Paramount via Everett Collection
Two dunderheaded stepbrothers, a bigoted manchild news reporter, and the recent economic downturn. One of these things is not like the others. Adam McKay has built up a long legacy of idiotic comedy through his frequent collaborations with Will Ferrell, but his next upcoming project is going to be quite the departure from the director’s usual fare. McKay is set to direct an adaptation of author Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, a book that sheds light on the housing and credit bubble. McKay is equipped with a directoral know-how more suited towards laughter, so a drama film is about the last thing we expected from the director. This is the guy that just made Anchorman 2 after all, and unless it's revealed that Ron Burgundy was the guy behind all of those fraudulent loans, we’re not sure what this upcoming feature will look like when all is said and done. With all that said, McKay’s sudden dramatic inspiration is not totally unheard of in Hollywood. Other directors have taken surprising left turns in their careers, and made films well outside of their perceived comfort zones:
In 1979, Francis Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now, a tragic and surreal vision of the Vietnam war. Seventeen years later, he made the accelerated aging comedy Jack, which starred Robin Williams as a five-year-old in a 50-year-old's body. The horror, the horror.
In 1976, Martin Scorsese made Taxi Driver, a dark and gritty character study about an unhinged man trying to "clean up" the corruption of New York City. Thirty-five years later, he made Hugo, a whimsical family film about a boy living in a clock.
In 1991, John Singleton made Boyz n the Hood, a tragic look at the corrosive influence of gang life on inner-city youth. Twelve years later, he made 2 Fast 2 Furious, the most broey movie of all time.
In 2000, Ron Howard made a live-action adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, starring the mostly rubber funnyman Jim Carrey. Eight years later, he made Frost/Nixon, a historical drama about a post-Watergate scandal interview with Richard Nixon, honing in on how the president's duplicity tore America apart.
In 1987, Rob Reiner made the loopy, enchanting fairy tale classic (and "kissing story") The Princess Bride. Five years later, he made A Few Good Men, a stirring courtroom drama about the violent murder of a soldier.
In 1979, Steven Spielberg made 1941, a zany comedy satirizing war with the antics of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Fourteen years later he made Schindler's List, a heart wrenching story about one man's efforts to save Jews in Nazi Germany... scientifically proven to be the saddest movie ever created.
In 2004, David Gordon Green made Undertow, a harsh thriller about two young brothers trying to escape their murderous uncle. Seven years later, he made Your Highness, a medieval stoner comedy featuring Danny McBride.
In 1973, Robert Altman made A Long Goodbye, a neo-noir mystery film. Seven years later, he made Popeye, starring Robin Williams as the anchor armed sailor with a serious spinach dependency.
In 2001, Steven Soderbergh made Ocean's Eleven, a fun and campy remake of a fun and campy Rat Pack classic. Four years later, he made Bubble, a pitch black, intense look at the dead-end lives of several lifeless doll factory workers surrounding a murder.
In 1996, Kenneth Branagh made Hamlet, an adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most revered, and most tragic, play. Fifteen years later, he made Thor, a film about a magical hammer affectionately called "mew mew."
It's the middle of the week, and your brain has all but lost its functional juices. You need an intellectual jump — a compelling lesson in history, science, or art, but without entailing that troublesome task of reading. What you need is a documentary. This week, our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Docu-Wednesdays is The Queen of Versailles.
So this is how the other half lives. The Queen of Versailles is a riches-to-rags story centered around the family of timeshare king and queen David and Jackie Siegel. The documentary, which originally planned to focus on the family's construction of Versailles, an ornate and gaudy recreation of the Palace of Versailles that would take the title of the largest single-family home in the U.S., shifted gears when the 2008 recession hit the Siegels like a sucker punch and saw the family scrambling to scrimp and save when they've forgotten the definition of living modestly.
On one hand, it's a comedic glance through the looking glass, as we see the flighty rich struggle to comprehend how to give up the comforts of the highest income bracket. On the other, it's a look at how hubris, greed, and the dogged grasp of the American dream can destroy a family. The Queen of Versailles is both hilarious and insightful in equal measure.
You can watch the movie on Netflix, and check back tomorrow for our Throwback Thursday recommendation.
It's the middle of the week, and your brain has all but lost its functional juices. You need an intellectual jump — a compelling lesson in history, science, or art, but without entailing that troublesome task of reading. What you need is a documentary. This week, our Netflix Hand-Picked Flix recommendation for Docu-Wednesdays is Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Prepare to feel inadequate. Jiro is the world's foremost sushi chef, and at the age of 85, he is nothing short of a workhorse. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an intimate display of the virtue of effort. The film showcases decades of study and trial and error all go into an exacting knowledge of how to make the best sushi in the world. while it might look like a madman obsessing over minutiae, the beauty of the doc is witnessing just how completely Jiro puts every single grain of his being into mastering his chosen profession, and how refined simplicity can give way to deep complexity.
It's both inspiring and a bit depressing, knowing you could never possibly put forth that kind of unadulterated effort into any pursuit. It's utterly fascinating to peak inside of Jiro's worldview and take a tour through his daily life and dedicated philosophy. This one should not be missed... it might even convince you to do your own cooking a little more often.
