Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Vampires are set to rule the upcoming People's Choice Awards -- with blockbuster fantasy film franchise Twilight and blood-sucking TV series True Blood leading the nominations.
The public cast more than 18 million votes online to select the nominees for next year's ceremony, and it will also choose the winners in 35 categories.
The Twilight Saga will compete against Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Star Trek in the favorite-movie and favorite-film-franchise categories.
Stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner have earned nods for best onscreen team, joining fellow nominees Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Sandra Bullock andRyan Reynolds (The Proposal), Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, will.i.am, Dominic Monaghan and Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Pattinson and Stewart were also nominated individually for favorite movie actress and actor, and will face-off against A-listers Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp, Ryan Reynolds, Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock in their respective categories.
Lautner is also up for breakout movie actor alongside Chris Pine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sam Worthington and Zachary Quinto.
Meanwhile, True Blood was nominated for favorite TV obsession and favorite sci-fi/fantasy TV show, where it will battle against Vampire Diaries, Heroes, Lost and Supernatural.
The show's star Anna Paquin will fight it out with Blake Lively, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Katherine Heigl and Mariska Hargitay for favorite TV drama actress -- while Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Harmon, Matthew Fox and Patrick Dempsey compete for the title of favorite TV drama actor.
Musically, newcomers Adam Lambert, Demi Lovato, Kris Allen, Lady Gaga and reality TV star Susan Boyle will battle for favorite breakout music artist.
Eminem, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw will go head-to-head for the favorite-male-artist accolade, while their female counterparts include Beyonce, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Pink and Taylor Swift.
Queen Latifah will host the People's Choice Awards at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre on Jan. 6.
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The public cast more than 18 million votes online to select the nominees for next year's (10) ceremony, and will also choose the winners in 35 categories.
The Twilight Saga will compete against Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Star Trek in the favourite movie and favourite film franchise categories.
Stars Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner have earned nods for best on-screen team, joining fellow nominees Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, will.i.am, Dominic Monaghan and Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine).
Pattinson and Stewart were also nominated individually for favourite movie actress and actor, and will face-off against A-listers Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Depp, Ryan Reynolds, Anne Hathaway, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock in their respective categories.
Lautner is also up for breakout movie actor alongside Chris Pine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sam Worthington and Zachary Quinto.
Meanwhile, True Blood was nominated for favourite TV obsession and favourite sci-fi/fantasy TV show, where it will battle for the title against The Vampire Diaries, Heroes, Lost and Supernatural.
The show's star Anna Paquin will fight it out with Blake Lively, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Katherine Heigl and Mariska Hargitay for favourite TV drama actress - while Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Harmon, Matthew Fox and Patrick Dempsey compete for the title of favourite TV drama actor.
Musically, newcomers Adam Lambert, Demi Lovato, Kris Allen, Lady Gaga and reality TV star Susan Boyle will battle for favourite breakout music artist.
Eminem, Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Keith Urban and Tim McGraw will go head-to-head for the favourite male artist accolade, while their female counterparts include: Beyonce, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Pink and Taylor Swift.
Queen Latifah will host the People's Choice Awards at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre on 6 January, 2010.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Rather than going to the well for another X-Men sequel Hugh Jackman’s mutant Wolverine has been spun off into an uneven prequel that tries to explain the character’s origins but somehow misses what we liked about him in the first place. X-Men Origins: Wolverine opens with a flashback to 150 years ago which unveils the relationship between Logan and Victor mutant half-brothers who are forced to run away from home after Logan murders their biological father. After several scenes depicting the brothers’ service in various wars the story settles in around the 1970s where both Victor and Logan are recruited by the devious William Stryker to serve in a mutant army. But Logan spurns Stryker after taking part in a massacre in East Africa and chooses instead to settle down with his girlfriend Kayla Silverfox in the Canadian Rockies. Six years later Victor now Sabretooth shows up and kills her. Logan now Wolverine seeks revenge reluctantly making a deal with Stryker in order to become indestructible. Unfortunately he is double-crossed and uncovers a Stryker/Sabretooth plot to kidnap mutants and use them for no good. He escapes and the chase is on as he tries to stop them — and anyone else in his way — before his memory is erased.
WHO’S IN IT?
