Author

Julia Emmanuele
  • Maleficent is Better As a Villain Than a Heroine
    By: Julia Emmanuele Jun 01, 2014
    Walt Disney Co. via Everett Collection Captain Hook might be funnier and Cruella De Vil might be better dressed, but no Disney villain is more terrifyingly iconic than Maleficent. Since she stormed into a party she wasn’t invited to in a wave of green fire, she’s been the inspiration for television shows, cosmetic lines and of course, countless children’s nightmares. Now, like the evil diva she is, Maleficent is finally getting a feature film of her own, starring the equally stunning and powerful Angelina Jolie. The film, which is currently in theaters, will look back at the origins and inner life of the mistress of evil and make her the hero of her own story. And while we’re excited to learn more about what turned Maleficent from a normal, happy fairy into one of the scariest cartoon characters of all time, we’re much more interested in her as a villain than as a heroine. In the process of adding some backstory to the character, Disney took away several of the key characteristics that made Maleficent so amazing and intimidating, and frankly, the dark side just seems to suit her better. Don't believe us? Let's take a look at old-school Maleficent:  She’s Unapologetic Because Maleficent is a Disney film, it needs a happy ending, and so Maleficent learns to love Aurora and believe, once again, in the idea of goodness. That’s all dandy, but the original Maleficent never would have apologized for or given up her evil deeds. Instead of letting things go, she decided to stand up for herself and wouldn’t compromise on her beliefs, and that’s just as valuable a life lesson as forgiveness, and it makes for a much less cheesy ending. She’s Confident Like all coming of age stories, Maleficent follows the main character as she grows into her abilities and learns to have faith in herself, and while it might make for an interesting story, it’s not nearly as entertaining as the original Maleficent, who enters full of confidence and power. By the time we meet her, she’s already realized her potential, and she’ll take every opportunity she gets to remind the people around her just how awesome she is. We should all be as proud of ourselves as Maleficent is. She’s an Advocate of Good Manners Look, nobody wants the evil witch who lives in the creepy tower bringing down the festivities at their daughter’s christening, but if you’re going to invite the whole kingdom, it’s only polite to send an invitation her way as a courtesy.  If you ask us, that’s a much more important lesson for children to learn than the “be careful who you trust” or “don’t betray your friends in order to become king" that Maleficent preaches.  Her Outfits Are Fabulous Sure, fairies and princesses get pretty ball gowns, but Maleficent has a crown made of horns that’s taller and more intimidating than any tiara. That alone would make the dark side worth it, but she’s also got a dramatic cape, designed for quick getaways and punctuating her threats with style and panache. Besides, a cape is perfect for all occasions: casual get-togethers, formal events, murder, putting curses on people, flying away into the night. Ball gowns don’t have that kind of versatility. She Can Transform Into a Dragon By far the coolest aspect of Maleficent’s character in Sleeping Beauty is her ability to turn into a dragon at will. Unfortunately, that awesome trait doesn’t belong to her in Maleficent, as instead of becoming a dragon and fighting Prince Phillip, she transforms her faithful crow/man pal instead and sends him off to do her bidding. It’s great to get your own movie, but is it really worth giving up your ability to become a dragon? Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • 'Left Behind' Is Nicolas Cage's Weirdest Movie Yet
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 30, 2014
      When it comes to bizarre and unpredictable career choices, nobody has the market cornered quite like Nicolas Cage. But his latest project might just be his weirdest yet - and yes, we're including combustible ghost-skeletons, father-daughter vigilante duos and angry drivers on that list. In the upcoming Left Behind, Cage plays Rayford Steele, a pilot who must find answers after half of the passengers on his plane disappear in the Rapture. The film, which also stars One Tree Hill's Chad Michael Murray and American Idol's Jordin Sparks, is based on a series of popular Christian apocalypse novels, which were previously made into a direct-to-DVD movie starring Kirk Cameron. It makes perfect sense that the producers of Left Behind would want Cage to star in their film - partly because it will attract a wider audience, but mostly because he stares down the apocalypse on a regular basis - but that's about the only thing that makes sense in the first trailer for the film. We've rounded up all of the weirdest, most baffling moments in the trailer in order to attempt to make sense of not only Left Behind, but also the mysterious mind of Cage himself. Until those secrets are revealed, we can only assume that production met his requirements of serving hot lunch daily. Someone Let Nicolas Cage Fly a Plane (0:06) Would you be willing to put your life and vacation plans in his hands? We didn't think so.   A Large Sign Instructs Viewers to 'Pray' (0:13) Because making through this movie in one piece will only be possible through an act of God. The Plane Is Tossed Around in a Storm (0:32) Surely the storm would realize who's piloting that plane and change course before Cage unleashes his fury upon it. If anyone could figure out how to physically beat back lightning, it's the guy who made Season of the Witch. Chad Michael Murray Is Filming the Empty Seats (0:36) Yes, we're curious as to why those people suddenly vanished, but we're more confused as to why he thinks he'll be able to find answers more effectively than a man who once stole the Declaration of Independence.  Nicolas Cage's Face Doesn't Move... (0:38)Yet he still manages to convey confusion, distress and authority in that oddly blank stare. Samuel Goldwyn Films Someone's Screaming About God, and It's Not Nicolas Cage (0:46) Sorry, pretty blonde girl, but Nicolas Cage is the only person who can scream to the heavens and actually receive a reply. He's the only person God truly fears.  Nicolas Cage's Face Still Isn't Moving (0:52) We can only assume that he's making so many films at the same time that he's started sending wax figures of himself to set in order to fill in for him on reaction shots and close-ups. Luckily, he chose an appropriately menacing one for this film. Nicolas Cage Whispers About Important Life Philosophies (0:53 - 0:56) Does his advice make any sense? Not really. Should we all take his words to heart anyway, and change the way we choose to live our lives? Definitely.  Someone's Running From an Explosion, and It's Not Nicolas Cage (0:58)If a bomb goes off, but he's is otherwise occupied (in this case, crying into a cell phone he shouldn't be using on a plane), does it really explode? This Movie Is Being Released in Theaters (1:00) We'd blame all the people who went to see God's Not Dead and Heaven Is For Real, but if those movies weren't a success, we'd all be robbed of the experience of watching Nicolas Cage face off against God in an action movie. It is truly a showdown for the ages.  Left Behind opens in theaters on October 3.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • Why Daniel Radcliffe Is the Rom-Com Hero We've Been Waiting For
