyone looking for a challenge, it's a satisfying meal.
The Deep Blue Sea (Picked By Christian Blauvelt)
A tear-stained reverie of faded love and heartbreak, director Terence Davies’ first narrative film since 2000’s equally devastating The House of Mirth is the year’s most thoughtful, introspective character study. Rachel Weisz, in a career-best performance, plays a woman in 1950s London caught between her uncontrollable, adulterous passion for a former RAF pilot (Tom Hiddleston) and her awareness that he’s a total cad, unworthy of her (or any woman’s) love. So she thinks that suicide is the only way to reconcile head and heart. Set during the course of one day—the day on which Weisz’ character has decided to end her life—Davies’ delicate camera expands the parameters of the Terrence Rattigan play on which it’s based through a mosaic of flashbacks that chart the progression of her affair, including the most haunting depiction of The Blitz you’ll ever see.
The Hunger Games (Picked By Leanne Aguilera)
"May the odds be ever in your favor.” This past March, audiences were led through a whirlwind of raw emotions and heart-pounding adventures as 24 tributes schemed, fought, and killed in the brutal quest to be the winner of the 74th Annual Hunger Games. The first installment of Suzanne Collins' best-selling trilogy The Hunger Games was triumphantly transferred to the big screen, overall becoming the highest grossing female-led action film of all time. And for many book fans, hearing Jennifer Lawrence desperately call out, “I volunteer as tribute!” brought chills of excitement and satisfaction to know that they have cast the perfect Katniss Everdeen to eventually rise up against the Capitol as the Mockingjay that we all know, fear and love."
Lincoln (Picked By Kelsea Stahler)
This historical drama couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. Just as our country teeters on a precipice, demanding compromise and change, Lincoln sweeps into to tell the story of one of the nation’s most honorable politicians as he affected one of those most important and necessary changes in our history through less-than honorable means. Daniel Day-Lewis is could not be more perfect to capture the intimate portrait of the 16th American president, a man many of us presume to know from school-day history lessons. The film glosses over a few historical points of Lincoln’s move to pass the 13th Amendment before the end of the Civil War, eschewing them for the more dramatic moments, but in a landscape of Captain Americas and Iron Men, it’s a comfort to enjoy a film about an American hero whose strength was of conviction instead of brawn.
Magic Mike (Picked By Aly Semigran)
Don't call it the Channing Tatum stripper movie. Steven Soderbergh's sleek, smart, and — yes, sexy — slice of Americana is so much more than that. Part buddy comedy, part cautionary drama, the well-written and well-acted (Channing, who knew?) Magic Mike was a genuine risk taker that paid off big as the thinking woman's fantasy antidote to Fifty Shades of Grey. Plus, Matthew McConaughey's supporting turn as an sociopathic strip club owner is worth losing your shirt over.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (Picked By Lindsey DiMatinna)
This movie was so much fun. I love all the crazy plot lines, especially watching Alex fall in love. But, the circus performance at the end was totally brilliant, especially in 3D. The 3D effects made all the action in this movie come alive right in front of me and made me feel like I was a part of the cartoon story. Yes, I am still a kid at heart.
Moonrise Kingdom (Picked By Alicia Lutes)
It's almost too easy for people to find reasons to dislike or poo-poo the work of Wes Anderson. It's "too precious" or "too indie," detractors cry in a flurried, expected manner. But with his 2012 release, Moonrise Kingdom, we saw Anderson's deft hand take a well-guided stab at childhood, romance, and the heart one develops from living in those moments. It's whimsical in the way all childhood memories are, but grounded in a wonderful story outside of its beautiful scenery and charms. Richly-developed characters, a need to escape, and the raw emotion of living—this is what makes 'Moonrise Kingdom' a highlight of 2012. Performance highlights include Bill Murray (duh), Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, and our young heroes Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Oslo, August 31 (Picked By Christian Blauvelt)
Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s second film, ‘Oslo, August 31,’ lets the world unfold during the course of a single day through the eyes of a character contemplating suicide. In this case, it’s Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), a 34-year-old guy with intellectual pretensions who’s let out of a drug-rehab clinic for one day to attend a job interview with a magazine. As the title suggests, the movie is also something of a city symphony for Norway’s capital, which Trier (yes, he’s distantly related to Lars) calls “the suburb of Europe.” ‘Oslo’ is purely a cerebral affair, with a character who rationalizes his irrational choices in a way that’s stunningly logical…and all the more unsettling for it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Picked By Michael Arbeiter)
It’s no easy feat to turn a universally life-changing coming-of-age novel into an equally powerful feature film. Granted, it doesn’t hurt to have the novel’s author at the helm of the movie — such is the case The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which author Stephen Chbosky adapted from the very book that turned high school around for so many sad and lonely teenagers into a piece of cinema with just as dynamic an emotional force. The film’s starring players — a Logan Lerman stuck in his own head, an Emma Watson drenched in self-contempt, and (best of all) a hilarious and heartbreaking Ezra Miller as a young man charged with defending his sexual orientation against the world around him — breathe a life so vivid into Chbosky’s magical words, serving the story with just as much affect as the incarnates of yourself and your friends that you imagined to be fostering these roles upon first reading the book. From the softer, sweeter moments, to the dark and hard-to-watch turns, Perks is wholly real, reminding even those of us who read about and related to Charlie so many years ago just what it’s like to be him. And to feel, if only for a second, infinite.
