Prankster George Clooney's penchant for sending out cards and letters from his famous friends began at John Krasinski's wedding in 2010. Matt Damon recently discovered that his Ocean's Eleven co-star has been sending stationery with his name on it around Hollywood for several months as a practical joke, but Brad Pitt was the first star to suffer.
During an appearance on fellow prank lover Jimmy Kimmel's U.S. TV show, Clooney revealed the comedian had been involved in the elaborate joke that began when they met up at their mutual friend's wedding party, which was held at Clooney's villa in Italy.
He said, "You sent me a thank you gift card... it actually said Brad Pitt on it, which set the wheels in motion... I've been sending letters to people as Brad Pitt for four years.
"Don Cheadle was trying to do the Miles Davis story and I sent him a letter from Brad, because Brad produces films, and I said, 'You know, I'm producing this Miles Davis/Charlie Parker thing and Jamie Foxx is gonna play Miles Davis, but you'd you'd be great as Charlie Parker?'
"Don wrote me, like, six months later and said, 'Did you do something dirty to me?'"
Clooney revealed his most elaborate 'note' prank came when he sent Meryl Streep a package of dialect tapes from Pitt and urged her to use them to help her perfect the role of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
The Michael Clayton star chuckled, "I said, 'To Meryl, I hear you're gonna play The Iron Lady and this guy really helped me with my dialect in Troy'. I never told either of them I did that. Now they know."
Clooney's interview with Kimmel aired in the U.S. on Thursday night (06Feb14).
It's hard to blame Judd Apatow for being ambitious.
In a big screen genre known for pandering to the lowest common denominator the producer of the great Bridesmaids and Superbad has taken his directorial opportunities to challenge viewers with comedy. His stories are homegrown and heartfelt tackling life with a baby in Knocked Up and the definition of success in Funny People. That pair paved the way for This Is 40 a film that feels even more like an adaptation of Apatow's secret journal. He seemingly crams every idea he's got about aging parenting and nurturing a family into the movie spinning his musings into script form for frequent collaborator Paul Rudd and actual wife Leslie Mann to bring to life. Apatow evokes plenty of laughter with This Is 40's wry and honest insight unfortunately diluted by a girth of material. Energetic and sharp in the beginning but as time passes the shtick gets old.
Bumped up from supporting characters to full-fledged leads Rudd and Mann evolve their Knocked Up characters Pete and Debbie into 40-year-old parents pretending to have everything figured out. They even have themselves convinced Pete certain that his investment in the first Graham Parker & the Rumour album since 1980 will spark Debbie chasing her own business prospects while basking in her modern nuclear family. But it's far from perfect with Pete and Debbie's relationship maxing out their kids coveting Lost more than the company of each other and their dads — Pete's a money-grubber (played by Albert Brooks) and Debbie's an estranged man living another life (John Lithgow) — only turning up the heat on the boiler. The bubble quickly pops for the couple who spend most of This Is 40 wrestling with life and bickering their way in and out of situations.
There is a lot of funny stuffed into This Is 40: Lena Dunham and Chris O'Dowd jump in on the riffing as Pete's record label employees Jason Segel returns as a personal trainer and Megan Fox and Charlyne Yi play Debbie's clothing store employees. Each actor has a distinct voice to add to This Is 40's mosaic of setups. Individual bits stand out as some of the funniest of the year. They also divert attention from the ups and downs of the main duo — O'Dowd and Segel's pursuit of Fox at a party the actresses knowing full well she's the best looking woman in the room is great fun. Yi brings down the house with an extended defense of her drug habits (her rambling turns "Oxycontin" into "Oxykitten " and it's brilliant). But the laughs are fleeting. This Is 40 is supposed to be Pete and Debbie's story but it drowns with excess like two seasons of television crammed into two hours.
Thankfully Rudd and Mann are as charming as any comedically inclined performers today. Alongside them are Apatow's own children Maude and Iris Apatow who play the couple's kids. But Pete and Debbie's tendency to throw up their arms in frustration as opposed to confronting their issues is infuriating. Apatow finds truth in the meandering conclusions of the duo's fights but it doesn't make for a great movie. Rudd and Mann at least make it relatable and palatable even when Pete is inspecting his nether regions for hemorrhoids or Debbie is running off to a club with her young employees to briefly flee her marriage. Brooks is the real standout of This Is 40; his lovable schmuck is biting and essential to the main story. Heck there's enough going on in Brooks and Rudd's relationship they could have had a movie all their own (and maybe they will considering This Is 40 is a "semi-sequel").
This Is 40 takes a risk on free form storytelling falling short with parts that are greater than the whole. Apatow is a master of telling stories that infuse raunchy comedy and thoughtful drama. With his fourth feature he decides to tell too many of those stories at once. It doesn't work but again it's hard to blame him for being ambitious.
What are the two most dangerous places in the world? Just going by a whole bunch of independent movies those two places are undoubtedly corporate America and suburban America. Movies as wildly diverse and incompatible as Revolutionary Road American Psycho Fight Club and Office Space all tell us that the suburbs and your typical corporate workplace are soul-sucking snake pits where ambition thrives and creativity dies. Price Check director Michael Walker’s first film since the Jeff Daniels thriller Chasing Sleep twelve years ago goes where oh-so-many films have gone before it and fully embraces these twin clichés to its smug satisfaction and our boredom.