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 29, 2014
      Issues about the blurry line between love and friendship aren’t the only important questions that the trailer for the "friend zone" rom-com What If brings to the forefront. More relevant than the question of whether or not you should tell your friend that you love them, more vital than who decided to have Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver stand next to each other, and more intriguing than the origin of everyone’s weird names is the question: Could Daniel Radcliffe be the rom com leading man we’ve been waiting for all along? Let’s look at the evidence: He’s Charming Charisma is a vital part of the rom-com hero formula – after all, he’s not just winning over his leading lady, but the entire audience as well. It’s a good thing, then, that Radcliffe has charm in spades, no doubt thanks to spending his formative years in the public eye. Whether he’s rambling a mile a minute about cricket or giving his fantasy football team a terribly funny name (Barkevious Mingo’s Mum) or campaigning for him and Dane DeHaan to win an award for Best Kiss, it’s hard not to fall under Radcliffe’s spell. He’s Awkward Every leading man needs some kind of flaw to humanize them and makes them more approachable, and if the success of Jude Law and Hugh Grant’s movies prove anything, it’s that nobody does the “bumbling charmer” better than an Englishman. Radcliffe’s natural manic energy is the perfect basis for plenty of uncomfortable misunderstandings, physical comedy (like, say, someone getting knocked out of a window) and long-winded, heartfelt apologies that make everyone in the theater swoon. He Seems Like a Regular Guy Though the most common rom-com hero has a strong jawline and a six pack, the most enduring ones seem like real people. Think Seth Rogen in Knocked Up or Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate or the most iconic of all, Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally. Despite being famous since he was a little kid, Radcliffe has that same Everyman appeal that makes those other guys so charming: good-looking but not intimidatingly so, confident but not cocky, intelligent but not insufferable. In short, Radcliffe seems like a guy you could actually be friends with, and that makes him more appealing. CBS Films He’s a Good Dancer Even if your rom-com doesn’t feature a scene where the hero sweeps his lady off her feet by being surprisingly light on his feet, it’s a necessary part of the whole “dream guy” package that Hollywood has been selling for years. And after starring in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Radcliffe’s got all the moves he needs to be the guy of your dreams, even if you can hear him counting out the steps under his breath. He’s Comfortable With Goofy Sidekicks Just as the rom-com heroine has a sassy, less inhibited best friend (almost always played by Judy Greer), the hero has a sidekick of his own. As Harry Potter, Radcliffe spent 10 years with a best friend by his side at all times, which means he has plenty of experience talking about his relationship over a few beers or a game of cricket. Based on the trailer, it seems that Radcliffe’s put that to good use, and his chemistry with Driver gives the trailer some much needed goofiness. That height difference alone... He’s Harry Potter It doesn’t matter whether you actually preferred Ron or Draco or even Cedric Diggory, every girl wants to date the Boy Who Lived. Well, every girl except Cho Chang, but to be fair, there were other factors at play there. Follow @hollywood_com Follow @julesemm
  • Hulu Picking Up 'Community' Would Be a Bad Thing
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 29, 2014
    NBC Universal Media After years of campaigning, tweeting, and generally taking over the Internet with their rally cries, Community fans might finally be getting that highly-anticipated, long-prophesied sixth season. According to Deadline, Hulu has begun talks with Sony, who produces the cult hit, about acquiring more original episodes of the show after it was canceled by NBC earlier this month. The talks are still in their very early stages, and a deal is nowhere close to guaranteed, but that hasn't prevented Community fans from whipping themselves into a frenzy over the possibility. Creator Dan Harmon has also promised to return if the show does, stating, “I’m not going to be the guy that re-cancels cancelled Community.” The dedication of Community's fans has helped keep the show on the air for most of its run, so it's no surprise that they're determined to spend one more year at Greendale, no matter where the show moves. But while there are still plenty of reasons to give the show another shot, and lots of questions left to wrap up — Will Jeff end up with Britta or Annie? Are Rachel and Abed still together? Did Troy and Levar Burton manage to escape from those pirates? — resurrecting Community might not be for the best in the long run. Perhaps it's finally time for fans and characters alike to graduate and move forward with their lives.  The fifth season had a lot of obstacles to overcome, from the firing, departure and re-hiring of Harmon to several key cast members leaving to finding a way to keep the premise intact after the characters graduated at the end of Season 4. Both the fans and writers viewed it as a re-building season, designed to get Community back to feeling like its old self again. And while there were many aspects of that reset that were successful, the show never quite managed to flow the way it used to, and there were plenty of problems that seemed to suggest that it might be time for Community to begin wrapping up its stories.  