1.The Milla Conundrum.
In the span of five years, from 1992 through 1997, Milla Jovovich appeared in Chaplin, Dazed and Confused, and The Fifth Element. Three quality films! And then the wheels fell off. Ultraviolet (2006) was a disaster, and truly this decade hasn't been too kind overall. The Resident Evil franchise was clearly below average. The Fourth Kind (2009) was decent at best. So where did this siren go wrong? What happened?
I've got a theory. I blame it on Luc Besson. You see, the two were married from 1997 until June of 1999. Take a good look at the films Besson wrote and directed before the divorce: The Fifth Element (1997), The Professional (1994), La Femme Nikita (1990).
In 1999, probably right around the time of the "troubles", he directed The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc. And then he didn't direct another film until 2005. Milla Jovovich was on an Angelina Jolie trajectory until she married Besson, and then *poof* no more good movies. These two clearly, at least artistically, brought out the best in each other. So when you're watching Resident Evil: Afterlife this weekend, and you're wondering why it's so lackluster ... do your best not to scream out "BEEEESSSSOOOOOON!"
2. Hunger Games Had Better Get a Strong Director.
Have you read this book? An absolute page turner, The Running Man meets The Road. The film adaptation is rumored to star Chloe Moretz (who was amazing as "Hit Girl" in Kick-Ass) as the lead character, but Hunger Games is an adaptation that's going to require some real finesse. The entire film is based on a large amount of violence, much of it committed by young teenage men and women. If you're trying to think of a time a film like that has worked, you'll have to travel outside of North American cinema, because Battle Royale is about it. I loved Kick-Ass but it would be hard to claim it crushed at the box office. Jennifer's Body is already forgotten. Plus, Hunger Games is loaded with subtext about class warfare and the public's lust for televised violence. These are not themes that readily translate to a hit. But the book is tremendous, so I'm really pulling for this project.
Sam Mendes is one of the rumored directors, and he'd make something Academy Award worthy. Love or hate films like Revolutionary Road, the guy delivers impactful cinema. Road to Perdition is extremely underrated. I'm not as high on the other rumored director, David Slade. I thought Eclipse was missing a certain element. Pacing? Heart? Something along those lines, a key element that left the film visually appealing but lacking in depth. He's proven he can work with young talent, especially in Hard Candy and whichever route they go with the teen female lead will require a deft hand. Regardless of how this all turns out, I insist you read the book. Then you'll be as concerned as I am.
3. Tree of Life Skips This Oscar Season?
The Coen Brothers (True Grit) and Darren Aronofsky's (Black Swan) Best Director odds just increased with Terrence Malick's Tree of Life being acquired by Fox Searchlight and tentatively scheduled for 2011. The enigmatic filmmaker works so infrequently that his projects always come loaded with buzz, and Tree of Life is no exception. We hoped for it at The Cannes Film Festival. Rumors abounded it might play at The Toronto Film Festival. So with it bowing out gracefully you can mark one contender off your list, even if Malick's last movie (The New World) was a bust.
When you're capable of films like The Thin Red Line and Days of Heaven you're automatically in the conversation. Pity that Fox Searchlight isn't throwing his hat in the ring this year.
4. Best. Video. Ever.
I think the vocal tuba noise makes it. Enjoy.
On that note, I hope you have a weekend full of fall foliage.
Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.
Based on books by Besson (yes he writes books too) we meet Arthur (Freddie Highmore) a 10-year-old kid living on his grandparents’ farm. But there’s trouble: Arthur’s grandfather has mysteriously disappeared and now a real estate developer wants the land Arthur’s grandma (Mia Farrow) doesn’t have enough money to keep. Maybe the solution lies in his grandpa's treasure which is hidden somewhere on the "other side" in the land of the Minimoys. Who are the Minimoys you ask? Why they are creatures that live in Arthur’s backyard just a tenth of an inch tall--that’s who. The only hope is for Arthur to enter into this miniature world become a little pointy-earred wild-haired Minimoy find the treasure in the forbidden city and save the day. For this adventurous boy that’s no problem. Arthur and the Invisibles doesn’t lack star power that’s for sure. Along with sweet-faced high-spirited Highmore (taking a step down from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in my opinion) and Farrow (who looks a little Minimoy-ish herself) we have the voices of: Madonna as the plucky Minimoy warrior princess; Jimmy Fallon as her younger klutzy brother; Robert De Niro as their father the king; Harvey Keitel as a kindly wizard; Snoop Dogg as a weird-looking miniature denizen who runs a dance club; and David Bowie as the evil ruler of the forbidden city. That’s some eclectic lineup--too bad they couldn’t all click. Poor Madonna--even her animated voice-over efforts can’t make the grade. We all know how creative French filmmaker Luc Besson can be. His offbeat sensibilities can be seen in his tense crime dramas La Femme Nikita and The Professional as well as his wildly imaginative sci-fi cult favorite The Fifth Element. But he’s been taking a break from making his own films producing and apparently writing children’s books instead. Arthur and the Invisibles is his first directorial effort since the 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and while it definitely taps into Besson’s fanciful notions--which is probably even more evident in the novels--it doesn’t necessarily translate as well to the big screen. Invisibles’ animation is lush and there’s a lot to look at but it’s almost too busy while the tepid yet convoluted story drones on. Invisibles is definitely not adult-friendly.
