Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
HBO's True Detective shocked the world this past winter with its depiction of a seedy Louisiana that was low on morals and high in corpses. It was all the things a detective drama should be: moody, atmospheric, gripping, darkly funny, sometimes all in the same scene. It's inaugural eight-episode season was really something special, mostly due to the stellar creative team running its engine. Being that it's an anthology series, True Detective wasn't a show that had the luxury of easing through a freshman slump, waiting to work out the kinks and really delivering something special, maybe next season. The show had to hit hard out of the gate, and it did. Creators Nic Pizzolatto and his director Cary Joji Fukunaga delivered a wunderkind of a show: a contained singular vision that felt immaculately crafted. Every shot, scene, and line of dialogue obsessed over and placed into action with the upmost care. Its a marvel of television engineering.
But even beyond Pizzolatto's scripts and Fukunaga's direction, it's the actors that really kept True Detective running at such a high level. Hearing Rust Cole wax poetic with misanthropic asides wouldn't be nearly as interesting if the words weren't coming out of Matthew McConaughey. And similarly, would we even care all that much about conflicted family man Marty Hart if his internal struggles weren't externalized by Woody Harrelson? This is a production that deserves great actors to bring it to life. This is a production that deserves the talents of someone like Jessica Chastain.
Following The Nerdist's reporting that Chastain had been offered a leading role in Season 2 of the series, we got the downer report from E! that she has turned down the gig. We're not surprised that she was offered the part; Chastain is easily in the same caliber of actors as the two leads from last season. She has a resume full of strong female characters, and easily has the magnetism needed to headline the next bizarre mystery the series will send us on. Her strong-willed character in Zero Dark Thirty would feel right at home on Pizzolatto's next crime beat. Her casting would also fix True Detective's biggest issue: its treatment of women. For all of its merits, True Detective is a deeply male-centric program, and the women in that show's version of Louisiana were often relegated to mistresses, strippers, prostitutes, and corpses, all in various states of undress. It's certainly a large blight on the first season, but Chastain headlining a second season more cognizant of its depiction of women is definitely the right move for the series.
The one and done nature of True Detective's anthology structure would also mean that appearing in the second season of the series wouldn't be a huge commitment for the actress. She wouldn't be stuck languishing in a series that went on too long past its time. She could do the season, and then leave to focus on film again. Taking part in the series could also be a huge boon to her career. Starring as a lead in the first season of the series was a huge step in Matthew McConaughey's "McConnaissance." It's only been a few months since we first met the character, and Rust Cohle has already become one of McConaughey's most recognizable roles. While the actress is already well known in the film world, a high profile role on television could change her into the household name. Just look at Bryan Cranston.
It's questionable gender issues aside, True Detective is fantastic. Without dragons, zombies, or whatever else, HBO managed to create event television — the kind you still crowd around the television set for every week — by virtue of simply being great. Now that the A-list of Hollywood is flocking to limited series on television, it only makes sense for Chastain to be a part of one of HBO's best efforts. So please, Ms. Chastain, will you be our next True Detective?
Actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, singer Pixie Lott, and funnywoman Ruby Wax were among guests at a party in London to raise money for Goldie Hawn's charity. The Private Benjamin star is the founder and chairman of the Hawn Foundation, an educational charity with plans to roll out new teaching techniques to U.K. schools.
Her fundraising party at Annabel's nightclub in the capital on Tuesday night (04Mar14) was also attended by former model Heather Kerzner, actress Claire Forlani, and Bananarama singers Karen Woodward and Sarah Dallin.
Lott performed at the event and later wrote on her Instagram.com page, "Goldie Hawn has a heart of gold so pleased lots of money was raised for the Hawn Foundation last night."
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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Orion Pictures Corporation via Everett Collection
It's 2014 and I was looking back at the movies that came out in 1984. I was blown away by the number of good movies that came out that year. I was then moved to tears that they are now 30 years old ... which means I'm getting older, since I saw most of, if not nearly all 10 of these in the theater.
Conan The Barbarian had put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the map, but this was the one that made him an A-list action superstar. The funny thing? He originally was supposed to play the role of the good guy, but he decided to be the unstoppable killing machine instead. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, some puny wimp is uttering "I'll be back ..." and their movie world is much poorer for it.
Molly Ringwald and John Hughes formed such a perfect tag team in the '80s Teen Movie genre that they could have probably won the WWF (it was called that in the '80s) Championship. Anthony Michael Hall also owes SUCH a huge debt of gratitude to this movie. There's also a very strong chance that the character of Long Duk Dong would probably not exist if this movie was made today.
Beverly Hills Cop
This was another star-making vehicle, this time with Eddie Murphy driving it. The former Saturday Night Live actor played wisecracking Detroit detective Axel Foley to perfection. Add Jonathan Banks as a dead-eyed hitman and Judge Reinhold as a hapless Beverly Hills Detective and it's no wonder this movie stayed in the theaters as long as it did.