The departure of Donald Glover and Chevy Chase has had a major impact on the study group's dynamic, as well as on the show as a whole. Without Pierce to be the unpredictable, over-the-top antagonist, the show had to invent more and more ridiculous ways to pit the characters against each other and the people around them to generate conflict. Without Troy, there was nobody left to balance Abed, and the frequency and absurdity of the jokes in every episode rapidly declined. While the addition of John Oliver's Professor Duncan and Jonathan Banks' Professor Hickey went a long way towards filling the holes left by their absences, both actors have starring roles on high-profile shows that will no doubt conflict with their ability to appear on Community next season, and their loss will only make the dramatic shift in dynamic and tone more obvious and more difficult to overcome.  Pierce and Troy's absence wasn't the only major problem the fifth season had. Many of the plots seemed to be repeating themselves — Greendale's in danger, it's saved by the study group, it's in danger again; Chang is evil, now he's reformed, no wait, now he's evil again; Jeff likes Britta, then he likes Annie, then he likes a random guest star, now he's back to Annie, now he's going to stay single — and the gimmicks that were once creative and interesting now seemed uninspired. Community mostly seemed to be spinning its wheels in its fifth season, and the writers seemed hesitant to commit to taking the plots in different, unexpected directions the way they used to. Even Harmon's return wasn't enough to get Community back to its old self. Though his work on the fifth season managed to right a lot of the wrongs of the season four "gas leak," it still didn't feel like the show had regained whatever spark it has lost over time. If anything, the latest season of Community seemed to suggest that the show has finally run out of steam.  Every show eventually hits a point when it becomes time to wrap things up, and it's impossible to sustain the concept or storylines or the writers just run out of new, wacky situations for the characters to wind up in. Community is a more high-concept, inventive show than most other sitcoms, and eventually, that began to weigh things down. There's a chance that a sixth season could give Community the kick it needs to wake up, but it seems more likely that it will just make the show's fatigue more obvious. The last two seasons have struggled to recapture the show's essence and what made it so special, but if Harmon couldn't bring it back, a sixth season probably won't manage the trick either. Is it really worth getting a sixth season of Community if it's no longer truly Community?  Over the course of the show's run, we've watched our favorite characters grow, change and mature. They've had epic paintball battles, survived campus-wide apocalypses, and supported Cougar Town through a cancelation scare, move to mid-season and the transition to a new network. But the end goal has always been graduation, accomplishing their goals and moving on to the real world. Eventually things have to come to an end, and maybe it's time for Community to do just that. Five seasons is an impressive run, especially for a show as weird and self-referential as this one. So maybe instead of hitting an arbitrary goal that we've assigned an incredible amount of importance to we should celebrate the time we spent with the study group, and move on along with them.  Whether Hulu decides to pick up the show or not, at least Community got the run that The Cape never did. If that's not justice, we don't know what is.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • How Charlie Cox Can Right the Wrongs of Ben Affleck's 'Daredevil'
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 28, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection With X-Men: Days of Future Past currently at the top of the box office and DC steadily teasing more and more about their upcoming superhero showdown, Marvel decided to keep itself in the news by throwing a new name into the ring: Charlie Cox. The Boardwalk Empire star is set to play Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil in the upcoming Netflix miniseries. Daredevil is the first of four heroes who will be receiving the small-screen treatment, with Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist set to follow. Fans of the character have high expectations for the series, as the last time the Scarlet Swashbuckler appeared on-screen, he was played by Ben Affleck in the disastrous 2003 movie.  No matter what Cox does with the character, he will inevitably be compared to Affleck, whose performance has become something of a punchline amongst comic book fans. While there are a lot of things wrong with the Daredevil movie — terrible lighting, awkward editing, a script full of plot holes, a soundtrack full of Evanescence — nothing seems to inspire the kind of ire that Affleck's take on Matt Murdock has. A decade later, both Affleck and the film have their defenders, but whether you believe that Daredevil is an underrated classic or best forgotten completely, Cox has some big shows to fill, and a lot of wrongs to make right. Wrongs like:  Playing a Blind Character AppropriatelyMatt Murdock's blindness is an integral part of the character, and while the Daredevil movie did give it the import that it deserves, all of the torment, pain and difficulty that Matt dealt with as part of his life-changing injury were forgotten the second that Affleck took off his glasses, thanks to Affleck's blank, cross-eyed stare. Maybe it was the contacts, maybe it was the way he awkwardly held eye contact with whomever he was sharing the scene with, but either way, it was simultaneously hilarious and uncomfortable. We've got to believe Cox will do a better job, if only because it's impossible to do worse than Affleck.  Being Too Brooding Like most superheroes, Daredevil has a lot to be upset about: he was blinded as a child, his father was murdered, his girlfriend might be trying to kill him, and there's some weird Catholic guilt stuff he's dealing with. But unlike Batman, Daredevil is able to see the brighter side of things, and balances out his brooding side with some wise-cracks and charm. Affleck played up the dark, serious moments to the detriment of his charisma, resulting in a boring, overly-somber superhero. Cox, however, knows how to play up the charm, winning over both Claire Danes and Robert De Niro in Stardust — and that takes a lot of personality.  Not Brooding Enough Yes, you read that correctly. Affleck's turn as Daredevil somehow managed to be too cocky and too serious in equal measure, instead of finding the right balance of the two. When he wasn't skulking about sadly, Affleck was swanning about with an obnoxious smirk on his face, trading terribly-written quips with the supporting cast. Cox's biggest challenge will be finding a way to get across the character's joking nature as well as giving the right amount of gravitas to his angstier moments, or he, like Affleck, will somehow manage to upset both sides of the fandom.  