Yes it’s true. Although it reaped deserved accolades and an Oscar win for its star Philip Seymour Hoffman Capote keeps you somewhat at arm’s length as you watch Truman Capote go through his agonizing journey to writing his one and only masterpiece In Cold Blood. Infamous however wears its heart on its sleeve drawing you in immediately. When we first meet Capote (Toby Jones) it’s in New York. As the toast of the town and confidante to some of Manhattan’s elite grand dames including Babe Paley (Sigourney Weaver) and Slim Keith (Hope Davis) Capote’s mood is light and airy his antics hilarious. Then once Capote travels to Kansas to cover the grisly Cutter murders with his dear friend Nell Harper Lee (Sandra Bullock) the frivolity is peeled away layer by layer. When he finally becomes so tortuously—and yes even romantically (it goes there)—entangled with killer Perry Smith (Daniel Craig) and the writing of his book hits its crescendo Capote emerges as a beaten-down and bitter man who ultimately can’t even be lifted by his high society friends. Infamous is infinitely more heartbreaking. It’s really hard to top Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance as Truman Capote. He embodies the character with such exquisite and subtle suffering you don’t mind the fact he doesn’t look anything like the diminutive author. Toby Jones (Finding Neverland) however does look like Capote. A LOT like him and is just as capable at wringing out all of Capote’s brilliance and faults. But rather than dominate Jones’ eerie look-a-like characterization blends in more with Infamous’ scenery allowing some of the other colorful characters to step up to the plate. Weaver and Davis are effusive and catty as Capote’s Manhattan buddies who give hints on what’s to become of Capote later in his life when he finally goes too far and crosses these fine society ladies. Craig is also particularly effecting as Smith full of pathos and rage. But the real stand out is Bullock as Harper Lee. Her unassuming but quietly fierce take on the To Kill a Mockingbird author far outshines Catherine Keener’s Oscar-nominated performance in Capote. Bullock brings such an essence to the role that when watching Lee tell stories of when she and Truman were children you see the little girl Scout from Mockingbird so very clearly. Kudos all around. Director/writer Douglas McGrath has to got to be kicking himself. Seriously. Of course he’s going to say “Given the riveting contradictions in Capote’s character the rich range of people who made up his circle and the comic and dramatic turns that marked the period the real wonder is that there were only two scripts.” But the fact of the matter is Capote came first and furious getting all kinds of good strokes. Releasing another movie about the very same subject on its heels...well that movie is going to have a harder time. Period. And that’s a real shame. McGrath does some truly marvelous things with Infamous. He shows how a flamboyant gay writer spoiled chic who plays court jester to the very cream of New York society is set down in the wastelands of Kansas to write about a horrible crime. Capote’s antics at first are hilarious such as trying to wear cowboy boots and a cowboy hat just to fit in. But then the shift into the dark side as Capote delves deeper and deeper into the psyche of the killers keeps you riveted. It might be the same but Infamous is just as worthy.
Despite seemingly having it all hunky Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) has still never been able to leave the nest. It’s actually easy to see why. It’s free and his mother (Kathy Bates) dotes on him. But Tripp’s parents especially gregarious dad (Terry Bradshaw) are anxious to get him out of the house so they can have their own lives. That’s where Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) comes in: a professional consultant who works specifically with fed-up parents who want their adult sons to move out. She dates them convinces them its time to fly the coop and then lets them go. It’s mostly foolproof--but not in Tripp’s case. No this is different because Paula starts to have feelings (Can you blame her? Just look at the guy) jeopardizing not only her job but the fact she may have found the perfect guy. OK Launch seems contrived but give it a chance; it might grow on you. As with any romantic comedy it’s about watching two attractive people--in this case McConaughey and Parker--spar and connect. Well at least most of the time. But there’s another trend in rom-coms these days: wonderfully original supporting characters who add color and can oftentimes steal the show all while allowing the main characters to shine beyond the standard girl-meets-boy scenario. Tripp’s two best friends Demo and Ace--played by Bradley Cooper (Wedding Crashers) and Justin Bartha (National Treasure) respectively--are a real hoot. As is Zooey Deschanel (Elf) Paula’s anti-social bird-hating roommate Kit (great name by the way); she nearly steals Parker’s thunder especially when she and Bartha’s Ace hook up. Also delightful are Bates and Bradshaw as Tripp’s patient parents itching to break free. Who knew an Oscar-winning actress and former Super Bowl champ could have chemistry? Under the direction of Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon) Failure to Launch isn’t the end all be all of romantic comedies but it does take delight in some of its idiosyncratic approaches towards the genre. For example the womanizing Tripp may seem to have a devil-may-care attitude about his living situation but he’s really has some deeper issues going on. And Paula’s job--it seems a bit mean-spirited don’t you think? She leads these poor guys on and then once they leave the house dumps them. So in a way she gets her due. Of course Dey’s attention to the side characters also gives the film a big boost. He probably learned a lesson or two from watching Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Ultimately in what you’d think might be another stale rom-com Launch surprises you with its wry humor and multi-layered performances.
