No matter what new movie you see this weekend, your supporting cast will be stockpiled with some comic chops. On one side of things, we have Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen's latest movie that employs stand-up comedians like Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. to comprise his array of characters. On the other, we have The To Do List, which fills its scenes with sketch comics like Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader and Andy Samberg and Derrick Comedy star (now best known for community) Donald Glover.
Sketch comedy is, by no means, a new phenomenon. The medium has enjoyed a long, highly successful history in the Western World, with the likes of Abbott and Costello, Carol Burnett, and the Monty Python troupe inventing and reinventing the form. But recent years have seen a revival of the sketch, with the Internet supplying new grounds for budding comedians to release their work.
As such, we have a younger wave of sketch comics. We have Hader, Samberg, and Glover (whose Derrick Comedy pals also appear in the To Do List, briefly). The new generation has upped the ante on the energy and absurdity of the form, allowing for a particularly wacky connotation (and a particularly wacky, and particularly raunchy, film in The To Do List).
The more mature, more "slow paced" style of stand-up can be found sewn into the identity of Allen's Blue Jasmine. A former stand-up himself, Allen embraces the conflation of humor and sorrow inherent in his stars' work, most notably C.K.'s, to offer a particularly poignant dramedy.
C.K.'s celebrated routines involve marriage, divorce, depression, and the shortcomings of the human mind. All of these are inhabited by his character, a potential love interest to second billing Sally Hawkins. Over in The To Do List, the comedy comes more directly from the characters' on-the-surface eccentricities. Hader is a washed up manchild. Samberg is a grungy, deliberately idiotic rock star. Glover is an affable dufus. Funny voices, funny faces, and funny lines — the bread and butter of their sketch comedy stylings.
Neither form is superior to the other, with the maudlin, psychonanalytical touch of Allen and C.K., and the biting edge of Clay perhaps carrying more weight but the sketch comedy works of Hader, Samberg, and Glover operating with severe rewatch value (and quotability). As a matter of fact, we need both kinds of comedy. The kind that makes us thing, moan, weep, and the kind that makes us laugh so hard our heads hurt. With the viable players Clay, Hader, C.K., Glover, and Samberg all still powering strong through their comedic realms and exploring new ones, we're pretty well off in both regards.
More:'Blue Jasmine' Review'The To Do List' ReviewA Woody Allen/Louis C.K. Buddy Comedy
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Watching an 11-year-old Natalie Portman's audition for Leon: The Professional, you can't help but wonder if the casting director realized the actress who snagged the role of Mathilda would be a future Academy Award winner. The part landed the preteen her first glimmer of the spotlight, and within the next two years she hit the acting jackpot by working with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Woody Allen.
Impressive as she was back then, Portman has skyrocketed to glory, putting to rest any fears that she'd succumb to the dreadful fate that engulfs most young ones who enter showbiz. Check out her audition and decide for yourself why she didn't end up like these child actors...
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Outer space is one of the most fascinating things to the human mind. Its boundless mystery opens up an infinity of questions and possibilities. That being said, not a whole lot seems to go on up there. People head out once in a while—maybe they’ve got some important space-business to take care of. Take down a meteor, communicate with aliens, moonwalk.
And, more often than not, something goes wrong. But don’t give up hope: one of those nifty astronauts (most likely the handsome one) will step up in the heat of the fight and make everything kosher. Sorry, space-kosher. So why, if this same thing keeps happening, are we as a people so fascinated by and in love with the space genre? Simple: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
With the imminent release of Apollo 18, American audiences are brought, once again, to their favorite cinematic frontier—inspiring us to compile a simple formula for the makings of a great space movie:
____________________ go into outer space in order to ____________________, but the mission goes awry when ____________________. It’s a good thing ____________________ (but it’s too bad ____________________).
With this framework, we've managed to highlight some of our favorite extra-terrestrial epics of the big screen. Fill in the blank spaces in accordance with your own favorite space-movie. It'll be a blas—um, out of this worl—uh... it'll... be a pretty good time... -space continuum. Just do it.
Robert Duvall and some other people go into outer space in order to stop a comet from colliding with Earth, but the mission goes awry when they split the thing in half, actually creating two still-pretty-bad comets. It’s a good thing the Messiah crew sacrificed themselves to save the world (but it’s too bad a tsunami wiped out a whole bunch of likeable characters).
Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones go into outer space in order to repair an old satellite, but the mission goes awry when computers go haywire and rockets stop functioning. It’s a good thing Eastwood learned to“fly by the seat of his pants” (but it’s too bad Tommy Lee Jones was stuck on the moon).
Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton go into outer space in order to walk on the Moon, but the mission goes awry when an oxygen tank explodes, and everyone exhales too much. It’s a good thing everyone turned out okay in the true story (but it's too bad they trained for years, and never actually got to go to the moon).
Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and a bunch of hooligans go into outer space in order to stop a meteorite from hitting Earth, but the mission goes awry when spacejunk rips a hole in their space ship, and someone needs to stay on the asteroid to detonate the meteorite manually. It’s a good thing Ben Affleck is good at drilling (but it’s too bad Bruce Willis is such a nice guy).
A bunch of cast members from a sci-fi TV show go into outer space in order to negotiate a treaty between alien races, but the mission goes awry when none of them know how anything about science. It’s a good thing for super-nerds with unceasing dedication to sci-fi series (but it’s too bad for the angry reptilian guys who are, in reality, far superior to pesky humans)
Some corporate giants and a crippled soldier go into outer space in order to mine some Unobtainium, but the mission goes awry when blue people turn out to be pretty cool. It’s a good thing the power of dragons and trees overcome the power of guns and robots (but it's too bad for all the bystanders forced to return to Earth).
goes into space in order to escape a decomposing Earth, but the mission goes awry when humanity gets super fat and an evil steering wheel takes over. It’s a good thing Wall-E, a spunky young robot with a song in his heart showed up to teach everyone a little something about love…and walking (but it's too bad generations of lethargy have deemed the human race irreparably unhealthy).
Jodie Foster goes into outer space in order to hang out with her dead dad…or something, but the mission goes awry when it turns out it never actually happened...maybe? It’s a good thing she got out of that chair before it crashed into the space ship wall (but it's too bad everyone will think she's crazy for the rest of her life).
A scientist, a soldier and a businessman go into outer space in order to see what the moon has to offer, but the mission goes awry when their gas-guzzler ship uses to much fuel. It’s a good thing Woody Woodpecker was around to teach them (and us) a little thing about space travel (but it's too bad they need to "drop some dead weight" to return home).
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars
Abbott and Costello go into outer space in order to …well, it was kind of an accident, but the mission goes awry when two Louisiana criminals hijack the space ship to Venus. It’s a good thing the fellas are deemed heroes once they return home (but it's too bad the Venutians have the power of cake-dropping).
“I don’t know if I can do this much longer ” groans an exhausted Milla Jovovich shortly after dispatching a horde of corporate paramilitary goons in the explode-tastic introductory sequence of Resident Evil: Afterlife. I feel her pain. But Jovovich in her fourth turn as Alice the genetically enhanced zombie-slaughtering heroine of the video game-inspired series isn’t the only one looking a bit tired. The entire film suffers from a severe case of franchise fatigue the hallmarks of which no amount of “big guns beautiful women [and] dogs with heads that explode ” as producer Jeremy Bolt so artfully boasts in the film’s official press notes can possibly hide.
This latest edition finds Alice stripped of her superpowers by her arch-nemesis the blond Matrix reject Albert Wesker (a cringe-worthy Shawn Roberts) whose evil Umbrella Corporation created the virus that inadvertently turned most of the planet’s population into flesh-devouring zombies. Though she can no longer pull off fancy tricks like triggering spontaneous earthquakes she’s still able to withstand powerful blasts without shielding and fire handguns the size of her head without any visible recoil. Both traits come in handy when she's charged with leading a small ethnically diverse group of human survivors through an army of undead many of whom are armed with face-sucking tentacles in lieu of tongues to a refugee camp located on a ship anchored off the coast of Los Angeles.
For all of its recycled plot elements predictable twists and cliched dialogue Resident Evil: Afterlife does feature one genuinely interesting new wrinkle (and no it's not the aforementioned dogs with heads that explode though they are quite nice): It’s the first film of the franchise to be shot and edited entirely in 3D — the real non-Clash of the Titans variety. Who knows perhaps writer-director (and Jovovich hubby) Paul W.S. Anderson returning to the helm after ceding directing duties on the prior two Resident Evil films was simply too drained from the work of adding an additional dimension to all of the film's flying limbs and bursts of blood to devote much creative energy to anything else. More likely there was never any creative energy there in the first place.