You can watch the movie on Netflix, and check back tomorrow for our Throwback Thursday recommendation.
Rock legend Neil Young has teamed up with Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder and Tom Petty to launch a Kickstarter.com campaign to raise funds for his new digital music service and player Pono. Springsteen, Vedder, Petty, David Crosby, James Taylor and Sting are among the stars who have provided testimonials to support Young's new invention, which recreates the purest sound of the music - as heard in the studio during the recording process.
Launching the new campaign with a video message to music fans, Young says, "It’s about the people who make the music and the way it sounds to us when we’re in the studio making it. It’s about you hearing what we hear. And that hasn’t happened in a long time. I want to bring back real music. That’s why we’re on Kickstarter. So that everyone who loves music can share in the release of Pono and the launch of the real music experience in the 21st century."
The video also features testimonials by Beck, Jack White, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Sir Elton John, Patti Smith, Kid Rock and members of Mumford & Sons.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Actor David Mazouz has landed the role of a young Bruce Wayne in the Batman prequel Gotham. The Touch star will join Sean Pertwee in the series, which will be based around character James Gordon, a police rookie who later rises to the rank of commissioner, and his career before the emergence of the Caped Crusader.
Newcomer Camren Bicondova has also been cast as thief Selina Kyle, who was portrayed by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises.
Former The O.C. star Ben McKenzie will play Gordon, opposite Jada Pinkett Smith, Robin Lord Taylor and Donal Logue.
Touchstone Pictures via Everett Collection
For a career that was spent constructing mystical worlds like the ones seen Princess Mononoke, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away, it might seem a little odd that Hayao Miyazaki's swan song is centered on the real-life story of about the famed aeronautical engineer Jiro Hirokishi. But even though there aren't any magical creatures flying around the skies of a very true-to-life 20th century Tokyo, that doesn't mean that The Wind Rises is lacking in wonder. In fact, Miyazaki's last film may be his most inspiring yet, and is doubtlessly his most personal. After all, it's hard not to see the parallels between the subject of The Wind Rises and its creator himself.
The film follows the famed aeronautical engineer who dreamed of flight, but is kept out of the cockpit thanks to his nearsightedness. Instead, Jiro decides to focus his attention on designing and creating planes. He’s the kind of person that can see inspiration in the slope of a fish bone; every little slice of life can serve as source of inspiration.
Eventually, Jiro becomes Japan's premiere aeronautical engineer — and how could he not when he has the voice of Stanley Tucci in his ear, spurring him on? Tucci plays a dreamed-up version of Giovanni Caproni, a real life Italian aircraft engineer who inspires Jiro to keep working towards his goals. The dream sequences where Caproni visits Jiro are some of the film's finest moments, and Tucci puts as much Italian-accented verve and hope into his performance that almost inspires you to get out of your theater chair and start tinkering with whatever pursuit lifts your own wings. It is in these dream sequences where The Wind Rises really soars, as we watch the two inventors construct odd, curious, and wondrous flying contraptions that can take to the skies, even when the real world physics won't allow them to. Rises might lacks the fantastical worlds and creatures that populate Miyazaki's other works, but it's no less magical. But beyond the wonder of building airplanes, there are hard truths to be learned, and as Jiro realized soon enough, his creations will be dropping the bombs that will serve as Japan's introduction to much of the western world.
Touchstone Pictures via Everett Collection
But for all the fantastic dreamscapes and characters that populate Jiro's world, from Tucci's lively Caproni, to Jiro's excitable sister who has dreams of her own, to even his love interest Naoko, the one flaw in the film seems to be Jiro himself. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who voices Jiro in the English translation of the film, sounds utterly lifeless, and even in the film's emotional peaks and valleys, it sounds like he's reading a telephone book. And while the rest of the English voice cast mostly soars to the occasion, including Martin Short who voices Jiro's hot-tempered boss, and Werner Herzog who helps give the enigmatic Castorp an air of mystery, Jiro is a black hole of personality, and Levitt doesn't manage to give much of anything to Jiro.
The Wind Rises is also a crash course in early 20th century Japan, as we see a country yearning to show the world it's mettle, and we get a peak at the countries' growing pains. We see various events play out on screen including a beautifully animated depiction of the 1923 earthquake that levels Tokyo, and rips through japan like a cresting tidal wave (Studio Ghibli is in top form in the animation department as usual). We also see glimpses of the tuberculosis crisis, the depression, and the early foundations of Japan's relationship with Nazi Germany. These events don't take away from what is firmly Jiro's story, but serve as context to his journey
The Wind Rises is an ode to the dreamers. It's for the creatives who craft their goals in their heads, and unleash their creations for the world to see. It's a uniquely inspiring film that stands with the best of Miyazaki's filmography, and provides a graceful end note to a marvelous career.
