Fans know him as the late (or based on his involvement in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, resurrected?) Agent Coulson in The Avengers, but before and after his comic book career, Clark Gregg is a triple force actor/writer/director. Gregg added screenwriter to his resume after penning the 2000 thriller What Lies Beneath, then took the director's chair for the 2008 Chuck Palahniuk adaptation Choke. Now, after a few years rubbing shoulders with Marvel's superteam, he's back at Tribeca Film Festival with his latest and most vivacious work yet, a biting satire of the world Gregg has been immersed in for the last five years.
Trust Me follows child actor agent Howard (Gregg) as he traverses the seas of talent wrangling. At first, he seems like the typical down-on-his-luck shmuck, unable to secure prospective newcomers or hold on to the clients he has. Early on, we see Howard stuck in the middle between Hollywood dealmakers and a terrifying stage mom (Molly Shannon). Life clearly isn't cutting him a break, as he loses his negotiations and caps it off with a vehicular punch to the gut. Sam Rockwell plays rival agent Aldo, who appears whenever life needs to rub Howard's failures in his face.
Things pick up when Howard meets Lydia (Saxon Sharbino), a tween actress ready to bust out of her parents sloppy management strategy. She sees potential in the lackluster representative, and when she presents him with the opportunity to shepherd her in to the next big Young Adult franchise (a la Hunger Games), he seizes the opportunity. Contending with her alcoholic father, Aldo's studio ties, and Murphy's Law slapping him this way and that, Howard goes all in on Lydia — and it's only when he's up to his neck in Hollywood bulls**t does he realize he might be caught up in something dangerous.
Tonally, Trust Me glides back and forth between comedy and thrills like few others. Gregg's history working with the Atlantic Theater Company and dramatic titan David Mamet is apparent on every level here — what starts as a biting satire of Hollywood nonsense twists and turns into a full-blown thriller. It's not an elegant evolution, but it's dynamic, shocking, and absorbing. Trust Me kicks off with snappy dialogue that's overflowing with business jargon and weaponized for laughs. Gregg plays fast and loose behind the camera, convincing us that Trust Me is a Curb Your Enthusiasm riff on State & Main.
But as Howard's life takes an upward turn, Gregg's script steers to darker places and more dramatic turns. On the evening of Lydia's big audition, Howard rehearses lines and pushes the young actress to take the fluffy fantastical YA material seriously (a truly difficult task). Sharbino holds her on against Gregg in the comedic back-and-forths, but in an instance of acting-on-top-of-acting, she asserts as a real discovery. She blows Howard and the audience away.
From the very beginning, Clark chooses to soundtrack his jaunty look at the entertainment industry with a score straight out of neo-noirs. It's sparse and in opposition to what we see. But it's the perfect build-up to the third act, that goes off the rails in a welcome way. The movie daringly subverts expectations like no Marvel movie ever could. Gregg keeps peppering Trust Me with comedy (courtesy of the devilish studio executive played by Felicity Huffman) and heart (his relationship with Amanda Peet's next door neighbor/object of affection is quite sweet), but in the end, the lesson is clear: Hollywood is a frightening, bloodthirsty world and no one is safe to its traps. That's why the twists of Trust Me feel natural — for anyone with inside knowledge of the industry, success one day and complete failure the next is just another week on the job.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Walt Disney animation’s first foray into 3D ‘toon making isn’t just a technical triumph it thankfully also tells the clever story of Bolt (John Travolta). He’s a superstar TV canine who believes the superpowers he displays weekly on his series are for real --especially when it comes to the protection of his master and co-star Penny (Miley Cyrus). One day however the dog is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City. Lost alone and confused on the streets of the Big Apple Bolt is still living the show vowing to get to Penny who he believes has been kidnapped by the “green-eyed man.” And so he embarks on a cross-country journey to L.A. to save Penny. Along the way he is joined by an abandoned wily housecat Mittens (Susie Essman) and a TV-loving hamster Rhino (Mark Walton) who believes everything he sees on the tube is ALSO real. Of course Bolt is in for rude awakening when he finds out he is just a regular dog but he still needs to get to Penny -- even if it means she might not be there for him when he returns. Disney is not a studio