Silver Linings Playbook (Picked By Anna Brand)
When you put Bradley Cooper in a movie without a strange baby and booze and smack a mental illness on him, doubts will soar. The same way Jennifer Lawrence without a bow and arrow undoubtedly creates skeptics. But leave it to these off-beat stars (with a 15-year age difference!) to bring seamless honesty and perfect chemistry. The blue collar setting – much like the director's The Fighter – is captured in such a relatable way it's almost desirable. Even though we get an ending as unrealistic as the time Matthew Mcconaughey chased down a taxi on a bridge and got to Kate Hudson just in time in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, it didn't take away from the thought-provoking story and spot-on acting. Not even a little bit. In fact, it was what we wanted all along.
Sleepwalk with Me (Picked By Michael Arbeiter)
Sleepwalk with Me is not at all just a celebration of standup comedian Mike Birbiglia, nor of standup comedy in general. It is a celebration of storytelling. Birbiglia channels his own ascension of the industry in this semi-fictional account of the comic’s early career, romantic relationships, and struggles with a chaotic sleep disorder. In the sentiment of the age-old “write what you know” adage, Birbiglia’s film expresses the philosophy that the greatest stories — be they funny or serious in nature — are those infused with the most honesty and intimacy. When Birbiglia’s author surrogate Matt Pandamiglia embraces his flaws and shortcomings, he learns just how much merit lies within the stories he has at his disposal. And beyond just influencing his career as a standup does this lesson influence his life — in the most laugh-out-loud and sincere fashion imaginable.
Zero Dark Thirty (Picked By Matt Patches)
Director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal continue to mine high drama from real life circumstances, following The Hurt Locker with a how-can-this-possibly-be-true true story behind the investigation that led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Like a modern All the President's Men, Zero Dark Thirty finds emotion in the facts, keeping us on the edge of our seats as Jessica Chastain's Maya loses herself (and her friends) to the hunt. We know how the story ends, but impressively, getting there never seems predictable.
The 5 Worst:
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Picked By Aly Semigran)
No one was in on the joke here. Not the audiences who wisely skipped out on the adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's comic novel of the same name and especially not filmmaker Timur Bekmamtebov, who played this dreck up as if it were a legitimate period piece without having his actors (including the talented, Benjamin Walker, who deserves better) so much as a wink or a nod to its overtly absurd premise. Joyless, poorly executed, and, considering it came out the same year as the masterful Lincoln, downright embarrassing.
Brave (Picked By Matt Patches)
Pixar's perfect streak took a major bump after Cars 2 and the hope was Brave, the animation studio's first fairy tale, could get them back on track. No dice. Princess Merida's tale had potential, but never ran with it, taking a hard left in the middle of Merida's cry for independence to explore a wacky tale of a Bear and her daughter. With a feeling of being slapped together, Brave missed the mark. Attribute it to high expectations — the film demands the scrutiny thanks to years of near-perfect work.
Chasing Mavericks (Picked By Brian Moylan)
A good movie should have sympathetic and interesting characters who follow a narrative arc. There should be development and consistency and rousing performances and new revelations about the human condition. In the absense of all of those there should at least be enough robots, lasers, superpowers, and aliens to keep you distracted for a couple of hours. Chasing Mavericks has none of those. Based on the true story of a young man whose neighbor teaches him to surf the biggest wave in California, this Gerard Butler vehicle lurches from scene to boring scene through some tired melodrama and stock sportsporational set pieces. Aside from some top-notch surfing footage this is a complete waste of time, even more so that there could be a revelatory story somewhere in there.
The Raven (Picked By Matt Patches)
With cinematography inspired by your local diner's split pea soup, writing at which airport mystery novelists would turn up their noses, and acting from the school of crazy Nic Cage, The Raven had all the pieces to be a so-bad-its-good cult classic. Instead, the Edgar Allen Poe serial killer flick is impenetrable dreck, the only reminder of the meandering film's stakes being John Cusack's hysterical (and overly repeated) scream of the name "EMILY!" every few minutes. Emily made a smart move — she disappeared from the movie.