And still Anderson sees fit to end the film with a transparent pitch for yet another sequel. Might I suggest Resident Evil: Straight to Video?
Starting near the end of his short 24-year life and then told in flashback this film version of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace’s (Jamal Woolard) rapid rise from the streets of Brooklyn to fame is told in standard-issue Hollywood biopic style. We see this Catholic honors student (played by his real life son Christopher Jordan Wallace) become a teenage drug dealer and accidental father before a chance recording finds its way to Sean “Puffy” Combs (Derek Luke) who engineers an almost immediate rise to fame fortune -- and trouble. “Biggie” now must juggle his newfound recording career a marriage to fellow artist Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) his romantic encounters with female rap comer L’il Kim (Naturi Naughton) and a major East Coast/West Coast rivalry with Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) that leads to tragedy for both. As Wallace Brooklyn rapper Woolard is almost indistinguishable from the real man himself. He’s completely convincing performing B.I.G’s biggie hits and proves himself to be a first-rate dramatic actor as well -- at least in a story like this that he can clearly relate to. As his mother Angela Bassett makes the most of limited screen time (despite top billing) and expertly conveys the angst of a parent fighting a losing battle for her son. Luke again shows why he is so promising playing Puffy with just the right amount of flash and supreme confidence. Unfortunately the “balanced” portrait of Combs and many others in B.I.G’s life is tainted by the fact this film was produced by some of the real life players including his managers mother and executive producer Combs. George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) directs this by-the-numbers account of Biggie’s life in a style we have seen countless times before. Except for a couple of occasions he doesn’t even let the rap sequences play out to give us an idea of how this guy whose songs reflected his rough Brooklyn lifestyle could climb to the top so fast. Whatever was special is lost in what appears to be a brazen attempt to sell soundtrack albums.
September 15, 2003 11:10am EST
Japanese filmmaker Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi and Denys Arcand 's The Barbarian Invasions took top honors at the Toronto International Film Festival, which closed Sunday after a 10-day run.
Zatoichi is based on one of the most popular characters in Japanese movies. It tells the tale of a lightning-fast master swordsman who conceals his secret identity by posing as a blind traveling masseur.
In the past, the People's Choice award, voted on by regular moviegoers, has been an indicator of future Academy Award nominations, with past awardees including the Oscar winning films American Beauty, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life Is Beautiful, Shine and Chariots of Fire.
The two runners-up for the People's Choice prize were two Canadian documentaries, including Toronto director Ron Mann's Go Further, which follows actor Woody Harrelson and some fellow activists on what Harrelson dubbed the Simple Organic Living tour on the American West Coast. The second runner-up was the Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott-directed The Corporation, a critical look at the rise and influence of corporations.
Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions, meanwhile, won the award for best Canadian feature. The film, a revisiting some 15 years later of the principal characters of Arcand's 1986 film The Decline of the American Empire, revolves around Rémy, a former professor whose estranged wife and son, his former mistresses and old friends gather around his deathbed.
The Discovery Award, which is voted on by the press covering the event, went to Toronto director Aaron Woodley--nephew of Canadian director David Cronenberg--for his U.S. film Rhinoceros Eyes, about a reclusive young prop-house worker who prowls the streets for unusual, real-life props.
The Fipresci critics prize was awarded to Spanish director Achero Manas' November for "its freshness, its original blending of fiction and documentary techniques, its humanistic message and the high quality of all the performances."
The City-TV award for best Canadian first feature went to a one-time festival volunteer, Toronto director Sudz Sutherland's Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, while the Award for Canadian short went to Montreal director Constant Mentzas' Aspiration.
According to the Toronto Star, the festival is estimated to bring in $67 million annually to Toronto's coffers, with millions more added by the fest's role as the vehicle for film distribution deals.
Festival chief Piers Handling read off a list of deals at this year's festival, including sales or pending sales. Kitano's Zatoichi was one of the first major acquisitions, with Miramax Films picking up North American rights, but many more acquisitions followed. Sony Pictures Classics bought the Italian film Facing Window and the Korean pic Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, Goldwyn acquired Margarethe von Trotta's Holocaust drama Rosenstrasse, United Artists bought Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, Newmarket took Danish pic The Green Butchers and IFC acquired Canadian director Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World.
Handling joked that even Vincent Gallo's notoriously bad road movie The Brown Bunny found a distributor.
"Yes, we do rehabilitate films," Handling told a roaring audience.