that generally depends on superstar voices for their animated films but in casting Travolta and tween queen Cyrus they have scored a bullseye. Travolta’s Bolt is a delightful cross between the self-assured superstar and a pooch in denial. The actor doesn’t phone it in but instead creates an original and loveable dog that stands proudly in Disney’s large canon of canine greats. The action scenes created for Bolt’s TV series are lots of fun and the interactions with his traveling companions are choice. As Penny Cyrus is sympathetic sincere and she even gets to sing a duet with Travolta “I Thought I Lost You ” which she co-wrote. The show is nearly stolen though by comedian Susie Essman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Mittens -- a smart determined and emotionally wounded pet cat abandoned by her owners and forced to wander the streets alone. And by Mark Walton as the hilarious Rhino the obsessive fanboy hamster who rolls around in his ball. Walton is actually an animator in real life who happened to be so good at voicing Rhino during tests they just gave him the job. Disney vets Chris Williams and Byron Howard capably usher the venerable Disney label into the brave new world of 3D animation and the results are promising -- putting the audience right in the center of Bolt’s universe. The TV series action set pieces are particularly effective in using the technology. It’s not even necessary to see the film in 3D because the whole CG process has come a long way in a few short years and Bolt is one of the best looking most accomplished animated films in memory -- glasses or no glasses. Williams and Howard expertly blend humor pathos and blockbuster-style action scenes effortlessly giving “Bolt” an appeal beyond just the target kid demo.
Author Stephanie Meyer unleashed a phenomenon with her Twilight novels a teen vampire romance that has spurned a teen cult following. The good news is the movie is surprisingly just as potent -- a spellbinding terribly romantic hypnotic and entertaining film. At its heart are the elements that make any teen drama work; in this case it’s forbidden love. It starts with 16 year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who relocates from her sunny Phoenix to the cold gray foreboding atmosphere of Forks Washington to live with her father. At her new high school she meets the incredibly attractive but mysterious Cullen clan including the allusive Edward (Robert Pattinson) who immediately intrigues her. What she doesn’t know yet is that Edward and his “family” are a group of vegetarian vampires who drink only animal blood and must live in the terminally cloudy region of Northwest. Edward tries to drive a determined Bella away by revealing his true identity but soon realizes she is the girl of his dreams. But as the two begin their complicated romance things get dicey when another group of um meat-lovin’ vampires target Bella. Teen Beat should clear their covers for a new group of stars sure to become huge with the female teen set -- and probably their mothers as well. Exuding a brooding reserve and air of mystery the follicley-endowed Robert Pattinson is reminiscent of James Dean and completely believable as a conflicted bloodsucker who becomes dangerously attracted to a mere mortal. His Edward’s unpredictable nature becomes irresistible for the attractive Kristen Stewart’s Bella as she grows closer to him despite his attempts to keep her at arm’s length. Not since Baby yearned for Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing has there been such an effective pairing for the acne-challenged set. Pattinson and Stewart simmer with teen angst and desire and could be the next big thing -- especially if there are more Twilight sequels to follow. The Cullen clan led by foster parents Peter Facinelli and Elizabeth Reaser is perfectly cast with a good looking bunch of vampiric thesps including newcomers Ashley Green Kellan Lutz Jackson Rathbone and Nikki Reed. Red-headed Rachelle LeFevre as bad vamp Victoria is ideal along with Cam Gigandet and Edi Gathegi as the guys in her group of nomadic vampires. Director Catherine Hardwicke has certainly shown she understands the ever-changing moods of youth with her previous efforts (Thirteen Lords of Dogtown). But those flicks were just warm-ups for what she taps into with Twilight. She creates a wonderful creepy kind of muted dark and cloudy society with imposing camera angles and aching teen lust from her bright red-lipped hormonally charged leads. And thankfully she leaves the fangs on the cutting room floor. These vampires are actually relatable and Hardwick takes what could have been an awful juvenile programmer and lifts it into a different league creating not only a movie that should cross over beyond it’s target demo but one that makes us genuinely excited for the inevitable sequels.
