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
Kids' movies may be the most difficult cinematic mountains to climb. The filmmakers must cater to two perspectives at constant odds with one another: young ones who find amusement in simplistic stories and broadly painted humor and their parents who need enough of a grounded hook emotional core and clever jokes to keep them from nodding off. Not an easy task.
To see this winning combination pulled off by a 3-D animation/live-action hybrid adaptation of a rather irritatingly sweet cartoon from the '80s…well it's both a shocking and welcome surprise. The Smurfs transcends recent property-grabs like Garfield Alvin and the Chipmunks and Marmaduke by embracing the cartooniness relishing in the fact that it can get away with anything with the help of adorable little blue people.
Smurfs takes the model employed by 2007's Enchanted kicking things off in the colorful fantasy world of Smurf Village and quickly bringing its cheery clueless characters to the terrifying metropolis of New York. After Clumsy Smurf accidentally leads the Smurf-obsessive Gargamel (Hank Azaria) to the hidden mushroom haven of his brethren the bumbling black sheep of the Smurf family finds himself and a few clan members Papa Brainy Grumpy Gutsy Smurfette at the wrong end of a Blue Moon-induced worm hole. The group (along with Gargamel and his cat) find themselves face-planted in NYC's Central Park where they meet Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) yes man to the cosmetic titan Odile. This sets the race in motion—the Smurfs enlisting the help of Patrick to find a way back home Patrick seeking the perfect ad campaign for Odile's new make-up line and Gargamel questing hungrily for a few drops of Smurf essence.
If Smurfs was simply a barrage of fart jokes and pop culture references the movie wouldn't click but by giving each of his characters something to do (seems obvious no?) director Raja Gosnell injects the film with a helpful dose of heart. Along with Clumsy's quest to be more than his name insists Harris' Patrick also has his own problems to overcome. Namely preparing to be a Papa Smurf to the kid he's about to have with his wife Grace (Glee's Jayma Mays). Harris and Mays take their roles here seriously going all out when they need to chase the adventurous Smurfs around town in one slapsticky sequence after another but they put just as much into their smaller scenes. One moment where Papa Smurf sits Patrick down for a "Dad talk" even has weight—a near impossible task for a "kids" movie.
But let's not get too sappy: the movie is funny plain and simple. Azaria makes a living bringing cartoon characters to life—he's a reason why The Simpsons has been on for more than 20 years—and his goofy Gargamel antics are inspired. A recurring gag where the evil wizard continually steps through ventilation steam grates probably read fine on paper but Azaria knows how to play big and doesn't allow any moment of physical comedy to lazily fall through the cracks. On the flip side Harris nails the straight man role and acknowledges that hanging out with Smurfs is just as bizarre as you'd imagine. Think The Brady Bunch Movie for the world of animation.
With solid kids' flicks becoming a rare occurrence Smurfs is a breath of fresh air a film that believes in its own simple message while simultaneously being self-aware of its cartoonish heritage. The movie's a smurfy good time but it takes a particularly smurfy Smurf to let go of cynical baggage and smurf it.
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.
January 24, 2002 11:11am EST
Mariah Carey's lawyer said recording companies have already shown interest in the pop diva since speculation of her breakup with EMI surfaced several weeks ago. But while label executives agree Carey is still marketable, most admit they would not pay the terms she received at EMI.
Music lawyer Kenneth Freundlich told Reuters that Carey would do well to sit on the sidelines: "She's been through all the turns, has a lot of money and a tremendous fan base. She could just tap into that. That fan base is what's going to sustain her. The fans will excuse the bad movies and the breakdown, but the corporations won't."
While Mariah Carey was being bought out by EMI to the tune of $28 million, several stars, lead by rocker Courtney Love, lobbied legislators to free artists from what they claim is unfair record company control. The action has the backing of Democratic state senator Kevin Murray, who has introduced a bill to overturn a 1987 exemption that allows record companies to sue musicians and singers for albums not produced over the course of seven-year contracts.
Al Pacino will make a cameo appearance in the caper picture Gilgli, Variety reports. The movie is set for release in 2003 and stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.
Sylvester Stallone told Britain's Mirror newspaper that he would like to revive Rocky and Rambo, but it was unlikely the pictures would get made. Stallone said he approached Hollywood studios about having Rambo go into Afghanistan and rescue five girls, and about Rocky VI. "I would love to have one more shot at getting that right, even if people say I am a little old for it, " he told the tabloid. "I know I'd have fun trying."
T-shirts with the slogan "Free Winona" are popping up in many of Los Angeles' trendiest spots, Reuters reports. They refer to Winona Ryder's arrest on suspicion of shoplifting from a Beverly Hills store in December. The T-shirts, created by L.A. gift shop owner Billy Tsangares, are printed with jail-issue style block letters and don't actually feature Ryder but a picture from a wig ad. The actress is due in court again on February 11.
Director Frank Oz has been voted the Art Directors Guild's award for Contribution to Cinematic Imagery, Variety reports. Oz voiced the Yoda character from Star Wars and directed Bowfinger and The Score. The award will be presented at the Guild's Feb. 23 awards ceremonies at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Katie Couric, who recently signed a new $65 million deal with NBC, is apparently having trouble getting into the Burbank studio without her ID. According to PageSix.com, Couric forgot her NBC credentials while covering the Golden Globes and was not allowed entry until someone came to vouch for her.
Donny and Marie Osmond will be among those carrying the Olympic torch on the final stage of its relay to Salt Lake City for the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Games, Reuters reports. Officials have not yet disclosed the identity of the person who will carry the torch into the stadium on Feb. 8.
Telepictures Productions announced that the eight key ABC affiliates currently carrying The Rosie O'Donnell Show have approved Caroline Rhea as Rosie O'Donnell's replacement. According to Reuters, the Canadian-born Rhea will take over the show at the end of this session.
Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff, who was named entertainment president at UPN Wednesday, said her first order of business would be to unify the network's programming. UPN currently runs urban-themed comedies on Monday, sci-fi on Wednesday and wrestling on Thursdays. According to Variety, Tarnofsky-Ostroff wants to turn the all-over-the-map programming into a more consistent image to broaden viewership.
Celebrities with bad habits will now have more variety when it comes to rehab clinics. Mision Korian, a privately funded $2 million walled compound, is now open for business in Durango, Mexico. The drug and alcohol treatment center will eventually house 42 patients and will charge a maximum of $3,000 for five weeks of treatment, but fees for locals will be as low as $100, the Associated Press reports. The center's spokesperson said he plans to market the clinic to Hollywood studios, agents and Beverly Hills doctors.
Gammy-nominated singer Tamia and Orlando Magic star Grant Hill are parents of baby girl. Myla Grace Hill was born at 9:22 a.m. Wednesday, and weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces. This is the couple's first child.
The Spice Girls lost their legal battle over a sponsorship deal with Italian scooter firm Aprilla, Sky News reports. Posh, Scary, Baby and Sporty sued the company for withholding some of its sponsorship money for their 1998 Spiceworld Tour. Aprilla claimed they were left with many unsold "Spice Sonic" scooters after Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell quit the band at the end of the European leg of the tour. A judge sided with the scooter company and ordered the Spice Girls to pay a hefty 1 million pounds in fines and fees.
With sales nearing a half-million, country crooner Alan Jackson's album Drive has removed Creed's from their eight-week stay at the top of the pop album charts, Variety reports. Sales were powered by Jackson's hit single "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." Creed's Weathered slipped just one notch, to no. 2.