Jamal (Martin Lawrence) is a worker at the Medieval World theme park who falls into a moat and emerges in 14th-century England a world inhabited by knights in shining armor. Once he pieces together what has probably happened Jamal tries to find a way to go back to the future. Along the way he finds himself inadvertently caught up in a rebellion led by a sort of medieval feminist Victoria (Marsha Thomason) against an illegitimate monarchy. With the help of Sir Nolte (Tim Wilkinson) a once legendary knight who has fallen on hard times Jamal and Victoria plan their attack on Percival (Vincent Regan) an evil knight aware of their plans to quash the monarchy and the king's iron rule. Jamal leads Victoria Nolte and their army of peasants into battle by teaching them football and wrestling techniques but when Jamal finally finds a way back to the 21st century he must face the feelings he has developed for Victoria.
Veteran actor/comedian Martin Lawrence (What's the Worst That Could Happen? Big Momma's House) was definitely a great replacement for Chris Tucker who was originally set to star in the picture. His character's off-the-wall reactions to things like toilet facilities (stone benches encrusted with filth) are hilarious but Lawrence also manages some more touching scenes with enough ease--despite his loudmouth antics. Wilkinson (In the Bedroom Shakespeare in Love) also delivers a poignant performance as a once brilliant knight now badly in need of Alcoholics Anonymous. Regan (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc) as the evil Percival gives dozens of steely glares. Less impressive was Thomason (Long Time Dead) whose character was too one-dimensional and practically emotionless.
Derived from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which a 19th-century New England factory worker is struck in the head and awakens in 6th-century Camelot the story for Black Knight comes with practically guaranteed built-in laughs. The film directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate about You) generates a few chuckles especially when dealing with issues of hygiene. Lawrence also delivers some great lines though some are popular rap lyrics like "Punks jump up to get beat down." The problem with the jokes is that they are hardly original and blatantly predictable. Who would not have guessed that Jamal would freak at Middle Ages plumbing and show his medieval counterparts some modern hip-hop dance moves? The 14th-century sets however are surprisingly realistic looking considering this is a comedy rather than a period film.
What do the Golden Globes know anyway? Last week, voters nominated John Williams' underwhelming "Angela's Ashes" at the expense of his more stirring work for "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace." And what of Marc Shaiman's brilliant satire of the musical theater, in the form of "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"? Snubbed.
Well, we're here to set things right.
Which soundtracks broke new ground, broke our hearts and broke down barriers with crossover potential? Read on for our list of the Top 20 soundtracks of 1999:
20. "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "More Music from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "Pokémon: The First Movie" -- No, we weren't very impressed with the contents of these best-selling albums, just the marketing savvy behind them.
19. "Guinevere" -- While most guys would buy this CD for Sarah Polley's cover photo alone, Christophe Beck's music combined with Thelonius Monk is a wonderfully eclectic combination.
18. "Outside Providence" -- Do you like '70s classic rock? Then you'll dig this soundtrack. A fantastic compilation of tunes by the likes of Yes, The Who and The Eagles.
17. "Dogma" -- Howard Shore's apocalyptic musical imagery conveys both the demonic and angelic moods of the hilarious and controversial film.
16. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" -- This HBO movie (starring Halle Berry) proves that the much-maligned tube can offer great music. One of the best big-band soundtracks available.
15. "The General's Daughter" -- Carter Burwell composes a moving score, including some reworkings of old Negro spirituals from the Library of Congress.
14. "Entrapment" -- Composer Chris Young takes you from Scottish castles to Malaysian street markets. A very enjoyable trip.
13. "The Mummy" / "The 13th Warrior" -- While these two movies were quite different, the scores weren't. Veteran (and prolific) tunesmith Jerry Goldsmith composed these scores within months of each other, and you can hear the similarities. Copycat syndrome or not, they're still excellent soundtracks.