In yet another variation on the shopworn road picture in which two mismatched former buddies are forced to cross the country together Soul Men’s uneasy brand of overly broad humor and contrived situations is saved intermittently by some cool musical numbers. But alas it’s not enough. Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) and Floyd (Bernie Mac) are part of a major musical group led by Marcus Hooks (John Legend) who goes solo leaving Floyd and Louis in the lurch. Fast forward 20 years Hooks has died and Louis and Floyd who did not end on good terms and have not spoken since have been coerced into appearing a tribute show for Hooks at New York’s famed Apollo Theatre. Afraid to fly they get in Floyd’s 1971 Cadillac El Dorado accompanied by a talented young woman (Sharon Leal) who may be Floyd’s daughter. Along the way they try to get their act up to speed by appearing in various redneck honky tonks filling the interminable 103-minute running time with a lot of unfunny sexual encounters and unbelievable situations. The late Bernie Mac was a terrific comic talent and is highly wasted in this mishmash in which he is constantly encouraged to mug for laughs. Mac is so much better than the lowbrow material he has to work with here that it’s a shame this film should stand as one of his last (at least there’s Madagascar 2). Faring even worse however is Samuel L. Jackson who is out of his element in a musical comedy and seems to be taking none of this hokum seriously. Thankfully the soulful musical numbers reminiscent of classic ‘60s Sam and Dave R&B are well chosen and capably performed even though neither Mac nor Jackson are known for their singing. Best number in fact is fronted by John Legend making his acting debut as Hooks. As the young eager beaver manager trying to get Floyd and Louis back together Sean Hayes is way too broad. Faring better is newcomer Adam Herschman as Hayes’ mop-topped intern who uses his fanboy infatuation with the pair to nice advantage. And there’s a nice now bittersweet bit near the end with the late Isaac Hayes. Malcolm Lee (Undercover Brother Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins) is a director who tends to go for the slapstick when a little subtlety and believability would be more in order. With a great Sunshine Boys premise and some nifty musical material to pepper the proceedings Lee still manages to drop the ball letting his talented actors down and encouraging them to chew up every scene. The corny silly situations certainly doesn’t help matters with the road trip device feeling more like padding than anything else. Soul Men doesn’t find the right rhythms.
I say "creepy" because Untraceable’s theory could actually be a reality. The possibility of a tech-savvy psycho setting up a Web site that displays graphic murders could happen with the fate of each of the tormented captives left in the hands of the public: The more hits the site gets the faster the victims die--and in the case of Untraceable die in very gruesome ways. Of course Untraceable also gives us a peek at the good guys--the FBI division that is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals. Special Agent Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is one such Internet expert who along with her co-worker (Colin Hanks) is stymied by KillWithMe.com’s untraceablity. But soon the movie turns predictable as the cat-and-mouse game gets personal and Marsh must race against the clock to stop the madman. Lane has certainly looked better in her past movies. For obvious effect they’ve made Agent Marsh rather worn-down with dark circles under her eyes and very little makeup as she sits in front of the computer hunting the bad guys all night on the late shift. The fact that she’s also a widow having lost her cop husband to the job and caregiver to her young daughter doesn’t help the woman get anymore rest. Then when the crap starts hitting the fan and people close to Marsh get hurt the actress really shows the pain on her already haggard face. Marsh even admits “I do a lot of things well but I don’t lose people well.” It’s a standard tough-FBI-agent role and Lane is very capable at it. Supporting her is Hanks (Orange County) as the resident comic relief (what little of it there is) as well as Billy Burke (Fracture) the local cop trying to help Marsh catch the psycho Internet killer. As for the killer himself the actor who portrays him (and I won’t give it away) is very effective in the role. There are a couple of other things Untraceable has going for it besides the chilling premise: director Gregory Hoblit who knows his way around a crime thriller having directed gems such as Primal Fear and Fracture and the dank Portland Oregon locale. Hoblit creates just the right amount of tension and dread as the clock ticks down and the race nears its end but something about an overcast rainy environ just lends itself to more doom and gloom doesn’t it? Of course there are also the torture scenes which add a certain level of Hostel-like horror. What Untraceable lacks is a compelling narrative. The bevy of writers involved (never the best of signs) tend to throw in too many conventional thriller plot points--like the red herrings on who the killer is before he’s revealed and explaining why the killer is doing what he’s doing. All these things dilute the film’s initial potential. Still let’s just hope this doesn’t spawn real-life copycats.
