Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The California-born actor, director, producer and composer has set the standard for Hollywood newcomers with a slew of awards and honours that has already earned him a place in movie history as one of the most prolific stars of his generation.
WENN would like to wish Eastwood the very best as he enters life as an octogenarian.
To mark the occasion, WENN has trawled through the archives and dug out 10 fascinating facts about the Dirty Harry star:
- The actor is a junior - his father is Clinton Eastwood, Sr.
- He lost his virginity at the age of 14.
- Eastwood was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1950 for the Korean War but never got a chance to fight for his country.
- His acting breakthrough came in 1959 when he landed a starring role on TV western Rawhide. The series ended in 1965.
- Eastwood served as the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea in his native California for two years from 1986.
- So far in his career, he has won five Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards and has been honoured with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
- As vigilante Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry franchise, Eastwood never said what is perhaps his most attributed quote, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" Instead, while pointing his gun at a bank robber in the opening sequence of the 1971 movie, he said, "Being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?"
- Eastwood was approached by 007 bosses to take over the role of James Bond when Sean Connery quit the franchise in 1983 - but he turned down the job because he was convinced the superspy should be played by a British actor.
- At 78, he became the oldest leading man to score a U.S. box office number one when his drama Gran Torino, which he also directed, opened at the top of the charts upon its release in January, 2009. It grossed over $268 million (£178.7 million) worldwide and is his highest-grossing film to date.
- Eastwood has seven children by five different women, but has only been married twice.
The Screen Actors Guild will present Clint Eastwood with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAG Awards on March 9. Eastwood first gained recognition when he starred in a trilogy of popular spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s, including A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. His screen incarnation of "Dirty Harry" Callahan--the cop who found it easier to shoot suspects than interrogate them--in the actioners Dirty Harry and Sudden Impact spawned the immortal line: "Go ahead--make my day." Eastwood is currently directing his 24th feature film, Mystic River, which also marks his 19th time as producer. SAG president Melissa Gilbert called Eastwood a film icon, adding, "His prolific career as an actor and filmmaker demonstrates a total command of the medium that has rightly earned him the admiration of his peers, the industry and the public."
During preparations for the MTV Europe Awards, rapper Sean "P. Diddy" Combs told Reuters he wished his ex Jennifer Lopez the best of luck in her future with Ben Affleck. He then flashed a huge canary yellow diamond on his finger and said he would lavish his future wife with such jewels. Combs, who is hosting the awards show in Barcelona on Thursday, added, "By Thursday, everyone will be focused on me again."
Singer Bobby Brown was ordered to stand trial in Georgia later this month on charges dating back to 1996, including driving under the influence of alcohol, Reuters reports. The charge surfaced when the R&B singer and husband of Whitney Houston was arrested last Thursday in Atlanta for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, speeding and having no driver's license or proof of insurance.
Former talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael filed a libel lawsuit in Manhattan federal court Tuesday against the National Enquirer. According to Reuters, Raphael alleges the tabloid falsely reported in its Oct. 22 issue that she had suffered a mental breakdown after the cancellation of her long-running talk show. She is seeking punitive damages exceeding $100 million.
The American Film Institute announced plans Tuesday for a new top-100 list that will rank the top screen villains and heroes. According to The Associated Press, the institute is sending ballots to nearly 1,500 directors, actors, studio executives, critics and others involved in the entertainment industry. Voters will be able to choose among 400 nominated characters from American film history.
Warner Bros. Pictures is making a feature film adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the novel will be adapted and executive produced by screenwriter David Benioff. This is not the first time Bell will make its way to the big screen. Paramount Pictures' 1943 version, which starred Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, was nominated for nine Oscars.
Sopranos stars Drea de Matteo and Michael Imperioli will co-host VH1's Big in 2002 Awards on Dec. 15, the AP reports. The ceremony pays tribute to "those moments and people that captivated and inspired us in 2002," the cable channel said. Categories include "Strange but True," "Can't Get You Out of My Head" and "Been Caught Scene Stealing."
Guitarist Carlos Santana, country singer Willie Nelson and teen rock sensation Michelle Branch will headline the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 11. The show will pay tribute to former president Jimmy Carter. Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange will emcee the show.