12. "Sleepy Hollow" -- Danny Elfman ("Batman") strikes again! While we all knew this score would be brooding, dark and ominous, the pleasant surprise was how original the music was while maintaining Elfman's easily identifiable style.
11. "Toy Story 2" -- If you didn't cry during Sarah McLachlan's "When She Loved Me," you have no heart. The opening score track "Zurg's Planet" is pure science-fiction fun. It's just one of Randy Newman's enjoyable selections.
10. "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" -- This soundtrack is worth it for track 26 alone: "Angelus in Medio Ignis." Go choir, go!
9. "For Love of the Game" -- Basil Poledouris presents a wonderful palette of colors and emotions with this score. You can really feel the game's tense focus when the electric guitar starts to growl! Buy the Varèse Sarabande CD and skip MCA's generic song-filled soundtrack.
8. "The Cider House Rules" -- One of the most romantic, poignant scores of the decade. A perfect companion to a beautiful movie.
7. "Mickey Blue Eyes" -- While the movie may not have set any box-office records, the soundtrack is a real winner. The CD features an eclectic mix of music, from Basil Poledouris' Italian-influenced score to up-tempo oldies by Rosemary Clooney and Louis Prima.
6. "Deep Blue Sea" -- Trevor Rabin's main theme to this summer sleeper reminds us how well he can write. Don't confuse this score CD on Varèse Sarabande to the horrible Warner Bros. rap soundtrack.
5. "Tarzan" -- Phil Collins and Mark Mancina combine their talents to create an invigorating, uplifting score. The vocals are unforgettable, and the percussion will make you want to swing from the trees in your back yard.
4. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" -- This introspective look into the subconscious desires of the youthful psyche provides a gloriously uplifting foundation on which to build our hopes for world peace. Marc Shaiman's exquisite contributions elevate the music to a level not heard since ... umm ... since Beavis & Butthead?
3. "Princess Mononoke" -- Encompassing a wide range of style and melody, Joe Hisaishi's score brings us the wonder and mystery of an animated world filled with demons, gods and magic. Enthralling.
2. "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" -- While John Williams' prequel score doesn't quite equal the timelessness of the original 1977 film or its 1980 follow-up, "The Empire Strikes Back," it succeeds admirably on its own terms.
1. "Anna and the King" -- Graham Ravell's score to this just-released film encompasses all the grandeur, optimism and melody that we come to expect of an ambitious movie such as this. A wonderful achievement.
John Stossel's "Give Me a Break" commentary, broadcast during Friday's ABC news magazine 20/20, criticized unknown movie critics who write glowing reviews of flops in exchange for invitations to junkets. But one of the reviewers he singled out, Bonnie Churchill, is widely known through her syndicated radio feature (carried by numerous CBS news stations) and, according to studio figures, at least two of the films he cited as "flops" or "bombs" performed reasonably well at the box office internationally, including Luc Besson's The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, which earned more than $50 million worldwide (and eight nominations for France's César Awards including Best Picture), and The Beach, which earned more than $100 million worldwide.
We know what you might be thinking. But let us assure you, it has nothing to do with Dr. Seuss.
Yes, as the Hollywood Reporter says, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Penn are both in talks to star in the project "Sam I Am," but the story is actually about a lawyer trying to win a custody case for a mentally disabled man.
And as you have no doubt guessed, Penn will play the man and Pfeiffer will play the legal eagle.
The project is aiming for a mid-January start in Los Angeles.
DOUBLE DOSE: Milla Jovovich is keeping herself busy these days. The actress, who last starred in "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc," has signed on to two indie films, to be shot back to back. The first one is called "Resident Evil," a big-screen version of the popular video game. And the second is titled "You Stupid Man," a romantic comedy about a man who just can't get over his ex, the Reporter tells us.
'SLAUGHTER' HOUSE FOUR: Actress Kelly Lynch will join Ryan Gosling ("Remember the Titans"), David Morse ("The Green Mile") and Clea DuVall ("Girl, Interrupted") in the flick "Slaughter," Daily Variety says. The project will be the feature- writing/directing debut for twin brothers Alex and Andrew Smith, whose short film "The Keening" was screened at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
After the Hughes, the Coens and the Wachowskis, looks like another team of brothers is on the rise.
Hollywood types hope their best work will be remembered when that other awards show announces its nominees Tuesday. But unfortunately, their worst work won't be forgotten either, not if the Golden Raspberry Awards Foundation has anything to say about it.
