Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
When award season rolls around there’s only one show that no one in Hollywood wants to be a part of ... the Annual Razzie Awards. The only competition honoring the best of the worst in film.
Even the biggest stars can’t dodge the occasional stinker and this year Mike Myers’ was no different. His summer flop The Love Guru received seven nominations, including worst picture, worst actor and worst screenplay for Myers. Ouch!
Myers shouldn’t feel too bad, Paris Hilton didn’t fair much better with nods for worst actress and worst screen couple for Hottie and the Nottie and worst supporting actress for Repo! The Genetic Opera.
Hilton’s Hottie and the Nottie will also compete for worst pic alongside The Love Guru, The Happening, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and spoof flicks Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans.
The 29th Annual Razzies, determined by the 687 members of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, will be announced Feb. 21, the morning before the Academy Awards.
And the nominees are:
Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans
The Hottie and The Nottie In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
The Love Guru
Larry the Cable Guy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Mike Myers, The Love Guru
Al Pacino, 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill
Mark Wahlberg, The Happening and Max Payne
Jessica Alba, The Eye and The Love Guru
Cameron Diaz, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton, The Hottie and the Nottie
Kate Hudson, Fool's Gold and My Best Friend's Girl
The entire cast of The Women (Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith and Meg Ryan)
Uwe Boll, 1968 Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Postal
Jason Friedberg, Aaron Seltzer for Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Tom Putnam, The Hottie and the Nottie
Marco Schnabel, The Love Guru
M. Night Shyamalan, The Happening
Worst Supporting Actor
Uwe Boll (as himself), Postal
Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia!
Ben Kingsley, The Love Guru, War, Inc. and The Wackness
Burt Reynolds, Deal and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Verne Troyer, The Love Guru and Postal
Worst Supporting Actress
Carmen Electra, Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Paris Hilton, Repo! The Genetic Opera
Kim Kardashian, Disaster Movie
Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Leelee Sobieski, 88 Minutes and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans (jointly) - written by Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer
The Happening - written by M. Night Shyamalan
The Hottie and the Nottie - written by Heidi Ferrer
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale - screenplay by Doug Taylor
The Love Guru - written by Mike Myers & Graham Gordy
Worst Screen Couple
Uwe Boll & any actor, camera or screenplay, 1968 Tunnel Rats, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale and Postal
Cameron Diaz & Ashton Kutcher, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton & either Christine Lakin or Joel David Moore, The Hottie and the Nottie
Larry the Cable Guy & Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy & Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Worst Rip-Off, Prequel or Remake
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Disaster Movie and Meet The Spartans (jointly)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
MORE NEWS: Next...Obama the Musical?
Released from the underworld in 1944 by evil Russian puppet master Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden) and a crew of Nazis as part of Hitler's plan to use occult powers to turn the tide of World War II Hellboy is rescued and raised by kindly Professor Broom (John Hurt). Years later in present-day Manhattan the big red demon (Ron Perlman who at this point must have spent more of his life in a makeup chair than out of one) smokes cigars tosses off wisecracks and fights otherworldly baddies for the secretive Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. He's joined by the water-dwelling Abe Sapien (played by Doug Jones voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and fresh-faced FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) the professor's designated Hellboy handler-in-training. When Rasputin resurfaces and unleashes a horde of evil spirits on the city in an attempt to finish what he started back in the '40s Hellboy and Co. (including fetching pyro Liz Sherman played by Selma Blair) must face the dark magician in a no-holds-barred supernatural showdown that (naturally) will determine the fate of the world.
All the digital enhancements and red makeup in the world couldn't make Hellboy a sympathetic character if the actor underneath wasn't appealing. Luckily Perlman fills the bill. Whether he's indulging Hellboy's adolescent jealousy of the burgeoning friendship between Myers and Liz (the angsty brunette is Big Red's lifelong object of affection) or letting a pair of endangered kittens tug at his heartstrings Perlman creates a character who is ironically very human in his contradictions. And his knack for tossing off zippy one-liners doesn't hurt either. Evans one of those Everyman-faced actors whom you're just sure you've seen somewhere before (but since his biggest U.S. credit to date is well nothing you probably haven't) is perfect as Myers--one of those Everyman-faced comic book fellas whose job is to be as earnest as possible. Meanwhile Blair never quite makes Liz as enchanting as she should be to earn the adoration of both Hellboy and Myers; she shoots off a lot of soulful-eyed looks but that depth isn't reflected in the rest of her performance. As for the villains only Roden's evilly charismatic Rasputin can really be considered a character (creepy Nazi leader Kroenen never speaks and Biddy Hodson's scheming Ilsa has just a handful of lines) albeit an underdeveloped one.
