Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
For a film that involves a love triangle, mental illness, a Bohemian colony of free-spirits, an impending war and several important historical figures, the most exciting elements of Summer in February are the stunning shots of the English country and Cornish seaside. The rest of the film never quite lives up to the crashing waves and sun-dappled meadows that are used to bookend the scenes, as the entertaining opening never manages to coalesce into a story that lives up the the cinematography, let alone the lives of the people that inspired it.
Set in an Edwardian artist’s colony in Cornwall, Summer in February tells the story of A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), who went on to become one of the most famous painters of his day and head of the Royal Academy of Art, his best friend, estate agent and part-time soldier Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), and the woman whom they both loved, aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Her marriage to Munnings was an extremely unhappy one, and she attempted suicide on their honeymoon, before killing herself in 1914. According to his journals, Gilbert and Florence were madly in love, although her marriage and his service in the army kept them apart.
When the film begins, Munnings is the center of attention in the Lamorna Artist's Colony, dramatically reciting poetry at parties and charming his way out of his bar tab while everyone around him proclaims him to be a genius. When he’s not drinking or painting, he’s riding horses with Gilbert, who has the relatively thankless task of keeping this group of Bohemians in line. Their idyllic existence is disrupted by the arrival of Florence, who has run away from her overbearing father and the fiancé he had picked out for her in order to become a painter.
Stevens and Browning both start the film solidly, with enough chemistry between them to make their infatuation interesting. He manages to give Gilbert enough dependable charm to win over both Florence and the audience, and she presents Florence as someone with enough spunk and self-possession to go after what she wants. Browning’s scenes with Munnings are equally entertaining in the first third of the film, as she can clearly see straight through all of his bravado and he is intrigued by her and how difficult she is to impress. Unfortunately, while the basis of the love triangle is well-established and entertaining, it takes a sudden turn into nothing with a surprise proposal from Munnings.
Neither the film nor Browning ever make it clear why Florence accepts his proposal, especially when they have both taken great pains to establish that she doesn’t care much for him. But once she does, the films stalls, and both Stevens and Browning spend the rest of the film doing little more than staring moodily and longingly at the people around them. The real-life Florence was plagued by depression and mental instability, but neither the film nor Browning’s performance ever manage to do more than give the subtlest hint at that darkness. On a few occasions, Browning does manage to portray a genuine anguish, but rather than producing any sympathy from the audience, it simply conjures up images of a different film, one that focused more on Florence, and the difficulties of being a woman with a mental illness at a time when both were ignored or misunderstood.
Stevens is fine, and Gilbert starts out with the same kind of good-guy appeal the won the heart of Mary Crawley and Downton Abbey fans the world over. However, once the film stalls, so does his performance, and he quickly drops everything that made the character attractive or interesting in favor of longing looks and long stretches of inactivity. He does portray a convincing amount of adoration for Florence, although that's about the only real emotion that Gilbert expresses for the vast majority of the film, and even during his love scene, he never manages to give him any amount of passion.
Cooper does his best with what he’s given, and tries his hardest to imbue the film with some substance and drama. His Munnings is by turns charming, brash, and brooding, the kind of person who has been told all of their life that they are special, and believes it. He even manages to give the character some depth, and even though he and Browning have very little chemistry, he manages to convey a genuine affection for her. It’s a shame that Munnings becomes such a deeply unlikable character, because Cooper is the only thing giving Summer in February a jolt of life – even if it comes via bursts of thinly-explained hostility. It's hard to watch just how hard he's working to connect with his co-stars and add some excitement to a lifeless script and not wish that he had a better film to show off his talents in.
Unfortunately, by the time Florence and Gilbert are finally spurred into activity, the film has dragged on for so long that you’re no longer invested in the characters, their pain, or their love story, even if you want to be. Which is the real disappointment of Summer in February; underneath the stalled plot and the relatively one-note acting, there are glimmers of a fascinating and compelling story that’s never allowed to come to the forefront.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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It's hardly a surprise to see familiar faces during the Super Bowl's commercial breaks. After all, we already know Amy Poehler is shilling for Best Buy this year; we all remember Matthew Broderick reviving Ferris Bueller for Honda last year; and we’ll never forget the glory and slightly confusing patriotism of Britney Spears’ “Joy of Pepsi” spot. But what about the people who shot to fame after they showed up during a brief respite from the moving of the chains? Those are the commercials you may not remember...