The Master (Picked By Christian Blauvelt)
2012 had no greater “Emperor Has No Clothes” movie moment than The Master, a shallow, sodden character study about wayward sailor Freddie Quill (Joaquin Phoenix), a guy who likes to stand akimbo, jut out his jaw, and mumble unintelligibly (Phoenix’s sole acting choices) before and after falling under the thrall of an L. Ron Hubbard-style pseudo-philosopher (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s uncritical preoccupation with power, the select few who hold power, and everyone else who covets power, seems to have devolved into adolescent banality since his genuinely frightening depiction of Tom Cruise’s modern-day pied piper in Magnolia. Which is to say that it’s hard to imagine why any Scientologist, Cruise included, would be offended by anything in The Master. Anyone have some of Freddie Quill’s paint thinner so I can drown my sorrow about this mess of a film?
Or is it the best? (Picked By Matt Patches)
Anderson became the talk of the town in 2012 when he unveiled The Master's stunning 70mm photography, a picture quality so crisp and saturated that even if the film chased its narrative tail for two hours, the visuals would be enough of a pay off. Luckily, he had something incredible to capture in the wide-frame glory. Using religion as an entry point, The Master takes us as close to someone's internal monologue as an outsider can possibly get, with Phoenix and Hoffman's range of skills on full display as they unravel the imbecile Freddie and the seductive Lancaster Dodd. When clashed together, The Master becomes a tense match of wits. Who loses in the end is ambiguous, making the secrets of the human mind the heart of the film.
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December 03, 2012 4:20pm EST
While the annual Sundance film festival continues to be a place that launches young filmmaking talent, over the years it's also become a star-studded publicity machine attracting big names looking to debut their new films. The list of celebs attending the 2013 festival for the out-of-competition premieres of their new movies should not disappoint.
The most anticipated premiere won't happen until the end of the festival, when the Steve Jobs biopic jOBS, starring Ashton Kutcher as the Apple guru, is honored as the closing night film.
Oscar-winning screenwriters (and sometime sitcom stars) Nat Faxon and Jim Rash will make their directorial debut with a film they wrote called The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell and Toni Collette.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt will take it one step further by starring in his self-penned directorial debut, DonJon's Addiction, alongside Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore.
There's also Lovelace, with Amanda Seyfried as the titular '70s porn star, the third union of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Midnight, and Jane Campion's six-hour epic Top of the Lake, among many others.
The documentaries premiering out of competition cover diverse topics, including Wikileaks, Jeremy Lin, multiple sclerosis, Dick Cheney and more.
The 2013 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 17-27, 2013.
A.C.O.D. / U.S.A. (Director: Stuart Zicherman, Screenwriters: Ben Karlin, Stuart Zicherman) — Carter is a well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce. So he thinks. When he discovers he was part of a divorce study as a child, it wreaks havoc on his family and forces him to face his chaotic past. Cast: Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Catherine O'Hara, Amy Poehler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clark Duke.
Before Midnight / U.S.A. (Director: Richard Linklater, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater— We meet Jesse and Celine nine years on in Greece. Almost two decades have passed since their first meeting on that train bound for Vienna. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story. Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Ariane Labed, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick.
Big Sur / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Michael Polish) — Unable to cope with a suddenly demanding public and battling advanced alcoholism, Jack Kerouac seeks respite in three brief sojourns to a cabin in Big Sur, which reveal his mental and physical deterioration. Cast: Jean-Marc Barr, Kate Bosworth, Josh Lucas, Radha Mitchell, Anthony Edwards, Henry Thomas.
Breathe In / U.S.A. (Director: Drake Doremus, Screenwriters: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones) — When a foreign exchange student arrives in a small upstate New York town, she challenges the dynamics of her host family's relationships and alters their lives forever. Cast: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis.
Don Jon's Addiction / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Joseph Gordon-Levitt) — In Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s charming directorial debut, a selfish modern-day Don Juan attempts to change his ways. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown.
The East / U.S.A. (Director: Zal Batmanglij, Screenwriters: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling) — An operative for an elite private intelligence firm goes into deep cover to infiltrate a mysterious anarchist collective attacking major corporations. Bent on apprehending these fugitives, she finds her loyalty tested as her feelings grow for the group's charismatic leader. Cast: Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgård, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Patricia Clarkson.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete / U.S.A. (Director: George Tillman Jr., Screenwriter: Michael Starrbury) — Separated from their mothers and facing a summer in the Brooklyn projects alone, two boys hide from police and forage for food, with only each other to trust. A story of salvation through friendship and two boys against the world. Cast: Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright.
jOBS / U.S.A. (Director: Joshua Michael Stern, Screenwriter: Matt Whiteley) — The true story of one of the greatest entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life. jOBS is a candid, inspiring and personal portrait of the one who saw things differently. Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Matthew Modine. CLOSING NIGHT FILM
The Look of Love / United Kingdom (Director: Michael Winterbottom, Screenwriter: Matt Greenhalgh) — The true story of British adult magazine publisher and entrepreneur Paul Raymond. A modern day King Midas story, Raymond became one of the richest men in Britain at the cost of losing those closest to him. Cast: Steve Coogan, Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, Tamsin Egerton.