Del Toro fans have come to expect slick moody action from the man behind Mimic and Blade II and they won't be disappointed with Hellboy. From gloomy dripping subway tunnels to stark Russian graveyards Del Toro has created a more convincing comic book world than almost anyone else who's brought a graphic novel to the big screen in recent years (Spider-Man's Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer's X-Men flicks are notable exceptions). The lines colors and composition of his shots seem like they could be lifted right from Mike Mignola's pages and Marco Beltrami's eerie/ominous score makes Hellboy's world feel all that much more dangerous. The effects aren't half-bad either. Someone on Rick Baker's creature team seems to have a grudge against squid (every one of the demonic beasties Hellboy battles is positively bristling with tentacles) but the fights are fast furious and fun. Del Toro who also wrote the script does let the film stray perilously close to Daredevil-like cheesiness in a few spots ("All us freaks have is each other!" Abe declares at one point) and the climactic confrontation stretches out a little too long but overall Hellboy is a well-paced bit of adrenaline that's guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.
Mike Myers and DreamWorks have inked a unique feature film production deal dubbed "film sampling." Film sampling is much like music sampling, in which an artist reworks an existing song with new lyrics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the idea is for DreamWorks to acquire the rights to existing motion picture hits and classics, write new story lines and--with the use of digital technology--insert Myers and other actors into the film to create an entirely new piece of entertainment. "Film sampling is an exciting way to put an original spin on existing films and allow audiences to see old movies in a new light," Myers said. "Rap artists have been doing this for years with music, and now we are able to take that same concept and apply it to film. Think of me as the Puff Daddy of film or 'M. Diddy' or 'M & M' or just 'M,' or maybe when you sample movies you don't need a special name." Myers collaborated with DreamWorks on the Oscar-winning animated feature Shrek and the upcoming Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, set for release Nov. 21.
Stacy Keach, Sr., best known for developing, producing and directing the radio and television series Tales of the Texas Rangers, died Thursday of congestive heart failure, Reuters reports. He was 88. Keach had battled heart illness for 14 months and died at St. Joseph's Hospital in Burbank, California. Keach also had parts in a variety of TV shows spanning six decades, from The Lone Ranger in 1949 to Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman in the 1990s. He also played the inventive Professor Carlson in 1960s James Bond spoof Get Smart.
Judi Dench is in final negotiations to star opposite Vin Diesel in Universal Pictures' highly anticipated sequel Riddick, while Colm Feore has come aboard to play the lead villain. The film is a follow-up to the 2000 film Pitch Black, about an intergalactic prisoner named Riddick who has the ability to see in the dark. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sequel finds Riddick in the middle of two opposing forces in a major crusade. Feore will play Lord Marshal, a warrior priest who is the leader of a sect that is waging the 10th and perhaps final crusade 500 years in the future. Dench will play Aereon, an ethereal being who helps Riddick unearth his origins. Production begins in Vancouver in April.
Barbershop director Tim Story will helm Society Cab for Universal Pictures, a drama based on the real-life exploits of the last black-owned, black-run taxi company in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Story told Variety the appeal of the script was its larger-than-life characters who drive the unsafe area, minding residents' children and even policing it themselves, knowing the cops will show up long after they do. The film follows a newspaper reporter who becomes a cabbie to write a feature story for the Miami Herald. Tom Hanks' Playtone Prods., the company behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding, will produce the picture.
Japanese director Hideo Nakata will make his English-language feature debut with the MGM supernatural thriller True Believers. The film is an adaptation of the Doug Richardson novel about the intersecting paths of a senator with White House aspirations, a woman who wants to have a child and a death row inmate who thinks he is a messiah whose bloodline must be carried on, Variety reports. Nakata directed the 1998 Japanese film The Ring and its sequel, which inspired the Gore Verbinski-helmed 2002 DreamWorks film of the same name and its sequel, The Ring 2.
The proposed merger between CNN and ABC News is off, AOL Time Warner executives said Thursday. A statement from AOL TW said: "After careful review, it was determined that although there are great merits and possibilities to a merger of CNN and ABC News, for us, the potential problems associated with the completion of such a transaction and the integration of these two distinct and great cultures was more than we wanted to pursue at this time." The statement seemed to leave open the possibility of future talks, but insiders were not optimistic, saying the issue is dead, with little or no chance of revival. "There will be no merger between ABC News and CNN in our lifetimes," one executive told The Hollywood Reporter.
Grammy-winning singer R. Kelly, who was arrested on child pornography charges last year, seems to be on a roll, despite being arrested on additional child pornography charges last month. Kelly has written a No. 1 song for the teen boy band B2K and scored his own hit with the sexually charged "Ignition." In fact, the video for his song is one of the most requested on BET and has been on MTV, he's up for a Grammy, and his record label, Jive, is releasing the CD Chocolate Factory on Tuesday, The Associated Press reports. "He's probably more popular now than during 'I Believe I Can Fly' (in 1996)," Kedar Massenburg, president of Motown Records, said.
Police in Sydney, Australia, recovered reel-to-reel tapes reportedly recorded by the Beatles and believed stolen from the band's Abbey Road studios in London in 1969, the AP reports. Detectives raided a home early Friday in western Sydney and seized tape recordings of the Abbey Road album and The Beatles, better known as The White Album. Police said the recordings have been turned over to a musicologist to determine their authenticity. The raid stemmed from a British investigation into a suspected piracy racket that led to the recovery of 500 tapes believed to be original Beatles recordings during a raid in Holland last month.