Lacking Inner TurmoilOne of the biggest things that Matt struggles with is the idea of doing the right thing. He's an earnest, well-meaning guy, who only took up his vigilante hobbies in order to ensure that good people got the justice they deserve. While the script for Daredevil referenced that inner struggle, it was never really evident in Affleck's performance that it was something the character was really wrestling with. Cox has played his fair share of complicated characters, so he should be better equipped to hint at some of the conflicted feelings that Matt has about what he's doing. Or, you know, any feelings at all.  That Awkward Murdering-People Thing Like Superman before him, Daredevil has issues with brutally killing people just because they're bad guys. It has to do with all that Catholic guilt we mentioned earlier. However, in the first few minutes of the film, Affleck's throwing people in the path of a moving train, while Daredevil believes that violence is a last resort. While Cox has proven himself to be menacing and murderous, he's going to need to tone that down a bit in order to really bring Matt Murdock to life. Less strangling, more courtroom jargon.  Pulling Off Ridiculous Costumes With the exception of George Clooney's Batman, no hero has a more universally reviled costume than Affleck's Daredevil. Both too baggy and too tight and made of obnoxiously shiny read leather, it truly is the kind of costume only a blind person would design, and Affleck never looked comfortable in it. If you're forced to wear a ridiculous costume, you might as well commit to it, like Cox did with all of the ruffs and feathered hair he had to sport in Stardust. Embrace the absurdity, and it will embrace you right back.  And if all else fails, both Cox and Daredevil fans can take comfort in the fact that the fight scenes will be better choreographed than this: Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • Can Johnny Depp Find the Right Balance to Pull Off a Houdini Biopic?
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 28, 2014
    Buena Vista Pictures via Everett Collection Now that he's played gangsters, pirates and mad hatters, Johnny Depp is set to make some real magic. The Oscar-nominated actor is reportedly in talks to play Harry Houdini in a biopic about the legendary magician, according to Variety. Based on the book The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero, the film will chronicle Houdini's life and career, from his poor childhood, his international fame and the time he spent working as a spy, culminating in his mysterious death on Halloween, 1926. Dean Parisot, who has previously directed Galaxy Quest and Red 2 is on board to direct, which bodes well for the film's intense stunt sequences, and will feature a script from The Maze Runner's Noah Oppenheim. Depp has long been Hollywood's go-to actor whenever a film requires someone to play an oddball that still appeals to a mainstream audience, so it's not particularly surprising that he's being considered for the role. As an escape artist, illusionist, actor and aviator, Houdini cultivated a reputation for mystery and confusion over the course of his career, and even his death was shrouded in suspicion. Since the height of his fame in the early 20th century, his name has become synonymous with everything weird, perplexing and difficult to explain. Therefore, a fitting biopic would need to incorporate that reputation with the right amount of campiness to properly evoke the vaudeville spirit of his magic shows, and there are few actors in Hollywood who better exemplify campy darkness than Depp.  All of his most famous characters feature the kind of strange, off quality that is necessary to play Houdini, and both his on and off-screen personas lend themselves to portraying someone who is famous for the mystery that surrounds them. And despite being taller than the famously-short Houdini was, Depp looks the part, sharing the same sharp cheekbones, bright blue eyes and charming smile that Houdini was described as having. Depp often uses his charm and wit to make kooky characters seem friendly and entertaining, and Houdini often used his charisma in a similar way, drawing in massive audiences to witness his death-defying stunts. Plus, if there's anyone in Hollywood who looks like an off-duty illusionist, it's the guy who played Edward Scissorhands.  Though Depp's campiness and oddball nature is a major strength of his, many of his recent films have abandoned any kind of subtlety in favor of fully embracing all of the weirdness and absurdity they could possibly pack into one film. While that approach may work for something like Alice in Wonderland, which is set in a fantasy world, it doesn't necessarily bode well for a biopic that is grounded in reality. Houdini was a weird character, but his story is still rooted in the very real dangers that his profession and hobbies provided. A little bit of camp would serve the story well, but too much will overwhelm it and reduce it to simply a vehicle for another wacky performance of Depp's.  Biopics aren't Depp's forte as an actor, as it's often difficult to find real-life person whose story requires the kind of kookiness that Depp naturally exudes. His most recent, Public Enemies, was too serious to allow Depp to properly throw himself into the role, resulting in a performance that felt stilted and wooden. Watching the film, it was difficult to separate Depp from the character of John Dillinger, which makes it difficult for audiences to really connect with the story. While Depp should have better luck losing himself in a character like Houdini, it's still going to be a challenge for him to let go of his off-screen persona and allow moviegoers to experience Houdini, rather than Depp-as-Houdini.  If the script for the film veers too serious, it runs the risk of confining Depp, resulting in an awkward, wooden performance. However, if it edges too far into the absurd, the character or Houdini will probably be overshadowed by all of the funny tics and strange character choices that Depp will make. His recent films aren't known for their moderation, so it would require a strong directorial vision to keep Depp from chewing the scenery to the detriment of the story as a whole. The box office returns of his recent films seem to suggest that fans are looking for something different from Depp, as both the over-the-top weirdness of Lone Ranger and his straight-computer turn in Transcendence failed to win them over. Houdini could be the median he needs to impress moviegoers again, but if the film leans too far into the surreal or the straightforward, Depp will just be doing the same old thing.  Hopefully Depp and the team behind the Houdini biopic will be able to find the right balance between insanity and history in order to make a film that's both critically and financially successful. After all, it's difficult to find a guy who can pull off the suit-and-shackles look quite like Depp can.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • 'Inside Out' and the Celebrity Spectrum of Human Emotion