It’s the buffed-up Jackman’s show all the way as Wolverine graduates to star status — and that’s exactly the problem. It turns out a little of this guy goes a long way especially when he’s presented in as humorless and unimaginative a manner as the deadly serious approach taken by Hugh (who also co-produced). Jackman acquits himself nicely in the numerous action scenes but fails to make a lasting human connection for Wolverine and the audience. Liev Schreiber is good as Sabretooth but plays it mostly on one note. His three fight scenes opposite Jackman are well-choreographed but become tiring. Danny Huston makes a fine heavy as the evil Stryker while Lynn Collins is lovely as Silverfox adding a nice touch of emotion to this mostly stoic CGI-fest. A promising new group of mutants are also introduced but unfortunately aren't given much to do. Standouts are Ryan Reynolds as the smart-talking Wade Wilson aka Deadpool; rapper will.i.am as John Wraith; and Kevin Durand as the humungous Fred J. Dukes aka The Blob. Durand is especially impressive in a boxing gym scene. Conversely Lost’s Dominic Monaghan receives too little screen time in the role of Bradley.
Wolverine’s CGI effects are predictably top-notch and a couple of big action set pieces are visually arresting including a motorcycle/helicopter chase that may lack credibility but is at least fun to watch.
Lighten up Wolvie. Jackman and everyone else seem to be taking this stuff way too seriously. The humanity that was a hallmark of the previous X-Men films also is largely AWOL and the picture takes a long time to get going. We’re at the 40-minute mark before the claws really start to come out and the psychological mumbo-jumbo stops.
In the lab Stryker promises to make a revenge-seeking Wolverine indestructible but his double-crossing antics only serve to unleash severe rage inspiring great balls of mutant fury as the furious mutant makes his great escape — sans clothing.
WHY YOU SHOULD SIT THROUGH SEVEN MINUTES OF END CREDITS?
For those who think the movie effectively ends when the credits roll here is a “heads up” to hang around.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX?
Since reportedly about 100 000 people downloaded a rough cut when Wolverine was illegally pirated a few weeks ago why not help out poor 20th Century Fox and see it the legal way on the big screen? It’s a big improvement over your iMac.
This Omen update follows the 1976 original to the letter opening itself up to endless comparisons and scrutiny and ultimately doesn’t measure up. Of course the basic premise is the same: Unbeknownst to his lovely wife Katharine (Julia Stiles) future U.S. Ambassador Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) adopts a baby in a Rome hospital after their own child “dies” in childbirth. Said child Damien (Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick) grows up and at the age of five quickly starts to develop evil tendencies his mother can’t understand--such as making his nanny hang herself watching as the monkeys in the zoo go crazy and having a violent reaction to going to church. The usual antichrist stuff. There’s the priest (Pete Postlethwaite) who warns Thorn that his child is the son of the devil the photographer (David Thewlis) who inadvertently gets involved--and the new nanny Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow) who vows to “protect” the little one with a Rottweiler in tow. You know the rest. One of the only things this remake gets right is casting Schreiber and Stiles as the younger more tortured Thorns. Their love for one another seems genuine and Stiles especially adds some nice touches to portraying a mother who is growing more and more afraid of her own little boy. Thewlis (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is sufficiently bedraggled as the doomed shutterbug while Postlethwaite (The Constant Gardener) decries the end of the world with aplomb. But Mrs. Baylock is suppose to be a tough and scary lady (played in the original by Billie Whitelaw) and Farrow instead plays her meek and motherly someone who could easily be defeated. And then there’s Damien who is just all wrong. The original has him as a cherubic little British boy who’s just beginning to get an inkling on who he really is. In other words he doesn’t glower and shoot demonic daggers every time he looks at someone the way the young Fitzpatrick plays him. There’s no need to show us again and again he’s evil. We get it. The idea of revisiting this story about the antichrist must have seemed good on paper. The film tackles a lot of juicy topical matters about global unrest tied into religious beliefs much like The Da Vinci Code. And under the guidance of director John Moore (The Flight of the Phoenix) the film looks and feels very menacing. With Prague standing in for London this Omen is dank cold and unforgiving. But in doing a nearly shot by shot replica a few things are missed that might have helped: The creepy choir music which plays every time Damien is about to do something really awful for one; and the monkeys going nuts at the sight of Damien in a zoo isn’t nearly as effective as the baboons attacking the car in the original. Honestly all this movie made me want to do is watch the original Omen again (which is being released on DVD as a collector’s edition June 20). Sometimes is just better not to mess with a classic.