It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
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.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Top Story: Judge Freezes Matrix Director's Assets
A Los Angeles judge froze the business assets of The Matrix Reloaded co-director Larry Wachowski in a bitter divorce fight between the helmer and his estranged wife, Thea Bloom, Reuters reports. According to court documents posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Bloom accused Wachowski of concealing funds from her. "Larry has received large payments (for the Matrix films) that I never saw deposited in our joint accounts," she said in the court papers. "Larry has been extremely dishonest with me in our personal life, and I believe he is hiding information from me regarding our financial affairs." The couple wed in October 1993 and Bloom filed for divorce last December. A letter from Wachowski's lawyer reveals the filmmaker and his partner, brother Andy, earned upfront payments totaling $16 million to write and direct Warner Bros.' The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, and stand to earn millions through separate licensing deals for video and online games.
Burton Favored To Remake Chocolate Factory
Eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton, who has directed such films as Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Batman, is in talks to helm a new feature adaptation of the 1964 children's classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Warner Bros. The story, written by Roald Dahl, revolves around a poor young boy named Charlie Bucket who wins a visit to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. According to Reuters, Burton is expected to discuss the project with the surviving members of the Dahl family, who hold rights to the late author's works and has the final say over a director for the film.
Lions Gate Nabs Dogville
Lions Gate Films beat out several rivals, including Artisan, Paramount Classics, United Artists and Fine Line, to snag North American distribution rights to the Lars von Trier drama Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman. The film is considered a contender for the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, which will be announced Sunday. The asking price for the film jumped from $4 million at the opening of Cannes to $6 million as interest in the film swelled, but Lions Gate is believed to have secured the rights for significantly less, Reuters reports.
Brown Bunny Director Booed at Press Conference
Insulted by the negative reaction to his film road pic The Brown Bunny at the Cannes Film Festival, U.S. director Vincent Gallo has vowed it would be his last film. "I'll never make another movie again. I mean it," Gallo told Reuters Friday after he was booed at a press conference. "It is a disaster of a film and it was a waste of time. I apologize to the financiers, but it was never my intention to make a pretentious film, a self-indulgent film, a useless film, an unengaging film," he mocked. Gallo wrote, directed, produced and starred in the film.
Bowling For Columbine DVD To Include Interview
Documentarian Michael Moore will respond to critics who blasted his Oscar slam of President Bush on the DVD of Bowling for Columbine, Variety reports. The DVD, available Aug. 19, was originally slated for an April 22 release but was delayed to allow the film to continue its strong performance in theaters and to allow more time to produce significant extras. The Columbine DVD will include an interview with Moore about his Oscar victory for the documentary feature and his controversial acceptance speech. A transcript of the speech will also be included, but MGM could not gain clearance from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to include video of the speech.
NBC Still Network To Beat
Thanks to veteran series including Friends, ER and Law & Order, NBC won the adults 18-49 title in the 2002-03 season that ended Wednesday, despite a fierce comeback from Fox. The peacock network also beat out CBS among adults 25-54. CBS, however, emerged as the most-watched network overall for the second time in three seasons. According to Variety, CBS' Thursday night drama CSI was the top drama in total viewers, averaging 26.2 million weekly.
Rod Stewart Divorces Rachel Hunter
Rocker Rod Stewart is divorcing his estranged wife, model Rachel Hunter, Reuters reports. "I've paid my dues to the institution of marriage and have no interest in clinging to the past," the twice-married Stewart was quoted as saying in Britain's Sun newspaper. "I have decided to get a divorce. When I get back to L.A. it will all be finalized." The 57-year old singer split from Hunter, 34, four years ago, and both have since had widely publicized relationships. Hunter is best known for her liaison with British pop star Robbie Williams, while Stewart has been widely photographed with girlfriend Penny Lancaster.
Lawyer for Diana Ross Wants Breath Test Thrown Out
An attorney in Diana Ross' drunken driving case is asking a judge to throw out breath test results and statements the singer made to police on the night she was arrested. Police said the singer, who was arrested Dec. 30, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.20 percent. But defense attorney Stephen Paul Barnard has filed a motion arguing that police conducted a search without a warrant, which "raises the issue of the legality of the arrest and subsequent search and seizure." Prosecutors said the argument is misplaced because under Arizona law, anyone arrested for drunken driving automatically consents to blood-alcohol content testing, the AP reports.
Role Call: Tim Story Helms "Ralph"
Director Tim Story (Barbershop) is in negotiations to develop and direct the comedy Ralph for Universal Pictures. The project is loosely based on an episode of the animated cartoon series Pookie Poo on Urban Entertainment's Web site. The pic revolves about a black man who, tired of being made to feel invisible, makes a wish and winds up in a parallel world where he is the only man of his race in existence. No start date has b