After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
On a particularly sunny spring morning last year, I was on the way to my SoHo office when I noticed a sizable production crew on Crosby Street. As I approached the set, I saw all the telltale signs of a location shoot: trailers, craft services, cameras and monitors, etc. Though the scene looked pretty standard to me, the set was partially dressed with one piece of discernible evidence revealing what was being filmed – a brown sign hanging above a random boutique emblazoned with the words “Juan’s Magical Emporium” in a recognizable shade of light blue. It was then that I realized The Smurfs were going to take the entire island of Manhattan (not just the customary cinematic sections of the Big Apple – Times Square, Central Park, etc.), but I still wasn’t convinced that the film would do the 50-year-old property justice.
That sentiment changed after I saw first-hand what Columbia Pictures is doing to bring legendary artist Peyo’s lovable creations to life. I was invited to Queens’ renowned Kaufman Astoria Studio’s, where interiors were being shot and the production’s offices were housed. Once inside, I was treated to never-before-seen footage from the film and an in-depth review of the beautifully rendered concept art that helped costume and production designers create the magical world in which the Smurfs live, as well as access to some of the talent and executives involved in the fun-filled, live-action/CGI motion picture. Most Smurftastic, though, was the opportunity to see a vibrant scene being filmed. It was an extensive and eye-popping exploration of The Smurfs and if you keep reading, you’ll see exactly why old fans and new (as well as Sony Pictures) have so much to be excited about.
Let me start from the beginning of my entertaining journey. As I walked through the halls of the production offices, I noticed something incredibly encouraging: Smurf coffee mugs, Smurf pens and pencils, Smurf mouse pads – the staff may well have been wearing Smurf underwear. It had become quite clear to me that everyone involved in the film, from the gracious publicists who got me in there to the accountants tallying petty cash receipts, was immersed in the mythology and nostalgia of Peyo’s world. With a workforce of dedicated fans such as these, I can say with confidence that the finished product that director Raja Gosnell will deliver on July 29th will be an authentic representation of the characters that I had grown up with: carefree, fun and full of innocent laughs.
I continued on through the fantastically decorated offices (covered with character design developments and various pieces of production art) until I came to a clearing where chairs had been set up for all of the intrepid journalists. In front of us stood a chair with the name “Patrick” tagged on it – it didn’t take me long to figure out that Neil Patrick Harris was on the way.
Every bit the entertainer we’ve known and loved since Doogie Hauser M.D., Harris was an absolute delight to talk to: amusing, informative and kind. He let us know that, at this time, he and his on-screen wife Grace (played by Glee’s Jayma Mays) had finished filming their parts and that most of their work was done on the Kaufman soundstages, though they had also shot scenes at landmark NYC locations like Central Park and FAO Schwarz. Additionally, he told us which Smurfs they’d grown most attached to, namely Papa Smurf (who shares many frames with Harris), Smurfette and Clumsy Smurf (who spend much of their time by Grace’s side). It’s a good thing that he got so close to the little blue guys, too, because the best part of the interview was finding out that he’s already signed on for a Smurfs sequel!
As cool as it was to hang with NPH, the most interesting part of the set visit was getting to chat with producer Jordan Kerner, who is a living encyclopedia of Smurf knowledge. A veteran of family films like George of the Jungle and Inspector Gadget, there’s no filmmaker better suited to bring a beloved property of this size to the big screen. Kerner guided us through the art department, where we saw renderings of Patrick and Grace’s Manhattan apartment before and after it gets “Smurf’d”, Gargamel’s gothic castle and the Smurf village. Fans will fall in love with these fantastic environments because of how well they blend Peyo’s vision and Hanna-Barbera’s version of his stories. I particularly enjoyed hearing Kerner talk about how he wanted the Smurfs’ recognizable mushroom houses to accurately resemble real mushrooms – a trippy creative choice that might raise a few eyebrows but will certainly gain the respect of die-hard Smurf followers.
Of course, making a movie like this isn’t all fun and games. Kerner told us all about the pros and cons of filming in the Big Apple as well as the amount of time it took to get the project off the ground. For instance, did you know that he’s been pursuing the rights to the property since 1997?! Further, did you know that perfecting the look of the digital Smurfs in the movie was going to take a whopping 18 months?! It just proves that turning a popular property into a major motion picture is a time-consuming labor of love, but Kerner promises nothing but the best when the boys in blue hit the big screen this month.
And speaking of the boys (and girls) in blue, let’s give a brief shout out to all of the Smurfs who will end up on the big screen! There’s Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters), Smurfette (Katy Perry), Gutsy Smurf (Alan Cumming), Grouchy Smurf (George Lopez), Jokey Smurf (Paul Reubens), Greedy Smurf (Kenan Thompson), Baker Smurf (B.J. Novak), Handy Smurf (Jeff Foxworthy), Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen), Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin), Panicky Smurf (Adam Wylie), Vanity Smurf (John Oliver) and finally, Hefty Smurf (Gary Basaraba). All of them have unique and dynamic personalities that have been fully realized thanks to scores of animators and the actors who play them, so there will be plenty to choose from as your "favorite" (and also plenty of toys to buy). But as cool as it was to learn all about these cute characters the absolute best part of the set visit was getting to chat with their infamous nemesis Gargamel!