Elijah Wood Trades Chips For a Super Bowl Ring (1994)
Even before he wormed his adorable way into our hearts in the 1994 Kevin Costner movie The War, Wood was tricking sports fans into eating Wavy Lays so he could steal their seats. The celebs in this round were actually Dallas Cowboys star Troy Aikman and former Vice President Dan Quayle, but Wood was just months from becoming a star in his own right.
Farrah Fawcett “Creams” Joe Namath... Somehow This Wasn’t Censored
Before Fawcett was one of Charlie’s Angels, she was helping Joe Namath shave his face and making use of a pun I didn’t think you could get away with in the ‘70s. You learn something new every day, I suppose.
Sean Hayes: Super Bowl Commercial Overachiever
Before he was known as Jack on Will & Grace, Hayes starred in two 1998 Super Bowl commercials, both of which would have you believe Hayes was a grunting neanderthal of a man: Bud Light’s shopping escape and Ali Landry’s Doritos 3D laundro-mat circus.
Before There Was The Fonz, There Was This Guy With a Killer Mustache
In 1973, before the 1974 debut of Happy Days — and, more importantly, the debut of Henry Winkler’s The Fonz — this brief commercial featured a mustachioed Winkler extolling the virtues of Schick razors. (Unfortunately, the version with audio isn’t available, but the facial hair! Oh, the facial hair.)
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: YouTube]
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There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Why hello there, Community episode we've all been waiting for: It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. As a loyal fan with a "Troy and Abed in the Morning" mug currently warming my frigid-as-usual hands, even I had my doubts when this very special show's most recent offerings were … tepid, at best. And after a fall that boasted one of the greatest half hours of comedy I've ever witnessed -- I'm talking, of course, about "Remedial Chaos Theory" -- some (Err, Chevy Chase) began to wonder if Dan Harmon's recent writing would ever top the early days of Greendale glory.
For me, tonight put those doubts to rest. Community is a show that prides itself on its one-of-a-kind "special episodes" — from the paintball to the Dungeons and Dragons to the spoof on a traditional television "bottle episode" — the show is often at its best when it's taking on genres and generally pushing the crazytown envelope. And boy, did "Pillows and Blankets" deliver.
The basic set-up was a war between two beloved best friends, presented in the style of a Ken Burns PBS documentary. Everyone, of course, took on a traditional war-doc role: Troy and Abed were the respective feuding leaders of Blanketsburg and Pillowtown, Annie became the Florence Nightingale of Greendale (focusing mainly on testicular injuries), and Shirley let loose as a merciless pillow-killer. Jeff, of course, flip-flopped to serve his own agenda, Pierce stayed Pierce, and Britta hilariously tried to be a Tim Hetherington-esque war documentarian. Oops — Britta'd it.
When we left Troy and Abed last week, the battle had just begun — the first shot had been fired by Lord knows who (Starburns), and the cracks in their formerly solid friendship had begun to form. And when we re-entered Greendale tonight, the scene was more Walking Dead than Animal House: Abandoned halls and flying feathers suggested that irreparable damage had already been done. (This opener actually reminded me of the similarly post-apocalyptic world Jeff woke to after the first paintball cornucopia in "Modern Warfare.")
"It was awesome," Troy mused to the narrator. "But also, it wasn't?" Yes, we could tell right away that it wasn't — Dean Pelton had enlisted a typically ambivalent Jeffrey's help to bring the former BFFs together, but even the ultimate peace offering (an invisible friendship hat) couldn't mend their fences. Diplomacy simply wasn't on the table today — Troy and Abed insisted on their respective "All Tomatoes" (ultimatums) being met in a timely matter. They were two Cersei Lannisters, without a reasonable Tyrion to make sense of it all.
So the two men returned to their fort(resses), for what should have been a night of peaceful cease-fire. Instead, the residents of Pillowtown were invaded by a gang of feverish Blanketsburgers, in a frenetic scene that I hope will be mirrored in the upcoming film World War Z. Great book. You guys should read it.
And the battle raged on — of course, Britta Hetherington tried to heroically capture all of the action, but unfortunately, "Just because something is in black and white, doesn't mean it's good." (Does anyone else think that Britta has finally found her stride as the insufferable liberal arts student that everybody hates? Is it bad that my brother and my cousins call me Britta? No?)