Lovelace / U.S.A. (Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Screenwriter: Andy Bellin) — Deep Throat, the first pornographic feature film to be a mainstream success, was an international sensation in 1972 and made its star, Linda Lovelace, a media darling. Years later the “poster girl for the sexual revolution” revealed a darker side to her story. Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, James Franco, Sharon Stone.
The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman / U.S.A. (Director: Fredrik Bond, Screenwriter: Matt Drake) — Traveling abroad, Charlie Countryman falls for Gabi, a Romanian beauty whose unreachable heart has its origins in Nigel, her violent, charismatic ex. As the darkness of Gabi’s past increasingly envelops him, Charlie resolves to win her heart, or die trying. Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood, Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Grint, James Buckley, Til Schweiger.
Prince Avalanche / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: David Gordon Green) — Two highway road workers spend the summer of 1988 away from their city lives. The isolated landscape becomes a place of misadventure as the men find themselves at odds with each other and the women they left behind. Cast: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch.
Stoker / U.S.A. (Director: Park Chan-Wook, Screenwriter: Wentworth Miller) — After India's father dies in an auto accident, her Uncle Charlie comes to live with her and her mother, Evelyn. Soon after his arrival, India suspects that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives but becomes increasingly infatuated with him. Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Nicole Kidman.
Sweetwater / U.S.A. (Directors: Logan Miller, Noah Miller, Screenwriter: Andrew McKenzie) — In the late 1800s, a fanatical religious leader, a renegade Sheriff, and a former prostitute collide in a blood triangle on the rugged plains of the New Mexico Territory. Cast: Ed Harris, January Jones, Jason Isaacs, Eduardo Noriega, Steven Rude, Amy Madigan.
Top of the Lake / Australia, New Zealand (Directors: Jane Campion, Garth Davis, Screenwriters: Jane Campion, Gerard Lee) — A 12-year-old girl stands chest deep in a frozen lake. She is five months pregnant, and won't say who the father is. Then she disappears. So begins a haunting mystery that consumes a community. Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter, Peter Mullan, David Wenham. This six-hour film will screen once during the Festival.
Two Mothers / Australia, France (Director: Anne Fontaine, Screenwriter: Christopher Hampton) — This gripping tale of love, lust and the power of friendship charts the unconventional and passionate affairs of two lifelong friends who fall in love with each other’s sons. Cast: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frechevile.
Very Good Girls / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Naomi Foner) — In the long, half-naked days of a New York summer, two girls on the brink of becoming women fall for the same guy and find that life isn't as simple or safe as they had thought. Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen, Boyd Holbrook, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Barkin.
The Way, Way Back / U.S.A. (Directors and screenwriters: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash) — Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old, comes into his own over the course of a comedic summer when he forms unlikely friendships with the gregarious manager of a rundown water park and the misfits who work there. Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James.
2013 DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES
ANITA / U.S.A. (Director: Freida Mock) — Anita Hill, an African-American woman, charges Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas with sexual harassment in explosive Senate hearings in 1991 – bringing sexual politics into the national consciousness and fueling 20 years of international debate on the issues.
The Crash Reel / U.S.A. (Director: Lucy Walker) — The jaw-dropping story of one unforgettable athlete, Kevin Pearce; one eye-popping sport, snowboarding; and one explosive issue, traumatic brain injury. An epic rivalry between Kevin and Shaun White culminates in a life-changing crash and a comeback story with a difference. SALT LAKE CITY GALA FILM
History of the Eagles / U.S.A. (Director: Alison Ellwood) — Using never-before-seen home movies, archival footage and new interviews with all current and former members of the Eagles, this documentary provides an intimate look into the history of the band and the legacy of their music.
Linsanity / U.S.A. (Director: Evan Leong) — Jeremy Lin came from a humble background to make an unbelievable run in the NBA. State high school champion, all-Ivy League at Harvard, undrafted by the NBA and unwanted there: his story started long before he landed on Broadway.
Pandora's Promise / U.S.A. (Director: Robert Stone) — A growing number of environmentalists are renouncing decades of antinuclear orthodoxy and have come to believe that the most feared and controversial technology known to mankind is probably our greatest hope.
Running from Crazy / U.S.A. (Director: Barbara Kopple) — Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, strives for a greater understanding of her family history of suicide and mental illness. As tragedies are explored and deeply hidden secrets are revealed, Mariel searches for a way to overcome a similar fate.
Sound City / U.S.A. (Director: Dave Grohl) — Through interviews and performances with the legendary musicians and producers who worked at America's greatest unsung recording studio, Sound City, we explore the human element of music, and the lost art of analog recording in an increasingly digital world.
We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks / U.S.A. (Director: Alex Gibney) — In 2010, WikiLeaks and its sources used the power of the Internet to usher in what was for some a new era of transparency and for others the beginnings of an information war.