If you think you saw the last of the Cruise/Kidman train wreck, think again.
Cruise will be in Sydney, Australia on Wednesday to promote his new film, Vanilla Sky, alongside co-star and girlfriend Penelope Cruz. Problem is: Nicole Kidman will also be in Sydney--her hometown--on that day, attempting to enjoy the holidays with her family.
Regardless, Cruise is not concerned about bumping into his ex.
"I'm looking forward to it," he told Reuters. "It's a place where my children live. My children are half Australian.'' Cruise and Kidman have two adopted children: Isabella, 8, and Connor, 6. They have agreed to jointly raise the kids.
According to Variety, Universal Pictures is planning to produce a biopic about the life of Joseph Greenstein, the 5' 4" Polish wrestler who came to fame as a circus sideshow freak in the 1900s. A producer of the film, Ed Saxon, is calling the story a combination of Forrest Gump and MTV's stunt show Jackass.
The Fast and the Furious star Rick Yune is being cast as the next villain in the James Bond series of films, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Yune will play a man who becomes disfigured after using a new facial-mutation device. John Cleese is slated to reprise his role as R, as Judi Dench is in the role as M.
According to CNN, Bulgaria's The Naked Truth--a news program launched last week featuring female anchors who strip down to their panties while reading the day's headlines--has already received higher ratings than any other news program in the country.
For the first time in over three months, Paula Poundstone--who pleaded no contest to charges of felony child endangerment on Sept. 12--performed a comedy routine Friday at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz, Calif. "This is my first night performing since I've been a criminal," joked the self-deprecating comedienne.
Almost three years since they separated, Garth Brooks and wife Sandy have finalized their divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
LeAnn Rimes' official web site has revealed that the 19 year old is now engaged to dancer Dean Sheremet. Rimes' spokespeople were not available for comment on Monday, says The Associated Press.
On Monday, ex-heavyweight fighter Mitchell Rose filed a complaint with police in Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York, claiming that Mike Tyson began an unprovoked brawl with Rose on Sunday morning outside of a local eatery. Tyson's spokespeople deny the allegations. No charges have been pressed against either party, PageSix.com reports.
R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, who was charged with assault while drunk aboard an airplane in April 2001, is to be tried for his actions in a London court in March, 2002, according to People magazine.
Starsky and Hutch star David Soul won his libel suit against theater critic Matthew Wright of London's The Mirror newspaper. According to People, Soul was awarded $29,000 in the suit, which he brought against Wright for making derogatory comments about Soul's performance in a 1998 play--a play that Wright did not even attend.
Actor James Cromwell (L.A. Confidential) is now banned from Wendy's restaurants in Farifax County, Va. for one year. The ban stems from Cromwell's no contest plea in a Va. court on Monday in which he was charged with trespassing while attending an animal-rights protest at a Fairfax County Wendy's in July.
The artist and writer who co-created the Casper, the Friendly Ghost franchise, Seymour Reit, died on November 21, The Associated Press revealed on Monday. Reit was 83.