Jeff tried to use the escalating situation to his own advantage, providing anti-violence, anti-Braveheart speeches to both sides in a poorly disguised "Ferris Buellerian attempt to delay schoolwork." He got away with it in the eyes of the wartorn masses, but not with the only one who ever seemed to matter: The age-inappropriate Annie Edison, who started ignoring his text messages as a sign of disappointed defiance. "Your words don't mean anything," she said when they finally met in person. "They're just things you say to get what you want." When he defended his actions, she replied with "Maybe you should just shut up," making her my official soul sister of the week. Hey, manipulative liars: MAYBE YOU SHOULD JUST SHUT UP.
Finally, the battle hit way too close to emotional friendship home for Troy and Abed (And for us, their devoted viewers) when Abed sent out a devastating email to his entire team, selfishly highlighting Troy's weaknesses: "Loud noises, the color red, smooth jazz, shiny things, food smells, music boxes, bell bottoms, boobs, barking dogs, and anyone saying 'Look over there!'" Sadly, it got worse: "He's insecure about his level of intelligence. His greatest vulnerability of all is his emotional frailty. It's incredibly easy to make him cry, and he's incredibly ashamed of that fact."
Now, I know the commonly accepted diagnoses for Abed is Asperger's Syndrome (Which greatly hinders one's social skills), but coming from a recapper with Asperger's in the family, that was way harsh, Tai. Troy responded with an equally hurtful, friendship-slandering text message, and it started to seem as if John Goodman's Vice Dean had finally won -- the greatest friendship Greendale had ever seen was soon to be no more, leaving Troy with no choice but to accept his fate as a legendary Air Conditioning Repairman. The roomies even agreed that the loser of the pillowfight would move out of the apartment, giving up all rights to the Dreamatorium.
But at the end of the day, Jeff — of all people — was able to bring the duo back together. After a battle that the Guinness World Records guy called "the world's biggest mistake," the rest of the campus retreated, leaving Troy and Abed to hit each other with pillows all by their lonesome. Jeff realized that their inability to pull themselves away from each other meant that the friendship still had a chance, so he again offered the magical friendship hats they had rejected once before. "You left the magical friendship hats at the Dean's office," Abed said with a smirk. Troy shook his head in a sign of amused solidarity, then eagerly accepted his peace token once Jeff returned with the previously abandoned hats. They did the secret handshake, and off to the Dreamatorium they went (I assume).
In an equally sentimental turn, Annie told the camera crew that she was proud of Jeff for leaving for an extended amount of time to make Troy and Abed believe that he had actually gone all the way to the Dean's office to retrieve the hats. A Jeff voiceover and some found footage proved that Jeff actually DID enter the Dean's office, and he handled those hats with utmost care. For the first time ever, Jeff was playing along.
All in all, a fantastic episode. Harmon and co. not only provided a thrilling documentary that should be shown on PBS -- they packed an emotional punch and advanced Jeff's character in a way that didn't seem forced or cheesy. They did NOT Britta this one.
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
'Community' recap: Troy and Abed Go To War'Community' Feud: Is Chevy Chase Leaving the Show? Chevy Chase's 'Community' Boss Apologizes For His "Unclassy Move"
Larry (not his real name) wanted $30 for a $10 ticket to "American Psycho." If you waited 15 minutes, you waited too long, because then Larry wanted $40 -- and got it, too. (Or so he thought.)
According to one overheard comment Friday night at the "Psycho"'s sold-out Sundance premiere at the Eccles Theatre, the 15-year-old and his underage posse were possibly the first scalpers in the history of Robert Redford's mountain paradise.
Such is life in this now (really) big little city.
The snow arrived about the same time the stars did this weekend -- as did the buzz, the crowds, Tammy Faye and the kids trying to price gouge morally offended indie film types. A rundown of the action:
KA-CHING! "Groove," a no-name indie about the rave-party scene, is living the Sundance dream -- snapped up today by Sony Pictures Classics. No word on the dollar amount. The flick, called a "low-budget 'Nashville' by the Sundance wags, premiered Friday under the festival's American Spectrum wing. A "Groove" party tonight was the place to be -- particularly after worked leaked out about the Sony buy. "Oh, my God," said film publicist Matthew Strauss, "it went through the roof." "Groove" is written-directed by veteran film editor Greg Harrison making his feature-length debut behind the camera.
BAD VIBES: This morning's press screening for "Psycho" was interrupted when a viewer lapsed into an apparent seizure with 10 minutes left in the picture. At first, fellow audience members thought the man was snoring. "Everybody felt bad people had started to laugh [at the seizure victim]," says Hollywood.com's Jim Bartoo. Paramedics were called, the man revived and escorted from the theater. The screening resumed.