At one point the great Wallace Shawn was rumored to be donning the unmistakable brown cloak of the Smurfs’ assailant, but by the time cameras were rolling screen and stage veteran Hank Azaria settled nicely into the role, as evidenced not only by the conversation we had with him (in character, with full make-up and costume on including the longest, most flexible fake nose I’ve ever seen) but by watching him shoot a hilarious scene that will play toward the end of the film! Without giving too much away, I’ll say that it involves plenty of grooving-and-shaking atop Belvedere Castle in Central Park, and is the cherry on top of an all-around Smurftastic sundae!
Whether you’re an avid reader of Peyo’s books, a longtime fan of the unforgettable Hanna-Barbera cartoon or a ravenous collector of all things Smurf, Columbia Pictures’ take on this beloved property is sure to make waves at your local multiplex, so get ready to paint the town blue!
Top Story: Sheen Praises Canada for Staying Out of War
Actor and activist Martin Sheen, who portrays the fictional Democratic President Josiah Bartlet on NBC's political drama The West Wing, said Saturday he was proud of Canada for not entering the Iraq war. Sheen made the statement in Windsor, Ontario, where he was receiving the Christian Culture Gold Medal from Assumption University, which will offer a new scholarship in his name. "Every time I cross this border I feel like I've left the land of lunatics," Sheen said. "You are not armed and dangerous. You do not shoot each other ... I always feel a bit more human when I come here." Sheen, however, made sure to head back to the land of the armed and dangerous for Sunday's annual Primetime Emmy Awards, where The West Wing was named best drama series for the fourth year in a row.
Rocker Melissa Etheridge Weds Girlfriend
Grammy-winning singer Melissa Etheridge exchanged vows with her girlfriend, former Popular star Tammy Lynn Michaels, on Saturday, The Associated Press reports. Etheridge, 41, and Michaels, 28, exchanged custom-made platinum and diamond wedding bands during the ceremony. Although a statement by the singer's publicist described the couple as married, homosexual couples cannot legally marry in California. The two met two years ago and live in Southern California with Etheridge's daughter and son, which she had through artificial insemination using a sperm donation from rocker David Crosby.
Jada and Will's Housekeeping Woes
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's former housekeeper is suing the couple for allegedly failing to pay her about 1,640 hours of overtime pay and firing her after she complained to them, the AP reports. In her lawsuit, filed Sept. 11 in Ventura, Calif., Superior Court, Marilu Cooley says she worked for the Smiths and lived on their estate for 4 1/2 years and often worked more than 40 hours a week. She said she received overtime pay during her first two years of employment, but claims the Smiths stopped paying her overtime in March 1999, and promised to pay her a $25,000 annual bonus instead. Cooley said she never received the bonus and was fired in October 2001 after she complained about it. She is seeking at least $175,000 in damages.
P. Diddy To Consolidate Businesses Near Times Square
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is close to leasing a 52,000-square-foot space near Times Square in New York City in order to house all of his businesses under one roof, Reuters reports. Combs would occupy five floors in the building, located at 1710 Broadway at the corner of 54th Street--directly across the street from the David Letterman building. The space would house Comb's Sean John clothing line, Bad Boy Records and its related film and TV companies, his charity arm Daddy's House Social Programs, Janice Combs Music Publishing, Janice Combs Management and the corporate offices of his restaurant, Justin's.
Altman, Hanson Tapped for DGA Honors
The DGA has tapped filmmakers Robert Altman and Curtis Hanson, commercial director Joe Pytka, Senator Olympia Snowe and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney as honorees for its fourth annual DGA Honors Variety reports. The event, set for Nov. 16 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, celebrates individuals, institutions and organizations that have made distinguished contributions to the nation's culture in support of filmmaking and TV. Altman's directing credits include M*A*S*H, Short Cuts, Gosford Park and The Player. Hanson's L.A. Confidential, which he co-wrote, directed and produced, won an Oscar for adapted screenplay.
Hines Honored in Harlem
Stars from the worlds of theater, film and dance paid tribute Sunday night to the late tap-dancing actor Gregory Hines at a festive memorial celebration at Harlem's Apollo Theater. The Tony Award winner, who starred on Broadway, in movies and on television, died of cancer in August at the age of 57. Actresses Debbie Allen, Isabella Rossellini, Phylicia Rashad, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-Harlem, friends and family were all there to honor Hines, the AP reports.
Role Call: Watts Grasps King Kong, Roberts Gets Closer
Australian actress Naomi Watts is the frontrunner to star in filmmaker Peter Jackson's King Kong remake for Universal Pictures. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Watts would play Ann Darrow, an American actress who makes a living performing in Broadway song-and-dance shows in Depression-era New York. Jackson, who is putting the finishing touches on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, is expected to start writing the King Kong script in November, with shooting expected to begin next summer ... Julia Roberts is in talks to join the cast of Mike Nichols' big screen adaptation of Patrick Marber's play Closer, Variety reports. Roberts would replace Cate Blanchett, who dropped out of the pic last week after she announced she is expecting her second child. Roberts would join Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, who are already on board to appear in the film.