Admit it - when you saw this movie, you SO wanted a Mogwai. Gizmo was SO cute and it was very sad that he was really a mechanical creature. The Gremlins, though. They scared the living daylights out of me. But Phoebe Cates ... mmm. Yes. Phoebe Cates.
I'm amazed that I'm at the fifth movie and am JUST getting to Ghostbusters. Who can forget Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as they tracked down supernatural ghosts. Dean and Sam Winchester would have learned a thing or two from these guys, like answering Yes if someone asks if you are a god. Ooh. I think I hear a doggie that someone left outside.
The Karate Kid
Forget the Jackie Chan/Jaden Smith remake: this is the best Karate Kid. Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita gave us an unforgettable film, and it also helped keep Billy Zabka in the spotlight, with his recent guest appearances on How I Met Your Mother. Wax on, Wax off, indeed. Also, I had SUCH a huge crush on Elizabeth Shue back then.
Another classic that blows the horrible remake away. Sorry, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen's combined starpower incinerate the cast of the 2012 version. Also, that opening scene with the Russians parachuting to the ground gave me nightmares for MONTHS.
Kevin Bacon's version didn't even NEED a remake. I don't understand what the powers-that-be were thinking when they greenlit the new film. As cheesy and corny as it is, it's also awesome, what with John Lithgow and Lori Singer turning in some fine performances. Also ... Kenny Loggins, man. Kenny Loggins. That is all I have to say.
A Nightmare On Elm Street
This is the only movie that I didn't see in the theater, because I am a huge wimp and I do NOT like seeing gory horror movies. This was such an innovation though, what with the genre being populated by the silent Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. Freddy Krueger and his persona were such a huge change. That was before it devolved into silly sequels before the remake tried to breathe new life in the franchise.
This Is Spinal Tap
This is the mockumentary to end all mockumentaries. It's hilarious from the get-go. Who can forget Harry Shearer getting stuck in the chrysalis? One word: Stonehenge. Also, despite the dangers that this movie espoused, I am a drummer to this very day. I can proudly say that I have yet to spontaneously comb
From Paris With Love is a volatile hybrid half Hong Kong action flick half American spy thriller fused together in the Dr. Moreau-like laboratory of French filmmakers Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) and Pierre Morel (Taken). As a result of the violent process some parts emerge oddly distorted: Bruce Willis becomes John Travolta Matt Damon becomes Jonathan Rhys Meyers believability becomes an afterthought and plotting becomes irrelevant.
Made up like Ming the Merciless and channeling the hep-cat spirit of Vincent Vega Travolta stars as CIA Agent Charlie Wax a brusque trigger-happy bundle of Yankee hubris summoned to Paris to prevent a potential terrorist plot on a U.N. peace conference. Rhys Meyers plays James Reese an uptight entry-level operative tasked with ferrying Wax around the city to gather the intelligence needed to thwart the conspiracy.
Predictably the two agents quickly settle into the standard buddy cop relationship: Button-down rookie Reese is appalled by coke-snorting hooker-banging Wax’s unorthodox tactics which usually land them in the middle of one huge stunningly choreographed shootout or another; Wax in turn belittles his young sidekick’s naivety and stubborn adherence to protocol.
At times Travolta’s action-hero routine borders on embarrassing — like watching your grandmother try to rap — but his exaggerated bravado is not entirely without its charms. He’s by far the most enjoyable part of the movie skipping merrily through the bullet-strewn Parisian underground spewing politically incorrect aphorisms in between explosions reveling in his role as the obnoxious American. Virtually every line he delivers earns laughs — and often on purpose.
If only he had a more capable sparring partner than Rhys Meyers whose range From Paris With Love sadly reveals extends little beyond his petulant amorous act as young Henry VIII in Showtime’s The Tudors. As much as Travolta enlivens the action the unutterably bland Rhys Meyers deflates it — and he gets the lion’s share of the screen time unfortunately.
Director Morel who cut his teeth as a cinematographer on such kinetic action fare as The Transporter does some virtuoso work with the camera incorporating everyday locales into his exquisitely frenzied set pieces. Dinner at a nondescript Chinese restaurant ends in a massive gunfight; an intimate dinner party launches an extended chase; a routine brothel visit gives way to ... another massive gunfight.
If only he'd put as much care into his casting decisions. After each of From Paris With Love’s violent skirmishes when Reese questions why things went so suddenly — and disastrously — awry Wax angrily shouts “Don’t you get it yet?” to his hopelessly obtuse partner. At times I think Travolta is actually pleading with his fellow castmember to wake up get his act together and stop ruining the movie. It's a doomed effort.