When I Walk / U.S.A., Canada (Director: Jason DaSilva) — At 25, filmmaker and artist Jason DaSilva finds out he has a severe form of multiple sclerosis. This film shares his personal and grueling journey over the next seven years. Along the way, an unlikely miracle changes everything.
Which Way is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington / U.S.A. (Director: Sebastian Junger) — Shortly after the release of his documentary Restrepo, photographer Tim Hetherington was killed in Libya. Colleague Sebastian Junger traces Hetherington's work across the world's battlefields to reveal how he transcended the boundaries of image-making to become a luminary in his profession.
The World According to Dick Cheney / U.S.A. (Directors: R.J. Cutler, Greg Finton) — How did Dick Cheney become the single-most-powerful nonpresidential figure in American history? This multi-layered examination of Cheney's life, career, key relationships and controversial worldview features exclusive interviews with the former vice president and his closest allies.
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[Photo Credit: Dale Robinette/Millennium Films]
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November 30, 2012 11:19am EST
First, let's start with the bad news: The Mayan calendar (and, more importantly, a stellar John Cusack movie) have confirmed that the world is ending in a few weeks. I know, right? And we were all totally going to lose those 15 lbs and start journaling in 2013. Then there's the even worse news: You missed a lot of really good TV in 2012. So much good, in fact, that you have no hope of catching up before the end of days. That's where we (and the good news) come in — we've rounded up the best TV spoilers of 2012, so you can spend your remaining days with your family, or whatever. SPOILERS AHEAD, but sorry — no one will ever know who actually killed Alison DiLaurentis on Pretty Little Liars.
Let's start with the little guys:
How I Met Your Mother: Drama! It was eventually revealed that Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) is marrying Robin (Cobie Smulders). Also, Victoria (Ashley Williams) left her future husband at the alter for Ted (Josh Radnor), but they broke up afterwards because Ted wouldn't stop being friends with Robin. Those crazy kids!
The Office: Angela (Angela Kinsey) found out that her husband was cheating on her with Oscar (Oscar Nuñez). Way to be a good coworker, Oscar.
Parks and Recreation: Speaking of workplace comedies, Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) finally became engaged! It was adorable.
You still with me? Good. Because it all goes downhill from here. Time for some suicides and martyrdom:
Sons of Anarchy: The universally beloved Opie (Ryan Hurst) was brutally murdered early in the show's fifth season — sacrificing his life for the club in the most horrendous way possible (he was beaten to death with a lead pipe).
Mad Men: Then there was the tragic tale of Lane Price (Jared Harris), the British sap who hung himself in his office after he found himself in financial trouble, and was fired by Don. Not a dry eye in the house.
But not all major deaths on TV this year were via suicide — 2012 was huge for killing, or being killed by, children. Let's explore, shall we?
Breaking Bad: In the former category, the artist formerly known as Landry (Jesse Plemons) from Friday Night Lights (now known as Todd on Breaking Bad) murdered a small child after said child witnessed Todd, Walt, and Jesse robbing a train. It was probably the most disturbing moment on TV this year, which says a lot, given our next spoiler.
The Walking Dead: This one sounds horrific, but it actually made a lot of people happy — Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) died via C-section childbirth during a Walker attack on Walking Dead. Doc Herschel and the rest of the Grimes Gang were busy fighting Walkers in the prison, so Lori's son Carl (Chandler Riggs) had to watch while Maggie (Lauren Cohan) tore out her baby with a dirty knife. Then Carl shot her, before she rose again. It was a classic mother/son coming-of-age moment.
Downton Abbey: This one really hurt. Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) from Downton also died during childbirth — but she didn't become a zombie, so she should just shut up and count her blessings.
Those were all really depressing, so let's move on to justice — quite a few criminals were caught in 2012:
Breaking Bad: First and foremost there's Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the drug kingpin currently known as Heisenberg . We haven't yet seen the aftermath, but the first half of Season 5 ended with Walt's brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) learning his dirty, methy secret. Dun dun dun.
Dexter: This was a long time coming — Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), the brilliant Miami Metro detective, finally learned that her brother is a serial killer. So far, she's been taking it surprisingly well.
The Killing: Oh, we finally found out who killed Rosie Larsen. It was her Aunt Terry, sort of. Then the show got canceled.
Homeland: Nick Brody (Damian Lewis) was found out and captured by the CIA much, much earlier than anticipated. He's now working with them as a double agent, which is never easy when your other agency is TERRORISM.
Enough with all the humans. Supernatural spoiler time:
The Vampire Diaries: Elena (Nina Dobrev) became a vampire at the end of the third season's finale. This season, she totally dumped Stefan (Paul Wesley) and slept with Damon (Ian Somerhalder). Bad girls do it well.
Fringe: Peter (Josh Jackson) willingly turned himself into an Observer after his daughter, Etta (Georgina Haig), was killed. It was horrifying. He's going bald!