HERE'S WHAT THE GUY MISSED: Ultra-violent "American Psycho" is sorta funny -- at least that was the buzz from audience types leaving Friday's mishap-free Eccles showing. "People were laughing until the last 15 minutes and then no one said anything," said 21-year-old San Francisco resident Maris Brenn-White, on her way out of the theater. Chimed in companion Andrew Harper, also 21: "Yeah, very strange, very strange ending. Not really sure what to make of it."
HERE'S WHAT TO MAKE OF IT: According to "Psycho" star Christian Bale, the thing is supposed to be mixed up. "It is a funny film but then it is also disturbing," the actor told Hollywood.com today, "and then toward the end it really sort of ceases being funny." Oh. (To read the Hollywood.com review, go to The Buzz.)
SO, WAS THE MOVIE WORTH $40? "I was supposed to pay $40, but the little kid didn't know how to do the math so I paid $30," proud ticket-holder Greg Robertson said Friday night.
UNLESS YOU NEED TO BOLT FROM THE THEATER: Ben Affleck turned out to tonight's premiere of "Committed" (an upcoming Miramax release as well as a Sundance dramatic competition entry) sans Matt Damon, but with a single crutch. The actor says he sprained his ankle playing basketball. "It kind of sucks," he told us. "Sundance is a real walking experience. ... [But] I guess sitting down to watch movies doesn't take too much mobility."
NO THUMB UP: So, we cornered one Roger Ebert exiting the "American Psycho" premiere. We locked eyes -- ours were saying, "Ooh, Roger Ebert what'd you think?"; his were saying, "Don't even ask." What can we say? We asked. He didn't tell. "You have to wait," the Great One said. "I don't review when I walk out of movies."
ROGER EBERT WON'T, BUT MATTHEW BRODERICK WILL: "'You Can Count on Me,' I saw," the "Ferris Bueller" icon said when prompted for an impromptu movie review by Hollywood.com this morning on Main Street. "It was great. ... Great performances, wonderful script, excellent."
ALL RIGHT, SO WE WERE HAD: Upon further review, "You Can Count on Me," which premiered Friday night at Sundance, is a family drama starring Laura Linney ("The Truman Show"), Jon Tenney (TV's "Get Real") and, um, Matthew Broderick.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SUNDANCE PARTY AND A SLAMDANCE PARTY: A Friday night Sundance bash sponsored by Entertainment Weekly featured a spectacular view of the mountains, really tasty mini-eclairs, delightful chicken things in peanut sauce, an open bar (up until about 11 p.m.) and a low-key vibe. Slamdance's Saturday night opening bash featured an OK view of the mountains, bowls of pretzels, a cash bar (unless you ordered vodka, which was free) and a happening buzz.
SPEAKING OF HAPPENING...: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," a Sundance doc about ex-televangelist Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner, is entertaining movie deals after its Friday premiere at the Yarrow Theatre brought its audience to its feet. "It's been a good day," co-director Randy Barbato told us. For Tammy Faye, it was a really good premiere. "After it ended, I walked up in front of the people, and I began to cry," a full mascaraed Tammy Faye said at the mega-loud Slamdance blowout. "... It was the most wonderful, warm moment I've ever experienced. And I'm so grateful."
SPEAKING OF ANOTHER HAPPENING: "A Galaxy Far, Far Away," an 80-minute Slamdance doc about "Star Wars" geeks on the eve of the premiere of "The Phantom Menace" played to a packed video lounge at the Treasure Mountain Inn tonight -- despite a wacky thermostat that made the screening room Africa hot and a wacky playback machine that cut out the video 10 times. Still, director Tariq Jalil was far from despondent later that night. He tells us the crowd of 100 to 200, with few exceptions, stayed with the flick throughout the entire ordeal. Always a good sign. So are the phone calls we hear the "Galaxy" team's been getting.
FIGHTIN' THE MAN: No fliers on fliers in Park City this January. Slamdance filmmaker Farhad Yawari was "very nearly arrested" on Friday over a handbill flap, festival co-founder Dan Mirvish tells Hollywood.com. It seems Yawari, who directed the short "Dolphins," was found in violation of the local's new anti-handbill-passing-out ordinance -- punishable by a $2,000 fine. "He wasn't happy about paying that, so that's why they were going to arrest him," Mirvish says. Slamdance officials say the new law is news to them -- they have yet to see it in writing. Says Mirvish: "Does it say [no fliers] on Main Street? Is it the whole town? Is it just Slamdance?" To be sure, other Slamdance filmmakers are taking it personally. Jali's "Galaxy" crew has seen roaming Park City bearing posterboard signs declaring: "We're not allowed to hand you a flier, so here's a sign."