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 27, 2014
    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Pixar The next Pixar movie might not be released in theaters for another year, but it sounds like it's going to be a good one. The studio released the plot summary for its upcoming feature, Inside Out, which will journey into their most dangerous location yet: the human mind. According to Pixar's website, Inside Out centers on 11-year-old Riley, who "is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions — Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.” From the looks of it, Pixar has managed to perfectly match each emotion to an actor who truly exemplifies it. There's nobody in showbusiness angrier than Black, nobody more up-beat and bubbly than Poehler, and definitely nobody better at turning disgust into hilarity than Kaling. But they're not the only celebrities who are the human embodiment of a particular emotion; Hollywood is full of them. We've rounded up a bunch of our favorites, in case Pixar is looking to expand the cast for the inevitable sequel.  Aziz Ansari – ExcitementTry and think of a time that Aziz Ansari wasn't completely enthused about something. You can't, can you?  Michael Cera – AnxietyPart of the reason why Michael Cera is so good at playing awkward, nervous characters is that he's never once seemed relaxed in any situation he's ever been in.  Aubrey Plaza – BoredomWhether she's playing April Ludgate or just being herself, one thing's always certain: Aubrey Plaza could not be less interested in anything going on around her.  Kanye West – ConfidenceNobody in the world loves Kanye West more than Kanye himself. We should all aspire to believe in ourselves that much.  Charlie Day – ManiaNeed someone to shriek about spaceships or eat some cat food? Charlie Day's your guy, from his mile-a-minute speech patterns to the wild look in his eyes to his inherent unpredictability. Morgan Freeman – CalmSpa days, crashing waves, smooth jazz... all of these things are somehow less serene than Morgan Freeman. He's a human lullaby.  Larry David – ExasperationIf anyone can find a reason to be annoyed in any given situation, it's Larry David. He's made a living educating audiences unto many grievances that would never have otherwise occured to us.  Jimmy Fallon – PassionSome people give 100 percent to their projects. Jimmy Fallon gives 100 percent to other people's projects, and still has enough enthusiasm left over to do his own show.  Taylor Swift – LoveYou might think you've been in love, but Taylor Swift has four albums worth of songs that would beg to differ. She's turned puppy love into an art form.  Ken Watanabe – AweAnyone can stand by and watch Godzilla trample a city, but it takes true talent to steal the film out from under him with a single, wide-eyed look. Ken Watanabe has that kind of talent.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //  
  • This Week in Cannes Reviews: Palme d'Or Winner 'Winter Sleep,' 'The Clouds of Sils Maria' and More
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 27, 2014
    Memento Films The films have all premiered, the awards have been handed out, and the yachts are headed back home: the Cannes Film Festival has officially come to an end, which means even those of us lucky enough to spend two weeks on the French Riviera must now head for less-idyllic shores. But just because the festival has wrapped up, that doesn't mean there aren't a few films left to catch up on, and so we've rounded up the last of Cannes' biggest and buzziest films, including the winner of the Palme d'Or, a gang movie told entirely in Ukranian sign language and Kristen Stewart's best-reviewed film role yet.  Winter Sleep This year's Palme d'Or winner was also the longest film in competition, with a runtime of just over three hours. However, its epic length didn't deter judges from heaping praise on the film, which follows retired actor and hotel owner Mr. Aydin (Haluk Biginer) as he deals with the dissolution of his marriage to Nihal (Melisa Sozen). As the slow winter season arrives, the relationship between Aydin and Nihal becomes more and more fractured as she attempts to get him to face up to the issues that have made so many people turn against him. Winter Sleep is director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's fourth win at Cannes — he has won the second place award twice, in 2002 and 2011, and took home a directing award in 2008. "Given that the title virtually encourages viewers to nap during the proceedings, Winter Sleep is no chore to sit through. Most of its characters are complex and compelling, and the actors’ faces, craggy or lustrous, reward fascinated study. The movie indulges one frustrating narrative trope in too many Cannes contenders: the unexplained disappearance of a major figure more than halfway through the story [...]. But as austere soap opera or probing character study, Winter Sleep validates the viewer’s attention, if not its nearly 200-min. running time — make that ambling time." - Richard Corliss, TIME "That said, the performances are strong (bar a scene between Aydin and Nihal in which Bilginer suddenly plays Aydin as so one-note patronizing and condescending toward his young wife that we just wanted to punch him) and Ceylan’s and DP Gokhan Tiryaki's way with composition and cinematography is in evidence even in the interior scenes (which are most of them), lighting faces warmly and designing shots richly, which needs to happen when almost everything takes place in shot-reverse-shot, he-says-then-she-says format. But the unpleasantness of being constantly trapped in the middle of conversations of increasing resentment and bitterness starts to take its toll less than halfway through this marathon-length film as we start to realize that just as the characters all seem defined by the overweening desire to have the last word in every discussion [...], it’s a foible of Ceylan’s too." - Jessica Kiang, The Playlist Mommy Helmed by 25-year-old Xavier Dolan, Mommy is set in the distant future, where parents are forced to either care for their unstable children or send them to detention centers. Diane (Anne Dorval), is a single mother who is struggling to raise her violent son, Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) on her own. Diane eventually begins to receive help from their mysterious new neighbor, Kyla (Suzanne Clement), and together, the three of them form their own dysfunctional family. Dolan