True Blood: The newly single Bill (Stephen Moyer) willingly drank the blood of the ancient, evil vampire Lilith at the end of last season — rising as an evil entity, and effectively earning the nickname "Billith." Run, Sookeh!
Now let's move on to family drama:
Revenge: Season 1 of ABC's new(ish) hit ended with Emily (Emily VanCamp) learning that her long-lost mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) was still alive, while everyone else thought that Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) had died. She hadn't, and Emily's mother ended up being very, very boring.
Revolution: Meanwhile, over on NBC's latest hit, good-guy Miles (Billy Burke) was revealed to have started the evil Monroe Militia — the same militia that recently kidnapped his nephew. (And they still haven't turned the lights on.)
Game of Thrones: In a case of outright family treachery, Theon (Alfie Allen) betrayed the Starks by storming Winterfell, pretending to kill young Bran and Rickon, and slaughtering many of their people.
Oh, and Klaine broke up on Glee. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: AMC, Showtime] MORE: Leanne's Spoiler List: 'True Blood' Wants Fresh Meat, 'Parenthood' Heads to Court, & More! Leanne’s Spoiler List: 'AHS: Asylum' Mommy Issues, Love and Loss on ‘Dexter’ Leanne’s Spoiler List: Love is Shaky on ‘Grey’s Anatomy,' ‘Vampire Diaries’ Gets Darker
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June 24, 2012 8:00am EST
Pixar and Disney continue their perfect box office track record with the debut of their 13th release Brave in 3-D featuring the voices of Kelly Macdonald as Merida as well as Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane. With $66.7 million this weekend “Brave” gives Pixar its 13th consecutive number one debut as it remains one of the most consistent and enduring movie brands in box office history. Set against the historic backdrop of the Scottish highlands, the PG-rated film is Pixar’s first foray into fairy tale territory and certainly is reminiscent of “The Hunger Games” with its female protagonist wielding a bow and arrow. The Pixar films have been wildly successful earning $7.2 billion theatrical dollars worldwide since the first “Toy Story” film opened with $29.1 million way back in 1995. The film earned $13.5 million this weekend internationally for a global total of $80.2 million. Fun fact: Every Pixar film has debuted at number one at the box office.
In second place with $20.2 million and a tiny third weekend drop of 41% is Paramount Pictures PG-rated Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (read the review) from Dreamworks Animation which held onto first place for its first two weekends. The film had new family competition in the form of the first place movie, but no matter as the 3-D family favorite is already a certified worldwide hit having more than $300 million in the bank and around $135 million in total North American dollars as it headed into this, its third weekend. The film features the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett-Smith and will have around $157 million in North America by Sunday night.
Casting historical figures as action heroes has become an increasingly common theme as Fox brings Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to theaters this weekend with a $16.5 million debut. The R-rated action fantasy stars Benjamin Walker as Lincoln as we have never seen him before in the role of a badass vampire killer hell bent on preventing the bloodsuckers from taking over The United States. Timur Bekmambetov, directs in his singular visual style so evident in 2008’s action crime thriller “Wanted” starring Angelina Jolie and the vampire-themed films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” released in 2004 and 2006.
Fox's sci-fi horror film Prometheus from acclaimed director Ridley Scott has been a certified R-rated sci-fi hit since its release on June 8. With an impressive ensemble cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron, a third weekend gross of $10 million pushes it beyond the $100 million mark in North America and past $260 million worldwide by the end of the weekend.
Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” continues to be a major factor in the marketplace as solid word-of-mouth allowed it to hold at number five with $8.012 million. Now in its fourth weekend, this updated fairy tale features Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth and is now up to an impressive $137 million in North America. This leaves both
Warner Bros. PG-13 musical “Rock of Ages” featuring Tom Cruise is close behind at number six with $8 million in its second weekend of release. A 45% drop shows solid word-of-mouth has allowed the film to remain a contender and now has nearly $30 million in North America.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightly make their debut this weekend in 1,618 theaters in the quirky R-rated dark comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World from Focus Features. With an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, Carell ventures off along with his neighbor (Knightly to reunite with his high school sweetheart and the film chronicles their misadventures as the impending doom approaches. Lorene Scafaria who wrote the screenplay for 2008’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” makes her directorial debut for the film that earned just $3.875 million yhis weekend.
This will be the second “down” weekend vs. the comparable frame a year ago when Pixar’s’ “Cars 2” led the weekend with $66.1 million and “Bad Teacher” opened with $31.6 million.