MOST UBIQUITOUS FREEBIE IN PARK CITY: The snowflake button for "Snow Days," the buzz-a-rific American Spectrum comedy set to debut Sunday.
HOT TREND: Pregnancy. Actor/director Stanley Tucci had to skip the premiere of "Joe Gould's Secret" on Friday to go have a baby with his wife. Other with-child types here include filmmakers Stacy Cochran ("Drop Back Ten") and Mary Harron ("American Psycho").
THINGS WE SAW OTHER THAN "AMERICAN PSYCHO":
1. "Waking the Dead" (Sundance World Premiere) -- Director Keith Gordon's tale of a young couple whose future is cut down by a terrorist's bomb is hurt by slow pacing and an overindulgence in the sentimental. Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly star as complete opposites who fall in love during the tumultuous early 1970s. As bad luck would have it, Connelly's involvement in Latin American issues presumably leads to her death by car bomb. Years later, an older and politically suave Crudup is poised to make a run for Congress -- only to start having delusions of seeing Sarah in his everyday life. While it could prove commercially viable, "Waking the Dead" treads very little new ground. (Jim Bartoo)
2. "Just, Melvin" (Sundance Documentary Competition) -- With painstaking detail, director Ronald Whitney does an amazing job telling the story of his abusive grandfather, Melvin Just. A sexual predator of the worst kind, Melvin abused Whitney's mother, her sisters, their daughters and a whole host of other young children from his second marriage. "Just, Melvin" is receiving a tremendous amount of praise in Park City and deservedly so. (J.B.)
3. "Well-Founded Fear" (Sundance Documentary Competition) -- Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini's touching, disturbing behind-the-scenes look at the U.S. political asylum system is an extremely engaging piece that attempts to put a human face on the much-maligned Immigration and Naturalization Service. Through the stories and eyes of multiple applicants and INS officers, Robertson and Camerini give viewers a never-before-seen look at the actual interview process, as well as very candid conversations between officers and their supervisors. Often unsettlingly sad, "Well-Founded Fear" is summed up by one particularly kind officer who, after having to deny an applicant admission, is asked about his day: "Do I feel good? No. I feel like [crap]." (J.B.)
4. "The Small-Timers." (No Dance) -- This is an earnest doc about an independent film ("The Big Muddy") that didn't exactly go "Blair Witch" after its Park City premiere last year. As far as naval-gazing projects go, its heart is in the right place, even if its indie-worn message ("Make your movie -- no matter what!) is in the same old place. (Joal Ryan)
PREVIEW OF SUNDANCES TO COME? So, when everybody's trying to sell movies in Park City, the only way to distinguish yourself is to make a movie in Park City. The Brooklyn-based film crew for the in-the-works indie flick "The Battle for Breuklyn" was spotted doing just that the other day. Producer Liz Maddalone says the film's about a guy (natch) trying to make a movie called (natch) "The Battle for Breuklyn." (History note: That's the way the Dutch used to spell the name of the borough.). Anyway, the flick's a family affair -- one of Maddalone's brothers is the writer/director, another one's the camera guy. Almost eight years in the making, the project seems at the climax phase. Maddalone says the Park City shoot features the film's hero trying to drum up interest in his project. So does he get a deal? Says Maddalone: "You're gonna just have to watch to find out."
MOST HEARTWARMING MOMENT: An awestruck kid watching Hollywood.com-er Gerry Katzman interview two food-service workers at the Eccles Theatre: "Dude, Hollywood.com!"
SPOTTED: Supercouple Heather Graham and Edward Burns doing the press line at the "Committed" premiere; character actor Joe Bologna trying to do the press line at the "Committed" premiere; Kevin Smith ("Clerks") and Michael Nouri ("Flashdance") walking into the lobby at the "American Psycho" premiere; Peter Weller ("RoboCop") putting in appearance near Sundance headquarters at Shadow Ridge.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Ethan Hawke-led "Hamlet," the Neve Campbell-equipped "Panic" and the aforementioned "Snow Days" all get their first Sundance screenings Sunday. With additional reporting by Jim Bartoo and Gerry Katzman.