was awarded the jury prize at the festival, an award that he (the youngest director in competition) shared with Jean-Luc Godard (the oldest), for his film Goodbye to Language 3D. "Dorval gives a force-of-nature performance as Diane “Die” Despres, a glamorously trashy middle-aged widow whose teenage son Steve suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, bouncing off the walls as he struggles to contain his explosively violent temper. Pilon is great casting for Steve, charismatic and manipulative, volatile but vulnerable. [...] Diane and Steve are both flawed characters, neither victims nor villains. Their conversations are combative and prickly, full of salty slang and occasional physical contact, with teasing hints of incestuous intimacy that the script never fully explores. Unlike Dolan's typical protagonists, these are not bourgeois bohemian hipsters but damaged blue-collar outsiders, struggling yet ever hopeful, bursting with a vitality and vulgarity that give the film its raw humor." - Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter "It's a needlessly complicated introduction that makes the film to come sound somewhat like science fiction; Die and Steve's household, however, is believably exceptional enough to render the mitigating circumstances unnecessary. Their sparring is engrossingly abrasive, but the film risks wearing itself (not to mention its audience) out within a mere quarter-hour. Dorval and Pilon, both remarkable, are cranked up to 11 from the get-go, while Dolan's chosen aspect ratio forces cinematographer Andre Turpin into a claustrophobically repetitive routine of alternating, invasive close-ups. It's bravura filmmaking, all right, but the center cannot hold." - Guy Lodge, HitFix IFC Films The Clouds of Sils MariaOliver Assayas' bilingual Hollywood drama stars Juliette Binoche as Maria Enders, an actress entering the twilight of her career, who has signed on to star in a revival of the play that made her famous about an ambitious young girl who drives an older woman to suicide. As she spends more and more time with the Hollywood starlet (Chloe Grace Moretz) taking over her old role, Maria's life begins to crumble, and she comes to rely on her loyal assistant and only friend Valentine (Kristen Stewart). The role forces Maria to confront the person she is and used to be and reconcile with her past and the impending pressures of time. "Maria and Val love each other and live together, but their friendship has never been on an equal footing. Passing a cigarette back and forth, they proceed to rehearse the old play to the point where it highlights and defines the running tensions between them. Val, we come to realise, is the real Sigrid in this movie. Assayas is a supple, playful and confident director whose eclectic body of work has embraced mercurial satire (Irma Vep), period drama (Sentimental Destinies) and terrorist thrills (Carlos). [...] It's a study of the artistic elite from a fully paid-up member, a story that proves a little too tolerant of the preening peacocks at the summit and too glibly dismissive of the bottom-feeders (hacks, paps and internet trolls) down below." - Xan Brooks, The Guardian "Assayas’ screenplay deftly celebrates the act of creation and neatly demonstrates that works of art, like people, can be viewed from different angles, their true meaning unknowable. The French filmmaker also neatly dovetails the relationship of Sigrid and Helena with that of Maria and Valentine: the pair are close, at times bordering on getting too close, and their power dynamic squirms and coils as the film develops - a Maloja Snake of its own." - Matt Risley, Total Film Leviathan A modern re-telling of the Book of Job, Leviathan tackles the corruption of Vladimir Putin's government, and deals with "some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia." The film centers on a family who is currently locked in a bitter dispute with its corrupt mayor over the waterfront property on which its house is built. But when the patriarch of the family calls in an old friend — who is now a big-shot lawyer — to help him, he may end up making things even more difficult for himself. Written and directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Leviathan received rave reviews and took home the festival's prize for Best Screenplay. "In “Leviathan,” which director Andrey Zvyagintsev has described as a loose retelling of the Book of Job, an ordinary man must wrestle with his faith not in God but in the Russian state — an epic struggle against a monster with many faces possessed of the capacity to bend the law to suit its own appetites. Resistance is futile, as they say, and yet this stunning satire’s embattled patriarch valiantly perseveres for the sake of his family, even as it crumbles around him. Debuting in competition at Cannes, this engrossing, arthouse-bound opus spans a meaty 142 minutes and unfolds with the heft of a 1,000-page novel." - Peter Debruge, Variety "The film is really about contemporary Russia, the corruption of the current regime, exemplified by Vadim, who has a portrait of Putin on his wall [...] and of the increasingly insidious influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the nation's leaders. Given Putin's feelings on dissent, and the partial-funding of the movie by a state body, it's a brave move, and an incredibly vital one, giving the movie a savage, fiery quality to it that continues to sear long after it's finished. And yet, it's not just political point-scoring either. There's a rich lyricism and poetry to the picture that promises more and more to unpack with every viewing." - Oliver Lyttelton, IndieWire The Tribe Featuring a cast of deaf-mute actors, The Tribe is a teen-gang film told entirely in Ukranian sign language. The film doesn't feature any subtitles or translations, relying entirely on sign language and imagery in order to tell the story of a group of teenagers at a boarding school for the deaf who are average students by day and gangsters and prostitutes by night. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy's ambitious project took home the top Critic's Prize awarded at the festival, as well as the France 4 Visionary Award. "There have been countless films over the years about teenage gangs, their rites, rituals and violent codes of ethics, but Ukrainian-made and set The Tribe must surely be the first one featuring a cast entirely composed of deaf sign-language users. [...] However, the use of sign language, deafness and silence itself adds several heady new ingredients to the base material, alchemically creating something rich, strange and very original. Add in Valentyn Vasyanovych's silky smooth steadicam cinematography, sexually explicit imagery, strong critical support, and winning the top prize and two more besides in Cannes' Critics' Week sidebar (including one to assist distribution in France), and you've got a reasonably exportable item for the specialist market that doesn't even need subtitles." - Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • This Week In Cannes Reviews: 'Two Days, One Night,' 'Goodbye to Language 3D' and More