Although the film's title suggests there might be some deeply relevant British national allegory in the film post-colonialist comedy fans shouldn't get their hopes up. The plot of Johnny English such as it is goes something like this: The title character a bumbling junior-level spy (Rowan Atkinson) is suddenly thrust into active duty when every other agent in the British Secret Service is blown to smithereens during a bombing at a fellow agent's funeral. When the Crown Jewels are stolen it's up to English to discover the culprit and in the process he unearths a plot to replace the Queen of England with a French entrepreneur who has some pretty nasty real estate development plans for Merry Olde Blighty. It's a sorry excuse for a story sure but such paltry fare as plot character development and dialogue don't matter much when you connect the bits with U.K. fave Atkinson hamming it up in his trademark blundering way. And he really is funny in this movie--maybe not pee-your-pants funny but certainly hoot-out-loud funny. As with any spy spoof some of the shtick works and some doesn't but on the whole Atkinson and Co. do a good job in spite of the contrived script and pithy lines writers Neal Purvis Robert Wade and William Davies have pieced together for them.
If Cervantes' Don Quixote were a modern-day spy this would be his story. Atkinson tilts at Johnny English's windmills with the vigor and extravagance fans of the comedian's trademarked physical comedy have come to expect. Whether he's crashing a funeral pantomiming to ABBA in front of his bathroom mirror invading a hospital with guns blazing or getting his tie caught in a sushi bar conveyor belt Atkinson gives this movie's hackneyed scenes personality they probably wouldn't have had in any other actor's hands. Comedian and fellow Brit Ben Miller takes his first strokes across the pond as English's sidekick Bough playing Sancho Panza to Atkinson's Quixote to fairly good effect. The real "straight man" in this farce however is Natalie Imbruglia as love interest Lorna Campbell. The girl can't act her way out of a paper bag but when you look the way she does in leather pants and stilettos talent is beside the point. John Malkovich is underutilized as the villain Pascal Sauvage whose anti-English (that's the nation not the spy) sentiments have driven him to lay claim to the throne of England which he plans to use for nefarious purposes.
Based as it is on a character Atkinson created for a TV commercial for a major British credit card it's not surprising that the characters in Johnny English are far more entertaining when they're improvising 60-second physical comedy scenes than when they're attempting to further the so-called plot. What is surprising is that such pedigreed moviemakers as director Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors) production company Working Title Films (producers of Elizabeth Fargo and Billy Elliot) and producer Mark Huffam (The Hours) are attached to such a silly film. Then again everybody needs to let loose sometime; maybe this is their idea of a vacation.
Many of Hollywood's veteran stars gathered Sunday to pay tribute to the late Steve Allen.
Tim Conway, Milton Berle, Don Knotts, Valerie Harper and Jerry Stiller were among the celebrities who attended the memorial service at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in North Hollywood.
"Thank you for being here to celebrate my father's life, a life truly well lived," said Bill Allen, the entertainer's son.
Allen died Oct. 30 at his son's Encino, Calif., home of an apparent heart attack. Allen was widely regarded as a talented musician, author, comedian and composer. He probably will be remembered best as the pioneer of late-night television.
He created and hosted "The Tonight Show" format in 1953, playing the piano, chatting with guests and taking to the streets to interview passersby.
"He set a standard of humanity that I have not seen since," said Bill Maher, host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect."
Have you ever noticed that the first three letters in "Godzilla" spell "God"? If not, come meet the people who have: the fanatics who gathered at G-fest 2000 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel last weekend to cheer, clap and whistle every time the new "Godzilla 2000" trailer played -- which was about 15 times a day for three consecutive days.
In the off chance that you’re not one of the radioactive reptile's many followers, G-Fest is an annual three-day convention about anything Godzilla. There are panel discussions (like, the talk on "body suit" acting), special guest appearances (among many, actress Megumi Odaka, who played a Godzilla-tracking psychic in six films), dealer rooms (selling all kinds of Godzilla paraphernalia) and a five-film retrospective (including the 1954 Japanese original version of "Godzilla").