Pete (Eric Mabius) is a likable thirtysomething Everydude in suburban Long Island supporting a wife and toddler son by working a dead-end marketing job for what appears to be the Dunder-Mifflin of supermarket chains. He’d rather be working for a record label like he did right out of Dartmouth but everyone keeps telling him “the music industry is dead.” Pete’s the kind of guy who likes to roll up his sleeves to show everyone how hard he’s working while being too much of a "nice guy " as his new boss Susan (Parker Posey) tells him to climb up the corporate ladder. Even if he were to land a vice president job at the chain he’d turn it down so he could spend more time with his family. Yeah. Right. But that is what he tells himself. With him and his wife always scrounging to meet each month’s mortgage payment and fending off phone calls from creditors Pete could really use a higher-paying job.
(Un)Luckily enough for him when Susan’s brought in from Los Angeles to head up the office and turn the supermarket’s fortunes around—“Our stores look like time vaults from 1985 ” she says—she sets her sights on Pete. Susan sees potential in him she says and quickly makes him her VP…and go-to lackey to implement her ambitious new ideas into a workplace culture that’s severely complacent. Queen of the Indies Posey devours the monochromatic office-space scenery by doing all the things corporate goons who are super confident and super vulgar do: perpetually chewing gum downing Pepto Bismol as if it were scotch performing drunken karaoke obsessing over the fact that someone went to Dartmouth actually saying things like “I’m PMS-ing ” laughing at her underling’s ratty suit then buying him a $6 000 one. For the latter she could only have upped her obnoxiousness quotient if she’d pulled a Gob Bluth and said “Who do you want to look like: the guy in the $6 000 suit or the guy who doesn’t make that in two months? Come on!” In short Posey's neurotic Weimaraner owner and Kama Sutra practitioner in Best in Show is a more subtle character.
Susan takes Pete on a corporate trip to Los Angeles to give her higher-ups a status update on how the new proposals she’s implemented have enhanced productivity. It’s not spoiling anything to say based on the index of clichés already enumerated that they get quite a bit closer during the trip and Pete’s life becomes even more stressful as a result.
Like his put-upon magazine editor Daniel Meade on Ugly Betty Eric Mabius is a likable low-key actor even if his Pete seems more like a character written for Jason Bateman. He does the best with the material given him but the central dilemma facing Pete—to follow his youthful dreams to his family’s financial detriment or pursue material comfort at the cost of his self-respect—has been expressed so many times before. And so many times better. Price Check’s sole insight is that people who live on Long Island do eat exclusively at TGI Fridays. Any menu item at that wonderful restaurant is more satisfying than this film.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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.
Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
The film follows the same tired action genre step by step. Ex-con and single dad O2 (Tyrese Gibson) is trying to go straight for the sake of his young son Junior. But when the kid is kidnapped in what seems to be a typical carjacking O2 has to pull out all the stops to get him back. Turns out O2 had some nefarious dealings with a gang overlord named Big Meat (The Game) who likes to hack off people’s body parts with a machete. And now Meat wants some payback taking for ransom the only thing O2 cares about in the entire world [sniffle]. So what’s a guy to do? Pit rival gang leaders against each other hook up with a beautiful street hustler (Meagan Good) rob safety deposit boxes and get caught in an extended car chase that’s what. "It's either all or nothing " realizes O2. Very prophetic. Waist Deep has got some great character names--Meat O2 Coco Lucky Junior. Too bad most of the performances can’t live up to them. Tyrese (Four Brothers) does try his best though as the hunky O2 making a convincing albeit a tad stiff attempt at playing a father who’s whole life is his son. Good (Roll Bounce) gets to wear tight sexy clothes and strut around as Coco O2’s accomplice and eventual love interest as they rob banks Bonnie and Clyde style. Larenz Tate (Crash) plays Lucky O2’s unreliable cousin who actually isn’t lucky at all caught between a rock and hard place. And then there’s Meat played by big-time rapper The Game in his feature debut. With a battered face and covered in tattoos The Game certainly looks like one mean badass wielding a mad machete. Thankfully he doesn’t have to do much more than that. Here’s a few words of advice to would-be actors who want to play effective bad guys: Less is more. It’s movies like these that really give South Central L.A. a bad rep—shoot-outs in the middle of the street in broad daylight the carjacks the depravity the sad stories of little kids getting shot. It’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy place. Of course actor-turned-director/co-writer Vondie Curtis-Hall (best known for his numerous TV guest spots) doesn’t want it to be showing the grit in all its glory and collecting a cast from the area who could lend some credibility to the surroundings. But Hall needs a few more lessons in how to craft a well-thought action movie. The script is hackneyed beyond the usual taking bits not only from Bonnie and Clyde but also Thelma and Louise Boyz N the Hood--and even a little Shawshank Redemption. Hall’s camerawork is also too frenetic at times almost dizzyingly so with unnecessary close ups and choppy sequences. That isn’t to say some of the gun play and car chases aren’t exciting enough. There just seems to be a lack of experience overall.