At least "Wild Wild West" knows it won't walk away honor-less. Last summer's Will Smith stinker, along with the blockbuster "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace", topped the nominations for the 20th Annual Razzie Awards, announced today.
"Wild Wild West" and "Phantom Menace" are up for eight Razzies each. The digs at "West" include nods for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Kevin Kline), Worst Screen Couple (Kline and Smith), Worst Director (Barry Sonnenfeld), Worst Supporting Actor (Kenneth Branagh) and two nods for Worst Supporting Actress (Salma Hayek and Kline as a prostitute).
The flick will duke it out for Worst Picture dishonors with "Phantom Menace," as well as "Big Daddy," "The Haunting" and "The Blair Witch Project.".
The Golden Raspberrys also announced nominations for the worst actor and actress of the entire blinkin' 20th century. The uncoveted races will pit the likes of Kevin Costner against Pauly Shore, and Madonna against Brooke Shields.
Past multiple Razzie winners "Striptease," "Showgirls," "Hudson Hawk," "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn!" and "The Postman" are all in contention for the title worst picture of the 1990s.
Some of today's picks reveal the Razzies' "pet" performers. Consider the Sofia Coppola worst supporting actress nomination for "Episode I." (Blink and you missed her as one of Queen Amidala's handmaidens. And what were her lines, other than, say, "Yes, your Majesty"?) And what about Sylvester Stallone's nomination for Worst Actor of the Century -- noting he deserves the nod for "99.5% of Everything He's Ever Done." (Ouch.)
The most curious dig: Madonna's nomination for Worst Actress of the Century. According to the Razzies, her bad-movie resume includes 1980's "Endless Love." But, was she even in the film? (No comment yet from the Razzies on that apparent typo.)
Oh well: Like Madonna would show up to the ceremonies, which, for the record, are scheduled for March 25 -- 24 hours before the real-deal Academy Awards -- at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
The actual award, a gold-spray-painted plastic raspberry atop a mangled Super 8 film reel, reportedly is worth about $4.27.
Here's the complete nominee list for the 20th Annual Razzie Awards:
"Big Daddy" "The Blair Witch Project" "The Haunting" "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" "Wild Wild West"
Kevin Costner, "For Love of the Game" and "Message in a Bottle" Kevin Kline, "Wild Wild West" Adam Sandler, "Big Daddy" Arnold Schwarzenegger, "End Of Days" Robin Williams, "Bicentennial Man" and "Jakob The Liar"
Heather Donahue, "The Blair Witch Project" Melanie Griffith, "Crazy in Alabama" Milla Jovovich, "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" Sharon Stone, "Gloria" Catherine Zeta-Jones, "Entrapment" and "The Haunting"
Worst Screen Couple
Pierce Brosnan and Denise Richards, "The World Is Not Enough" Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, "Entrapment" Kevin Kline and Will Smith, "Wild Wild West" Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Lili Taylor and Catherine Zeta-Jones, "The Haunting"
Worst Supporting Actress
Sofia Coppola, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Salma Hayek, "Dogma" and "Wild Wild West" Kevin Kline (as a prostitute), "Wild Wild West" Juliette Lewis, "The Other Sister" Denise Richards, "The World Is Not Enough"
Worst Supporting Actor
Jar Jar Binks (voice by Ahmed Best), "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Kenneth Branagh, "Wild Wild West" Gabriel Byrne, "End of Days" and "Stigmata" Jake Lloyd, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Rob Schneider, "Big Daddy"
Jan DeBont, "The Haunting" Dennis Dugan, "Big Daddy" Peter Hyams, "End Of Days" George Lucas, "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Barry Sonnenfeld, "Wild Wild West"
"Big Daddy" "The Haunting" "The Mod Squad" "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" "Wild Wild West"
Worst Actor of the Century
Kevin Costner The Artist Formerly Known As Prince William Shatner Pauly Shore Sylvester Stallone
Worst Actress of the Century
Elizabeth Berkley Bo Derek Madonna Brooke Shields Pia Zadora
Worst Picture of the Decade
"An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn!" "Hudson Hawk" "The Postman" "Showgirls" "Striptease"
Worst New Star of the Decade
Elizabeth Berkley Jar Jar Binks (voiced by Ahmed Best) Sofia Coppola, "The Godfather Part III," "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" Dennis Rodman, "Double Team" and "Simon Sez" Pauly Shore
Documentary special that looks at the 1999 feature film "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" and the real history behind the 15th century peasant girl who led her country to victory against England during the 100 Years War.