But it was that three-minute "Godzilla 2000" trailer, signaling the return of the old-school, bonafide, man-in-a-rubber-suit Godzilla, that had the fans panting. The flick, slated to bow stateside Aug. 18, is No. 23 in the 46-year-old franchise spawned by Japan’s Toho Co. (the monster's corporate godfather).
And, make no mistake, this new Godzilla ain't nothin' like that overblown, computer-generated knockoff foisted on the moviegoing populace in 1998 by a certain U.S. studio.
"The Tri-Star movie -- their version of Godzilla -- made a lot of money, but it definitely wasn’t one of the films that is going to stand out. There were a lot of things that happened in it that were unoriginal, and there were several scenes that looked like they were directly ripped off from ‘Jurassic Park,’" G-Fester Aaron Conway told Hollywood.com.
"They made him a weakling. They basically just made him an animal. Godzilla has always been known as a force of nature. He’s not something that can just be stopped by bullets or missiles or anything like that. They tend to bounce off of him, and if they hurt him, he heals pretty fast."
Like others here, Conway isn't kidding when it comes to Godzilla. The 22-year-old college student withstood a 1,700-mile, 72-hour Greyhound bus ride from Texas to Hollywood in order to attend the fest. So, when we implied that Godzilla is, y’know, sorta campy, Cooper wouldn't play that.
"The movies themselves are well-made," he insists. "Things that tend to make them campy are when they’re released over here in the United States and they dubbed them with American voices. That’s where the biggest problem comes in."
Surveying the crowd, it might seem the "G" in G-Fest stands for "geek." After all, these are self-proclaimed Godzilla fanatics who have watched all 22 films (some have even seen "Godzilla 2000" before its official U.S. release), who know all the titles, storylines, actors, trivia and release dates by heart, and who eagerly ask weird questions (like, "besides playing Godzilla in a body suit, is it true that you also played other parts in the 1954 film?") in public.
To these folks, Godzilla is not just a three-days-a-year thing. It is a full-time job, a part-time hobby and a sort of secular religion all its own.
G-Fan as O.G. organizer
Take for instance, J.D. Lees, the founder of G-Fest and president of G-Fan Magazine (www.g-fan.com), the biggest and longest-running Godzilla fan publication.
G-Fan's J.D. Lees Started in 1992 as a photocopied fanzine, G-Fan assumed its professionally printed, bi-monthly format in 1994. Lees' circulation is now 6,000 per issue, but he says G-Fan magazine retains its D.I.Y. ethic: Every two months, Lees collect material sent to him by fans, collates it all into an issue and sends it to a printer.
A full-time high school teacher by profession, Lees has been interested in Godzilla since he was a little kid (first film: "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!"). And the idea of doing a Godzilla convention was to him a natural progression.
"The people who contributed to the fanzine had never seen each other, they lived in various parts of the country. And in the summer of ’94, we thought, ‘Why don’t we just meet in a hotel and actually see each other?’ We had a great time and said, ‘Why don’t we invite the whole readership next time and see what happens?’"
So, how does Lees characterize the typical G-Fan?
"Male, for starters," said Lees. "I would estimate that more than 95 percent of people interested in Godzilla are boys -- big boys and little boys."
G-Fan as G-collectibles vendor
Then there’s guys like Sean Linkenback, owner of Showcase Collectibles in Atlanta (the largest Godzilla specialist dealer in the United States, so he says) and author of "The Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles." He makes buying, selling and collecting G-stuff his livelihood.
The G-Fest Dealer's Room "The first toy I got was a Godzilla model kit. It was one of the only American toys you can get and that was the first Godzilla toy I’ve ever bought. That’s what started me collecting," Linkenback, 31, told us. "I bought whatever Godzilla things I could find. And somehow I just got more and more. And at some point in time, I quit my job and said this is going to be the only thing I do."
Linkenback -- whose definitive Godzilla moment was when he first saw "King Kong vs. Godzilla" on TV some 26 years ago -- said his biggest sale this weekend was a poster for the American release of the 1954 "Godzilla," which went for $1,000.
And while on the subject of prices, there is at least one thing Linkenback would never, ever think of selling. What is it? The original Japanese poster for the 1954 "Godzilla."
G-Fan as … just a fan
We searched and searched and finally came upon a Godzilla fan who was not a boy but a woman.
Caroline Martinez, a 28-year-old in film production and living in Los Angeles, is as big a Godzilla fan as any. She has liked Godzilla for as long as she can remember, and unlike most of the boys, her fascination has nothing whatsoever to do with dinosaurs.
"For me, I think it was when you first see the movie, it’s nothing like what you’ve ever seen before," said Martinez.
And in so many words, that about sums it all up.