Miramax via Everett Collection
The musical adaptation of Johnny Depp's hit Peter Pan film Finding Neverland is officially flying onto the Broadway stage. The production, based on the 2004 movie, in which Depp played Peter Pan creator J. M. Barrie opposite Kate Winslet, will debut at a Nederlander Organisation theatre in March 2015, according to the show's spokesperson. Finding Neverland centres on Barrie and the family which inspired him to write about the boy who never grew up. The musical, which is produced by Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein, opened at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts earlier this week (begs11Aug14) to positive reviews. Jeremy Jordan and Laura Michelle Kelly are currently starring in the Cambridge production, but it is not yet known if the pair will be part of the Broadway show. There's quite a resurgence of all things Pan at the moment - English director Joe Wright is adapting an origins story, featuring Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund and Amanda Seyfried, for the big screen, and Girls star Allison Williams was recently cast as Peter Pan in a live TV version of the tale, which will debut in the U.S. at Christmas (Dec14). And of course, one of Hollywood's most beloved Peter Pans, Robin Williams, died earlier this week (11Aug14). He played Barrie's Pan in Steven Spielberg's Hook.
A massive hit never ends at its own conclusion for better or worse. Lost Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland The Blair Witch Project and other pop culture milestones spawned plenty of imitators of wavering quality that trickled on to screens until the phenomena tapered off. Joyful Noise the new film starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton is one these auxiliary creative endeavors a direct descendant of the cheeky drama/comedy/musical hybrid Glee. But instead of teenage issues and pop covers Joyful Noise swaps in familial struggles gospel tunes and a sizable serving of Christian faith. The combination results in a movie that lacks the jazz hand energy of Glee but packs good-natured laughs to keep someone awake for its two hour duration. More "noise" than "joyful."
Mere minutes after the passing away of choir leader Bernie Vi Rose (Latifah) inherits the position—along with a serving of negative vibes from Bernie's wife G.G. (Parton) who was hoping to take the job herself. The new responsibility is only the beginning of Vi Rose's troubles as she attempts to balance her rebellious daughter Olivia's (Keke Palmer) raging hormones her son Walter's (Dexter Darden) Asperger's syndrome her husband's absence during a military stint and her own old school God-faring ways. Hardships are whipped into further chaos upon the arrival of Randy G.G.'s rambunctious horny grandson who shows up at rehearsal with an eye on Olivia and undeniable vocal skills. Randy's rock and roll edge is readily embraced by the group but even with the national gospel championship on the line Vi Rose isn't ready to toss tradition aside.
Joyful Noise is a mixed bag sporadically entertaining when director Todd Graff (Camp Bandslam) lets his two commanding stars flex their comedic muscles or belt soulful tunes. Latifah and Parton can do both with ease—Latifah has a natural charm while Parton essentially fills the "kooky Betty White" here—but instead of letting the two fly Graff breaks up the action with overwrought drama and bizarre side character stories. The script injects a lot of ideas into the picture—loss of faith modernizing ideologies coping with tragedy sexuality under the eye of God—but every tender moment is fumbled. A gut-wrenching conversation between Vi Rose and her autistic son should have weight and the actors do their best but the material doesn't service the emotional complexity of the scenario. Instead it opts to cut to a musical number. Another sequence involving the overnight demise of another character is even played for comedy even when it causes one woman to question her beliefs.
Thank God for the musical numbers which have enough energy to brush the flimsier moments under the rug. The Glee-inspired pop tune covers (Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror " Usher's "Yeah"—both tailored with religious modifications) aren't nearly as interesting or powerful as the straight-up gospel songs. But unlike the tunes Joyful Noise doesn't have rhyme or reason. A mishmash of played out character stereotypes narrative cliches and enjoyable but erratic music the movie feels more like a cash-in than it should. Latifah and Parton are a sizzling duo but the vehicle built for them is a clunker. As Vi Rose might say the only way to have a great time at Joyful Noise is to believe. Really really hard.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
There are certain movies that we watched as children that, as adults, don’t resonate as powerfully upon revisit. But then there are some movies that entrance us when we are young and work on remarkably different levels once we reach adulthood.