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 23, 2014
    Cinéart It's the beginning of the summer, which means it's time for Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars to make their way to the French Riviera for the Cannes Film Festival, while the rest of us look on with jealousy. But just because you didn't snag a ticket to the most glamorous film event of the year, that doesn't mean you can't keep up with all of the big films premiering over the next two weeks. To help you stay on top of things, we're running down the biggest films that premiered in competition at the festival, including Michel Hazanavicius' gritty follow up to The Artist, a strange, metaphorical film from Jean-Luc Godard, and a possible Palme D'Or winner.  Two Days, One Night The latest film from Cannes fixtures Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Two Days, One Night stars Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as a woman who has one weekend to convince her co-workers to give up their annual bonuses so that she can keep her job. Assisted by her husband, played by Fabrizio Rongione, she must find someone to help her convince her boss to reconsider, and to give her another chance despite the time she had to take off for depression. The film premiered to positive reviews, and it's considered one of the frontrunners for the Palme D'Or.  "Cotillard's best work since La Vie En Rose unquestionably ranks as her most credible turn, as the actress demonstrates a fragility that never veers into the realm of overstatement. Despite its basic trajectory, her actions are littered with surprising moments, and each new co-worker she encounters adds another layer of texture to this delicate portrait of personal and professional priorities clashing with awkward results." - Eric Kohn, Variety "The Dardennes have made a brilliant social-realist drama with a real narrative tension which is something of a novelty in their work. [...] As for this solar-panel company, it appears to have a union in that a vote has been forced which the management will abide by, but it is a union which manages and regulates the decisions of those above them, and they are certainly not united enough to reject out of hand the insidious Bonus/Sandra choice. Yet movingly, solidarity is what the film is about; solidarity is what Sandra is trying to achieve as her emotional state comes to pieces, through a majority vote in a democratic election." - Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian  The SearchAfter winning a Best Picture Oscar for The Artist, director Michel Hazanavicius went in a different direction for his follow-up, The Search. Set during the Second Chechnyan War, an NGO worker (played by Berenice Bejo) cares for an orphan boy, Hadji, who refuses to speak or open up to her in any way. Hazanavicius describes his film, which is based on the 1948 movie with Montgomery Clift, as a "picture of dignity" and "a true canvas of the suffering of humanity.” "It’s ambitious of Hazanavicius to cram so many of war’s horrors into one film, but it makes that film a slow-moving, bloated one. And once you’ve got used to the way he cuts between three different strands, it becomes apparent that not much is actually happening in any of them. There are shockingly credible depictions of firefights and bombings, and there are more shots of corpses than you’d see in a typical zombie movie. [...] For a war movie, The Search is curiously short of conflict." - Nicholas Barber, BBC Culture  "Coincidentally quite timely in the wake of recent Russian moves on its neighbors, the writer-director’s first full-on drama attempts to present a mosaic portrait of the suffering in a region little-known or understood by the world, hence the perceived lack of concern. The result is vivid when focusing on those directly involved in the war but laborious when devoted to the fretful hand-wringing of do-gooder outsider characters, which is a lot of the time." - Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter Joss Barratt/Sixteen Films Jimmy's Hall Irish director Ken Loach's latest film tells the story of activist Jimmy Gralton, who was deported from the country during the Red Scare of the 1930s. Gralton was the founder of the Pearse-Connolly community hall, where people from the town gathered to learn about art, music, and literature. However, his actions upset the Catholic priests and town leaders, who opposed to his teachings and practices.  "Ken Loach has taken a despicable episode of modern Irish history — the 1933 deportation without trial of one of its own citizens, James Gralton — and made a surprisingly lovely, heartfelt film from it with Jimmy’s Hall. A thematic sequel of sorts to his Cannes-winning The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Loach’s 24th fiction feature finds the activist-minded director trafficking in familiar themes of individual liberties, institutional oppression and the power of collective organizing, here infused with a gentle romanticism that buoys the film without cheapening the gravity of its subject." - Scott Foundas, Variety  "Loach has made a sumptuous period piece, beautifully photographed by Robbie Ryan, using many local people in the crowd scenes, wearing wonderful tweeds, slipovers and wrap dresses, riding on antique bikes and in donkey-drawn carts through the green hills and boggy valleys, dancing merrily. It all looks great, a dream of Ireland before the blissful bungalows. The characterful faces are a treat too, above all that of Jimmy’s aged mum (Aileen Henry, new to acting)." - David Sexton, London Evening Standard Goodbye To Language 3D Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard's newest project takes a relatively straightforward story - a couple reflect on their relationship, life and the world around them - and through the use of voice-over, imagery and non-linear storylines, turns it into a confusing, entrancing "film essay." Starring Heloise Godet and Kamel Abdeli, the film has been described as everything from "hilarious" to "frustrating."  "Goodbye to Language" is in 3D, and a very challenging 3D at that. The film is structured in numbered sections that repeat themselves with different or overlapping content, and there are brain-scrambling superimpositions, texts, clips from old films, solarized images, and footage shot with low-res cameras. There’s even a costume-drama sequence depicting Mary Shelley and Lord Byron. The sense of experimentation is extravagant, and the 3D effect achieves such notable depth of field that this little movie puts mainstream mega-bucks productions like "The Great Gatsby" to shame." - Barbara Scharres, Roger Ebert.com  "To some degree, the overwhelming montage taps into the over-saturation of today's media climate, a point that Godard makes explicit several times: the recurring shot of a flat-screen television broadcasting static speaks for itself, as does a more comical bit in which two strangers continually tap away on their iPhones and exchange them, repeating the action. [...]  It doesn't take a lot of analysis to determine Godard's intentions: He portrays the information age as the dying breath of consciousness before intellectual thought becomes homogenized by digital advancements." - Eric Kohn, IndieWire  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //
  • Kitty Pryde Deserves Better
    By: Julia Emmanuele May 23, 2014
    20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection If you were to name the most important X-Men characters, there’s no doubt that Professor X, Magneto, and Wolverine would top everyone’s list. They’re the heroes of the series, representing the different sides of the mutants vs. humans debate, and the key figures around which most of the stories revolve. However, one name that might not appear on very many lists, despite being arguably just as important as those characters is Kitty Pryde. That’s because despite being a vital member of the X-Men, Kitty’s time on the silver screen has been negligible at best. Kitty was created in the early 1970s after John Byrne and Chris Claremont were told to add some actual students into their “School for Mutants.” In the 40 years since she first appeared in the comics, she’s grown from a precocious, intelligent kid sister figure to a full-fledged member of the team and a leader in her own right. At age 14, she was made the youngest member of the team; she’s been a central character and a key figure in some of the most famous stories in the X-Men mythology and she was, in fact, the driving force and the main character behind one the most iconic arcs in the comic’s run, Days of Future Past. And yet, when it comes to the films, Kitty has spent much of the time being shunted to the side in favor of expanding other characters’ storylines. She only barely appeared in X-Men and X2, getting two brief cameos and being mentioned in passing by Professor X. Of course, when you’re attempting to condense decades of comic books and characters into a two-hour film, concessions need to be made, and so Kitty was sacrificed for some of the older, more iconic characters. So it was a big deal when X-Men: The Last Stand was released, as it promised to give Kitty the starring role she had long deserved. Unfortunately, the bulk of her screen time was focused on the love triangle between her, Iceman, and Rogue, effectively reducing her character to a cute girl who came between one of the franchise’s most important couples. Instead of showcasing any of the interesting aspects of her character – her intelligence, her confidence, her abilities – or even featuring some of her journey from student to hero, Kitty was instead used as a plot device designed to come between the young lovebirds. Kitty did get one moment of glory in The Last Stand, when she saved Jimmy/Leech from the Juggernaut and helped him escape from Alcatraz and the government officials who were using him to cure mutants. However, her heroism was overshadowed by the conflict between Professor X and Magneto, and Wolverine’s angst about having to kill Phoenix even though he loved her. Kitty’s actions were the catalyst for the resolution of the film and yet they’re often forgotten in the wake of Wolverine’s heartbreak or Magneto’s loss of powers. Kitty Pryde deserves better than that. As a character, she’s had one of the most compelling and complete story arcs in the X-Men series. She started out a confused little girl, used primarily to be the foil to the older, more experienced X-Men, but she quickly grew into her powers and found a place on the team. Kitty was still a teenager when her older self went back in time and stopped the assassination that would have resulted in the destruction of the world and mutant race. She single-handedly took down terrifying villains, she learned to love and accept her fellow classmates, and she was routinely a vital part of major rescue missions and plots to defeat Magneto. She even had a pet dragon that she could communicate with telepathically, and if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that the character with dragons is always the most exciting. Even her relationships were more interesting and entertaining than anything the X-Men movies managed to come up with. She had a complicated on and off relationship with Colossus, one that spanned decades of comics and overcame their age difference, jealousy, alien healers, and even death. In each instance, Kitty asserts herself, choosing to pursue Colossus despite the obstacles in their way and putting herself first when she needs to. Neither one of them pine quietly after one another, only to be separated by forces beyond their control. It’s messy and complicated and allows both of them to take action and go after what they want, and Kitty is confident and tough throughout it all. Her platonic relationships are just as interesting. In addition to her long-term friendships with the other mutant students, Kitty and Storm develop a close mother-daughter relationship; she becomes Wolverine’s favorite student and he becomes her mentor. They play a significant role in each other’s stories – they even starred in a spinoff series together – and it’s under his guidance that she begins to grow into the great hero she was meant to be. Since the film series is so intent of focusing every story on Wolverine, you’d think that his friendship with Kitty might come up once or twice, instead of her being stuck in the background while he broods. Though she's no longer at the center of the story in X-Men: Days of Future Past, she is said to play a significant role in the film, one that establishes her as a vitally important character in the X-Men universe. It's an important step towards rectifying the way Kitty's been portrayed on screen, introducing fans who might not have read the comics to a key member of the team, and a complicated, compelling character who is more than just the "little girl who can walk through walls." The movie might still belong to Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto, but at least Kitty will finally get a moment in the spotlight.  And maybe, if we're lucky, she might even get a spin off film of her own one day. Kitty Pryde deserves it.  Follow @hollywood_com // Follow @julesemm //