Former R.E.M. star Peter Buck and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney are recording new material with ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. Buck and Tucker recently formed the band super-Earth alongside guitarist Scott McCaughey, Bill Rieflin and guitarist Kurt Bloch. The band made its live debut in Portland, Oregon last week (30Apr14).
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
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.
Who's the top dog in showbiz?
According to Entertainment Weekly's annual list of the 101 most powerful figures in the entertainment business in the issue on sale Friday, it's movie and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer, riding high on his mega-hit feature film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Like Steven Spielberg or Tom Hanks, Bruckheimer's name alone attracts interest for his projects, the magazine reports.
"The man is no longer just a canny packager of talent and content with a fat back-end," Entertainment Weekly's staff writes. "Bruckheimer has become a brand."
Along with CSI, Bruckheimer's production team is also responsible for the CBS spinoff hit, CSI: Miami and Without a Trace, the new series Cold Case and Fox's much-touted upcoming series, Skin. Bruckheimer's films, Pirates of the Caribbean (which grossed $299.4 million) and Bad Boys II (which grossed $138.2 million) were both summer hits.
Bruckheimer's spokesman, Paul Bloch, told AP his boss was "flattered" by the honor "but he wants everyone to know it's about the work and the great people he's fortunate to work with."
Rounding out the Top 10 of EW's 14th annual list of Hollywood's top dogs were Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Imagine Entertainment Co-Chairmen Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, author J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Cruise, director Peter Jackson, Eminem and Nicole Kidman. Last year's No. 1, Denzel Washington, fell to No. 22.
For the first time, EW also separated the list into two categories: "creatives" and "suits." CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves topped the list of most powerful executives.
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (The Shipping News) says he won't be in front of the camera "for a while." The hardworking actor is also a producer, and Spacey says he'd like to commit more time and attention to his production company, Trigger St. Productions, The Associated Press reports. "I've been acting nonstop for four or five years and taking a break is a healthy thing," the 42-year-old actor said. We can't believe he waited so long: we've only been working for a couple of hours this morning, and we're ready for a break.
Brendan Fraser (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns) apparently has no fear of bandages. The big-screen star is set to be a guest on NBC's new hit medical comedy, Scrubs, during May sweeps. Of course, Fraser won't be playing a doctor...
Fore! Producer Jerry Weintraub (Ocean's Eleven) was struck in the eye by a golf ball he hit, causing a wound that took 16 stitches to close, The AP reports. The ball caromed off a rock and hit Weintraub over the right eye. Maybe there's a part for Paul Bloch, Weintraub's publicist, in Weintraub's next film: Bloch amazingly kept a straight face when he insisted to reporters that Weintraub is a "good golfer."
Supermodel Naomi Campbell, who is suing British tabloid The Mirror over invasion of privacy, appeared in a London court and testified that she has used illegal drugs and has had her share of tantrums. (Which drew a shocked gasp from the gallery. Not.) Campbell also admitted that she had no regrets over being photographed with her clothes off. We admit that we had no regrets over looking at those photographs.
In a move no doubt to help Regis Philbin curtail his already immense dry-cleaning bill, ABC is removing Who Wants to be a Millionaire? from its Monday night slot. Millionaire, which will be replaced Monday nights with a comedy block, will still air on Thursday nights opposite NBC's and CBS's ratings juggernauts. Good thing Regis never quit his day job.
Sony is reportedly putting up its Culver Studios for sale. The Hollywood Reporter says the 17-acre parcel of land where Citizen Kane and Gone With the Wind were filmed will go to the highest bidder. Sony, which purchased the lot for $80 million in 1991, will probably have to lower its asking price once potential buyers learn that TV's most annoying show, The Nanny was also shot on the Culver lot.
Peter Fonda (Easy Rider) is interested in playing the president of the United States in ABC's new pilot set on Capitol Hill, to be helmed by Rod Lurie (The Last Castle), The Hollywood Reporter reports. (West Wing rip-off, anyone?) Hollywood.com surmises that the only thing that can save this show (other than moving off of ABC) is the addition of Dennis Hopper to the cast.
Oops, they did it again: SAG has once more messed up their elections. This time an e-mail sent by a senior exec to all members endorsing Melissa Gilbert's candidacy for president puts in jeopardy the current rerun election, the results of which will be released March 8. Embattled Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has confirmed she had nothing to do with botching this presidential election.
New York Fashion Week started off with a wave of patriotism. Tommy Hilfiger, known for his red, white and blue logo, sent models down the runway in red, white and blue clothing. Hilfiger said of his "weekend" clothing, "The intention is you put them on Friday night and don't take them off until Sunday." Hygiene notwithstanding, such clothing will save us all time and effort, as we won't have to get undressed before going to bed Friday and Saturday night.