At the risk of exposing my youth, and striking another blow to my own credibility, for me, Hook was just such a film. As a kid, I loved the physical comedy, the swashbuckling, and the unmitigated cool of Rufio. But the movie took on an entirely new life for me when I revisited it recently, thanks to Netflix’s Watch Instantly. We highly urge you to revisit it yourself.
Who Made It: Hook is yet another in the cavalcade of classics from the incredible Steven Spielberg. Hook was Spielberg’s first film of the ‘90s, leading off a slew of some of his best work: Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan. The ‘90s were definitely good for Steven.
Who’s In It: The cast of Hook features a pirate shipload of talent. The film stars Robin Williams in the lead role of Peter Banning, supported by the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins and Maggie Smith. Spielberg has demonstrated a knack for assembling unique ensemble casts. Hell, even singer Phil Collins shows up at one point.
What’s It About: Peter Banning is a man sadly more devoted to his career than his family. He is constantly breaking promises and failing to meet commitments that don’t involve contracts and hostile takeovers. While visiting Granny Wendy, the woman who ran the orphanage where he grew up, Peter’s children are abducted. A note left in their empty room indicates that a Captain James Hook took the children, and that Peter must come to a place called Neverland to retrieve them. Suddenly, a long-forgotten era of his past begins to resurface.
Why You Should Watch It:
Hook is a fascinating continuation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. For many of us, the only facets of the story we know come from the Disney animated version. We know that Wendy Darling, and her brothers, are transported to Neverland by Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. We know about the sinister Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and the crocodile. What Spielberg’s film does is give us an extension of the story, a sort of “where are they now” for the beloved characters. It blurs the lines between fantasy and reality by featuring a grownup Pan who not only no longer believes in Neverland, but has in fact become amnesic of his childhood and the adventures there contained.
We get to see what has become of Neverland in Pan’s absence. We see a very bored, unfulfilled Captain Hook, played with powerful emotional complexity by the amazing Dustin Hoffman; one of his best roles in my opinion. Hook has become obsessed with the idea of another great battle with Pan and seeks his return despite how much he hates him. In this way, the character is acknowledging how their conflict defines him. For his part, Pan must reconnect with his roots in order to save the most treasured part of his new life; identity crises kind of rum rampant in Hook. We also get to see what became of Hook’s feud with the crocodile and how the hierarchy of Lost Boys has changed. It’s a distinctly unromantic examination of Neverland, which allows us to connect more directly to the weight and contours of the world of the film.
That’s not at all to say that Hook is devoid of magic, it would be damn near impossible for Steven Spielberg to make a film about Neverland without it being loaded with spectacle. The production design of the film is absolutely breathtaking; allowing for the audience to become acquainted with the full of gamut of both the familiar and wholly original nuances surrounding Neverland. The design of the Lost Boys’ tree houses, the massive and foreboding skeletal prow of Hook’s ship, right down to the rainbow-colored fluff of the Lost Boy feast give a new visual fingerprint to an age-old tale. The cinematography as Pan first learns to fly, sweeping and unbridled, is a perfect tribute to what made us fall in love with this story as children.
Whether we like it or not, we are not Pan and therefore must grow up. But fortunately our appreciation for films like Hook mature right alongside us.
Steven Soderbergh's crime-drama "The Limey" and Alexander Payne's high school satire "Election" led the pack of (relatively) low-budget, high-expectation projects as nominations were announced Wednesday for the 15th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, honoring, yes, indie film.
"The Limey" and "Election" received a field-best five nominations each. Hollywood blockbusters such as "Toy Story 2" and "The Green Mile" received zippo. (They're not indies.)
With the studio heavyweights excluded, a variety of films that failed to garner tremendous box office during the 1999 film season found redemption as the Spirit nominations were handed down. David Lynch's "The Straight Story", a simple yet powerful film about an aging man's trek across country on his lawn mower, earned four nominations. Kimberly Peirce's controversial "Boys Don't Cry" also received four nods -- including ones for best lead actress (Hilary Swank) and best supporting female (Chloe Sevigny).