Weekend Box Office (Estimates)
Top Movies for Weekend of June 22, 2012
Movie Weekend Gross Total to Date
1 Brave (PG) $66.7M $66.7M
2 Madagascar 3 (PG) $20.0M $157.4M
3 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (R) $16.5M $16.5M
4 Prometheus (R) $10.0M $108.5M
5 Snow White and the Huntsman (PG13) $8.0M $137.055M
Follow Paul on Twitter @PDergarabedian
June 22, 2012 10:46am EST
One scene sums up the mind-boggling inconsistent completely lacking in self-awareness antics on display in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: with a female vamp mere inches from digging her fangs into his neck Lincoln (Ben Walker) is rescued by his bumbling cohort Speed (Jimmi Simpson) who breaks through the wall of a mansion by driving a horse and carriage through it. Like a truck. Because horses are as powerful as trucks.
The inherent ridiculousness of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter requires an acknowledgement of said ridiculousness but director Timur Bekmambetov doesn't seem to be in on the joke. Instead of winking he and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (adapting from his own novel) steep the story to historical accuracy (seriously) and fill in the major plot holes and illogic with aggressively incoherent action scenes. Employing his hyper-kinetc CG-filled style from Wanted Bekmambetov crafts a straight-up Lincoln biopic with rewired origins. Now Lincoln is inspired to study law take a stand in the U.S. government run for President and emancipate the slaves because if he doesn't vampires will take over America; His personal valet William H. Johnson (Anthony Mackie) is actually his parter-in-crime slicing and dicing vampiric foes in two with all the agility of a ninja; And teaching them how to conduct their vampire hunting business is Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper) who also encourages Abe to wipe all bloodsuckers off the planet — not just the one who killed his parents.
Newcomer Walker holds his own against the chaos of AL:VH's script which picks up and throws away plot lines with little consequence. In the moments where Lincoln is just being Lincoln when the action dies down and you can see the amazing makeup that transforms him into the 16th President he's surprisingly commanding. Lincoln's most interesting relationship his bumpy marriage to Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is briefly interesting thanks to the duo's lovely rapport but the scenes carelessly smeared into bigger picture. Even when Walker's splitting the skulls of vampires with Lincoln's signature axe the actor carries the horror material with ease. But Vampire Hunter isn't a horror movie Bekmambetov making that clear by amping up every quiet creepy moment and overloading it with fights and manic editing.
Not helping Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's is the shoddy production value that plagues half the run time. There's little consistency on screen with main set pieces garnering extra attention (a sequence in which Abe chases down a vampire who evades capture by throwing galloping horses is quite spectacular/silly) and routine walk-and-talk scenes only a step or two up from Flip Cam cinematography. The 3D feels tacked on dimming the already muddy picture and only sporadically showing off its effect. In one of the rare instances we see a vampire head-on (the terrifying design is hidden with shaky camera work and cutaways throughout the film) the 3D captures fangs popping outward. Great idea barely utilized.
There are moments where Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's mix of fact and fiction is downright offensive (the final scene may be one of the most facepalm worthy implications of all time) but the bizarre acts of truthbending are a welcome change of pace to the lazy banal superheroics of Bekmambetov's political hero. The execution is neither serious nor jokey enough to make the movie palatable — a near impossible result for a movie with that title.
June 22, 2012 5:07am EST
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has already had the distinguished honor of playing both the blue-haired object of Scott Pilgrim's eye (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and John McClane's offspring (Live Free or Die Hard.) Now the actress can add another high-ranking title to her impressive resume: the First Lady.
The 26-year-old plays Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the 16th President of the United States of America — and now, vampire combatant — Abraham Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Like the rest of the film some artistic liberties were taken with the portrayal of the First Lady, including how she looked (having three names is about as close to resemblance as the two women have) and excluding her oft-speculated bipolar disorder.
But even with the changes, Winstead, who chatted with Hollywood.com about her work on the film, says there's still traces of the Mary Todd Lincoln we all learned about in history class and the one in writer Seth Grahame-Smith's script. "The more I learned about her [while researching], the more I wanted to bring as much truth to her as possible, and I feel like she's represented in the film in a realistic way to how she really was. I expected to read about her and for her to be wildly different from the way she was in the script, but I was surprised to find that it actually all matched up really well," Winstead explained.
Winstead credited director Timur Bekmambetov with rooting the grieving (a Lincoln family member is killed by a vampire) and, yes, ass-kicking First Lady (Mary Todd gets in her own satisfying vampire kill, which Winstead admitted was a good thing, "otherwise it would have been a bit of a letdown") in some reality. "Timur was great about talking to me about what was happening in her life that you don’t see in the movie. "During a scene, he would say, 'This is what she was doing right before she walked in the door,' or 'This is what she’s thinking when she’s not on screen'," Winstead told Hollywood.com, "So it sort of feels like all those things are happening in her life, you just don’t see it in the movie, but when I’m watching, I can see it in the air of what’s happening, and in their interaction, you can see how tense it is, and you can see how emotionally troubled they both are, but it’s just not spoken about."