Will Smith is in talks to star in a big screen adaptation of author Marcus Sakey's bestseller Brilliance. The Men In Black star is in negotiations to play a federal agent, one of a rare set of people born with extraordinary abilities, called "brilliants", who is tasked with hunting down a terrorist with similar abilities to prevent him from starting a civil war.
Mission: Impossible screenwriter David Koepp has been developing the script, which Don't Look Back filmmaker Julius Onah will direct.
Arctic Monkeys and One Direction were double winners at the 2014 BRIT Awards on Wednesday night (19Feb14). After opening the ceremony with a fiery performance of their hit RU Mine?, the British rockers took home the trophy for Best British Group, joking that they had lost money by betting on category rivals One Direction to win.
The band also took the stage to accept the coveted Best British Album award for AM, which beat off releases by Rudimental, David Bowie and Disclosure, and frontman Alex Turner delivered a poetic acceptance speech about the resurgence of rock music.
He told the audience at London's O2 Arena, "That rock and roll just won't go away. It might hibernate from time to time... but it's always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash back through the glass ceiling, looking better than ever. That rock and rock, it seems like it's faded away sometimes but it will never die. And there's nothing you can do about it."
The band has now won the British Group award three times.
One Direction also took a pair of honours, claiming the Global Success Award for the second year in a row, and picking up the Best Video trophy after winning a live Twitter.com fan vote by a landslide.
An emotional Ellie Goulding kicked off the prize list at the top of the show, when she was handed the award for Best British Female by pop superstar Prince. The win ended years of disappointment since her last BRIT - a Critics' Choice award in 2009.
David Bowie was handed the prize for Best British Male, a prize he last won in 1984, but he did not attend in person, and asked model pal Kate Moss to collect his award, dressed in one of his old stage costumes.
Bruno Mars was named Best International Male for the second time, having previously scooped the gong in 2012, while 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde continued her amazing 2014 by winning International Female, Daft Punk were handed the International Group award, and Bastille were shocked to take home the British Breakthrough Act prize, beating brotherly duo Disclosure, who went home empty handed despite being nominated for four awards.
Live performances came from Katy Perry, who strutted the stage as a day-glo Egyptian queen, Bruno Mars, who bounced around the stage while he performed Treasure, Ellie Goulding and Beyonce, who performed her track XO live on TV for the first time.
It was also a night for onstage collaborations as Lorde and AlunaGeorge singer Aluna Francis teamed up with Disclosure to play a mash-up of their respective hits Royals and White Noise, and Rudimental were joined on stage by Bastille.
Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers closed the show with a medley of Daft Punk's hit Get Lucky and Williams' No. 1 Happy.
The full list of winners is as follows:
British Female Solo Artist: Ellie Goulding
British Group: Arctic Monkeys
British Breakthrough Act: Bastille
British Male Solo Artist: David Bowie
International Female Solo Artist: Lorde
Best British Video: One Direction - Best Song Ever
British Single: Rudimental featuring Ella Eyre - Waiting All Night
International Group: Daft Punk
International Male Solo Artist: Bruno Mars
British Album: Arctic Monkeys - AM
Special Recognition Award: War Child UK
Critics' Choice Award: Sam Smith
Global Success Award: One Direction
British Producer Of The Year: Flood & Alan Moulder
Ellie Goulding and Bruno Mars were the first winners at the BRIT Awards in London on Wednesday night (19Feb14), picking up British Female Solo Artist and International Male Solo Artist at the O2 Arena. The Burn hitmaker fought back tears as she accepted the night's first prize from Prince, who hit the stage with his new girl band 3rdEyeGirl.
The emotional singer said, "Thank you so much, I genuinely am actually in shock... I'm shaking, thank you so much this means so much to me, I can't tell you."
She took to Twitter.com an hour after her big win and added, "so overwhelmed. Thankyou (sic) everyone."
Mars continued an amazing February (14) - after headlining the Super Bowl half-time show - by picking up the International Male Brit award for a second time after previously winning the trophy in 2012.
Meanwhile, One Direction scooped the Global Success Award for the second year and David Bowie and Daft Punk were no-shows for their Best Male Artist and Best International Group honours - supermodel Kate Moss collected Bowie's award and Chic star Nile Rodgers, who worked with Daft Punk on their 2013 mega-hit Get Lucky, was on hand to pick up the duo's prize.
British rockers Arctic Monkeys, who picked up the Best British Group award for a third time, kicked off the awards ceremony with a performance of their hit RU Mine?, while Katy Perry also hit the stage early, dressed as a day-glo Egyptian queen, to sing her latest song Dark Horse.
But neither act could match the grace of the night's special guest, Beyonce, who performed her track XO for the first time on TV at the Brits.
As WENN went to press, the winners so far at the 2014 BRIT Awards are:
Global Success Award: One Direction
Best British Group: Arctic Monkeys
Best British Breakthrough Act: Bastille
Best International Male: Bruno Mars
Best British Female Solo Artist: Ellie Goulding
Best British Male Solo Artist: David Bowie
Best British Single: Waiting All Night by Rudimental
Best International Group: Daft Punk
Best International Female: Lorde
Critics Choice Award: Sam Smith