The five films slated to do battle in the main best-picture event are: Payne's "Election," Soderbergh's "The Limey," Lynch's "The Straight Story," Allison Anders and Kurt Voss' "Sugar Town", and Robert Altman's "Cookie's Fortune".
Awards will be handed out in Santa Monica on March 25 -- the day before the Oscars. The Spirits are sponsored by the Independent Feature Project/West.
The following is the complete list of nominations for the 15th annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards:
BEST FEATURE "Election" "The Straight Story" "The Limey" "Cookie's Fortune" "Sugar Town"
BEST FEMALE LEAD Diane Lane, "Walk on the Moon" Janet McTeer, "Tumbleweeds" Hilary Swank, "Boys Don't Cry" Susan Traylor, "Valerie Flake" Reese Witherspoon, "Election"
BEST MALE LEAD John Cusack, "Being John Malkovich" Richard Farnsworth, "The Straight Story" Terence Stamp, "The Limey" David Strathairn, "Limbo" Noble Willingham, "The Corndog Man"
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Barbara Barrie, "Judy Berlin" Vanessa Martinez, "Limbo" Sarah Polley, "Go" Chloe Sevigny, "Boys Don't Cry" Jean Smart, "Guinevere"
BEST SUPPORTING MALE Charles S. Dutton, "Cookie's Fortune" Luis Guzman, "The Limey" Terrence Howard, "The Best Man" Clark Gregg, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" Steve Zahn, "Happy, Texas"
BEST DIRECTOR Alexander Payne, "Election" Harmony Korine, "julien donkey-boy" Steven Soderbergh, "The Limey" David Lynch, "The Straight Story" Doug Liman, "Go"
BEST SCREENPLAY Kevin Smith, "Dogma" Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, "Election" Audrey Wells, "Guinevere" Lem Dobbs, "The Limey" James Merendino, "SLC Punk!"
BEST FIRST FEATURE ($500,000-plus budget) "Being John Malkovich" "Three Seasons" "Boys Don't Cry" "Twin Falls Idaho" "Xiu Xiu the Sent Down Girl"
BEST FIRST FEATURE (less than $500,000 budget) "The Blair Witch Project" "La Ciudad" "Compensation" "Judy Berlin" "Treasure Island"
BEST DEBUT PERFORMANCE Kimberly J. Brown, "Tumbleweeds" Jessica Campbell, "Election" Jade Gordon, "Sugar Town" Toby Smith, "Drylongso" Chris Stafford, "Edge of Seventeen"
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Tod Williams, "The Adventures of Sebastian Cole" Charlie Kaufman, "Being John Malkovich" Kimberly Peirce and Andy Bienen, "Boys Don't Cry" Anne Rapp, "Cookie's Fortune" John Roach and Mary Sweeney, "The Straight Story"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHER M. David Mullen, "Twin Falls Idaho" Lisa Rinzler, "Three Seasons" Anthony Dod Mantle, "julien donkey-boy" Jeffrey Seckendorf, "Judy Berlin" Harlan Bosmajian, "La Ciudad"
BEST FOREIGN FILM "All About My Mother" (Spain) "Run Lola Run" (Germany) "My Son the Fanatic" (England) "Topsy-Turvy" (England) "Rosetta" (Belgium-France)
DLJ DIRECT TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (for documentaries) Owsley Brown, "Night Waltz: The Music of Paul Bowles" Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan, "On the Ropes" Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, "Well Founded Fear" Rory Kennedy, "American Hollow"
MOVADO SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD (for new directors) Dan Clark, "The Item" Julian Goldberger, "Trans" Lisanne Skyler, "Getting to Know You" Cauleen Smith, "Drylongso"
MOTOROLA PRODUCERS AWARD Pam Koffler, "I'm Losing You" and "Office Killer" Eva Kolodner, "Boys Don't Cry" and "Hide and Seek" Paul Mezey, "La Ciudad" Christine Walker, "Backroads" and "Homo Heights"