But it wasn't just getting unseen details down for the film, but infusing a certain sensitivity about such an important time in American history. It was a responsibility, the star acknowledged, the cast and crew didn't take lightly. "We were filming in some places that had a really heavy air about them," Winstead said of the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter shoot, "Like, we’d be filming on old southern plantations where you could see the slave quarters, and you felt the seriousness of that place, and the history of it. And those were moments where you felt like, okay, I hope we’re doing this right, and I hope we’re showing people that we’re really not trying to be offensive in any way, we’re not trying to make fun of the real story behind this, we’re really just trying to show a metaphor, really, for what happened. With Timur, you can see that he took the real story very seriously, and he had so much respect for Abraham Lincoln, and showed a lot of reverence for the real story and real events."
Still, there was some levity on the set. This is, after all, a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In addition to donning some impressive old age makeup ("It was cool to look in the mirror and think, 'I wonder if this is what I’m gonna look like',") Winstead and her on-screen husband, Benjamin Walker, a fellow music enthusiast, took advantage of getting to film in New Orleans. "We went out to a lot of jazz clubs,and saw live music, and we went to Jazz Fest. Ben and I would sometimes just hang out and he would play guitar and we would sing songs and stuff like that, you know, cheesy little singer downtime things."
It seems Winstead has been spending a good amount of time having fun on her sets. Not a difficult task when working on projects like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or the upcoming ensemble comedy A.C.O.D., which features Amy Poehler, Adam Pally, Jane Lynch, and Adam Scott, among others. Winstead, who plays Scott's love interest in the comedy about, well, adult children of divorce, enjoyed a different kind of cut up. "It's the funniest people, it was so hard for me to keep a straight face during scenes. Like, one scene I was watching Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins just improv, and [they're] going so quickly, and it's so funny, and I was just in awe." Okay, we'll bite.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens in theaters nationwide today.
[Photo credit: WENN.com/FayesVision]
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: A New Era of Tall Tales
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June 21, 2012 5:42am EST
Pixar and Disney will continue their perfect box office track record with the debut of their 13th release Brave in 3D featuring the voices of Kelly Macdonald as Merida as well as Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane.
An expected $60 million this weekend will give Pixar its 13th consecutive number one debut as it remains one of the most consistent and enduring movie brands in box office history. Set against the historic backdrop of the Scottish highlands, the PG-rated film is Pixar’s first foray into fairy tale territory and certainly is reminiscent of The Hunger Games with its female protagonist wielding a bow and arrow. The Pixar films have been wildly successful earning $7.2 billion theatrical worldwide since the first “Toy Story” film opened with $29.1 million way back in 1995. Second place with a gross in the high teens will likely go to Paramount Pictures PG-rated Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (read the review) from Dreamworks Animation which held onto first place for its first two weekends. The film will obviously find itself facing much competition in the form of the first place movie, but no matter as the 3D family favorite is already a certified worldwide hit with $300 million in the bank and around $135 million in total North American dollars as it heads into its third weekend. The film features the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Jada Pinkett-Smith and should have around $155 million in North America by Sunday night. Casting historical figures as action heroes has become an increasingly common theme as Fox brings Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to 3,106 theaters this weekend with an expected $15 to $16 million debut. The R-rated action fantasy stars Benjamin Walker as Lincoln as we have never seen him before in the role of a badass vampire killer hell bent on preventing the bloodsuckers from taking over The United States. Timur Bekmambetov, directs in his singular visual style so evident in 2008’s action crime thriller “Wanted” starring Angelina Jolie and the vampire-themed films “Night Watch” and “Day Watch” released in 2004 and 2006. Fox's sci-fi horror film Prometheus from acclaimed director Ridley Scott has been a certified R-rated sci-fi hit with nearly $100 million in North America since its release on June 8. With an impressive ensemble cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron, a likely third weekend gross of close to $10 million will push it beyond the century mark in North America and into the mid-$200 million range worldwide by the end of the weekend. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley make their debut this weekend in 1,618 theaters in the quirky R-rated dark comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World from Focus Features. With an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, Carell ventures off along with his neighbor (Knightley) to reunite with his high school sweetheart and the film chronicles their misadventures as the impending doom approaches. Lorene Scafaria who wrote the screenplay for 2008’s “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” makes her directorial debut for the film that could earn in the single-digits and possibly higher if solid word-of-mouth takes over. This leaves both Warner Bros. PG-13 musical Rock of Ages and Sony’s R-rated That's My Boy to try to make their mark in their second weekends after rather soft debuts last week. This will likely be the second “down” weekend vs. the comparable frame a year ago when Pixar’s’ “Cars 2” led the weekend with $66.1 million and “Bad Teacher” opened with $31.6 million.
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More: ‘Brave’ Trailer: Pixar Gives Its First Female Lead an Epic Adventure 'Prometheus' and Defying the R-Rated Blockbuster Odds 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter': A New Era of Tall Tales 'Avengers' Passes 'Dark Knight' Box Office! Brave Box Office