Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan reunited at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Monday (28Apr14) to honour their When Harry Met Sally... director Rob Reiner. The prolific filmmaker, whose hits include This is Spinal Tap and A Few Good Men, was the recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award in recognition of his hugely successful career.
Stars and former colleagues lined up to pay tribute the Reiner, including Michael Douglas - who arrived hand-in-hand with estranged wife Catherine Zeta-Jones - Martin Scorsese and James Caan, but the big moment of the night was when Crystal introduced surprise guest Ryan to the stage.
The pair reminisced about Ryan's iconic orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally..., revealing that Reiner himself showed her how to act out the moment.
Crystal also explained how his personal relationship with the director was very similar to the film's leading couple: "That was so personal to us because many of the things that Harry and Sally did in the movie, Rob and I did as friends, which we just talked about and (writer) Nora (Ephron) was able to work into the script. That bonding was very much Rob and I."
Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Mandy Patinkin also shared their memories of working with Reiner via video messages.
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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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 so hard to say goodbye. Especially when you work alongside the coolest people in television. Tina Fey appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last night to talk 30 Rock's final season — and co-star Tracy Morgan's future. Will be able to physically survive without her? (Especially when it's not Shark Week?)
Here's what you missed last night on late night television:
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Tina Fey not only talked 30 Rock, but Emmys night as well. Instead of partying after TV's biggest night, Fey confessed that she fell asleep at her hotel — but not before ordering a pizza and milkshake. Fallon, however, boasted a much more exciting Emmys aftermath while sitting on an airplane near Homeland star Mandy Patinkin. Fey's seat mate? An air marshal. (Paging Bridesmaids!) When the conversation turned to 30 Rock's final season. Fey admitted that she is worried about what's going to happen to Tracy Morgan once the series ends: "I had a moment today where I was shooting a really long scene with Tracy and Alec, and I thought, 'I'm really going to miss seeing Tracy every day, partly because I feel like once I stop seeing him, he is going to fall in a pool or something.'"
Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!
Will Arnett celebrated Monday's Canadian Thanksgiving on Kimmel Wednesday night. "It's just a joyless, dry turkey," he said. "And they want to really make that gap wide from Thanksgiving to Christmas so you have nothing to look forward to." But we were more interested when he began chatter aboot the upcoming Arrested Development reunion. "After all this time, and us being apart, it's been so many years, you know who was great to see and work with? Nobody," he said. Besides Arrested Development and Up All Night, Arnett will also be appearing on 30 Rock for the final season. "I might take my own life," joked about his workload.
The Late Show with David Letterman
Salma Hayek Pinault and her enviable accent stopped by Letterman to talk about her new movie, Here Comes the Boom, and working with Kevin James. In the movie, Pinault and James' characters go on an painful date. "This is the date he has been waiting for his whole life," she said. "I finally have pity on him and we have this date. It was very funny because he has been fighting with all the tough guys and he's doing so well. All of a sudden he has this little fight with me and I really damage him and injure him because I accidentally hit him in the prunes really hard." Ouch!
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Chelsea Handler is a good aunt, especially when she takes her niece for a drive. She shared a story of one specific road trip that sounded a bit compromising, to say the least. "I drove them once back from Malibu and I got a speeding ticket," she said. "That wasn't the problem. I have a two-seater car and my niece is six, so she should have grown before she came out to California if she didn't want to sit in the front seat. I don't have a backseat, so I put her in the front. I didn't think anything of it. And then I got a speeding ticket and then when the cop was coming over, I was like, 'Don't worry, Charlie. It's no big deal. I get these all the time. It's fine.' She's like, 'Shouldn't I be in the backseat?' I'm like, 'Oh, f**k.'" Sounds like Handler is right behind Amanda Bynes in the bad drivers' lane.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Fallon]
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There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
The royal drama, about stuttering British monarch George VI, led the competition with 12 nominations going into this year's (11) Oscars, and edged out the likes of Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception and The Social Network to claim the most coveted title of the night.
Firth was crowned Best Actor in a Leading Role, emerging triumphant over Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Jeff Bridges (True Grit), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and James Franco (127 Hours).
Filmmaker Tom Hooper also basked in Oscar glory as he was hailed Best Director, beating Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), David O. Russell (The Fighter), David Fincher (The Social Network) and Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit).
Pregnant Natalie Portman fought back tears as she walked away with Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of a tormented ballet dancer in Black Swan, ahead of Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole), Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone) and Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine).
She gave special thanks to her Black Swan choreographer and fiance Benjamin Millepied, telling the audience, "So many people helped me prepare for this role... my beautiful love, Benjamin Millepied who choreographed the film and has now given me the most important role of my life."
It was also a golden night for The Fighter, about tough Boston, Massachusetts boxing legends Mickey Ward and Dickie Eklund, as Christian Bale and Melissa Leo dominated the Best Supporting categories.
Meanwhile, moviemaker Francis Ford Coppola, actor Eli Wallach and historian Kevin Brownlow were given a standing ovation in recognition of the lifetime achievement honours they received at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards in November (10). Fellow honouree Jean-Luc Godard did not attend the ceremony.
Oscars co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco opened the 2011 Academy Awards with a hilarious spoof poking fun at the Best Picture nominees, while 2010 presenter Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman also made surprise appearances in the skit.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi, Randy Newman, and Florence Welch and A.R. Rahman provided the music for the night as they performed the tracks nominated for Best Original Song.
And Celine Dion took to the Kodak Theatre stage in Los Angeles to sing Smile during the ceremony's annual In Memorium segment, remembering the stars lost in the past 12 months, including Tony Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Dennis Hopper, Pete Postlethwaite and Gloria Stuart.
The complete list of winners at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards is as follows:
The King's Speech
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Screenplay - Adapted:
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Screenplay - Original:
David Seidler, The King's Speech
Best Foreign Language Film:
In a Better World (Denmark)
Best Animated Feature:
Toy Story 3
Best Documentary (Feature):
Best Art Direction:
Robert Stromberg and Karen O'Hara, Alice In Wonderland
Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Sound Mixing:
Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick, Inception
Best Sound Editing:
Richard King, Inception
Best Original Score:
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Best Original Song:
We Belong Together from Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
Colleen Atwood, Alice in Wonderland
Best Documentary (Short Subject):
Strangers No More
Best Film Editing:
The Social Network
Best Animated Short Film:
The Lost Thing
Best Live Action Short Film:
God of Love
Best Visual Effects:
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.