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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    To see this weekend, ‘Drive,’ to skip — Sarah Jessica Parker and ‘Straw Dogs’

    Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:58 AM PDT

    “Drive” is winning almost universal critical praise as it opens this weekend. Overwhelmingly positive reviews. It’s cool, it’s edgy, exciting and mesmerizing. It’s not a masterpiece, but it is a very entertaining existential action picture.

    Sarah Jessica Parker moves from New York to Boston, plays a working mom with a nanny and a modestly affluent lifestyle. She narrates her own story, sometimes talking directly to the camera. In other words, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” is like “Sex and the City” with parental juggling as its reason for being. It isn’t original, it isn’t funny and it doesn’t work. Most reviews on this one are pretty bad.

    Go to and read David Edelstein’s criticism of “Drive,” one of the few bad reviews for that one, and his praise for Sarah Jessica Parker doing EXACTLY what he says Ryan Gosling did in “Drive” and have a laugh. Surely he sees the comedy in his double standards, with the reviews and their blurbs posted side by side like that.

    I see where Rod Lurie was going with “Straw Dogs,” but his effort to remake a Sam Peckinpah picture (I wouldn’t call it a Peckinpah “classic,” not one of my faves) plays like cut-rate Tarantino — a straight exploitation picture with a hint of something else going on. Putting James Marsden and Kate Bosworth in the path of aggressive Southern rednecks ripped from the pages of Faulkner may play in Yankeeland, urban centers and wherever metrosexuals roam. It seems quaint, offensive and desperate (Lurie has had a lot of bad luck getting his movies into theaters of late).

    Lurie wrote Marsden’s character as such a metrosexual cliche that if the meek are going to inherit the Earth, Marsden’s David the screenwriter will be a land baron.

    Mixed reviews on “Straw Dogs,” and not a lot of them as the film wasn’t previewed in most cities.

    Snoop Dogg scores the lead in ‘Fillmore Slim’

    Posted: 15 Sep 2011 03:37 AM PDT

    Think of ’60s bluesman/pimp Fillmore Slim as the Snoop Dogg of the day. The producer and screenwriter of the film biography of him certainly do. They’ve landed rapper and sometime actor Snoop Dogg as the lead for their movie, according to

    Slim is 76, now, the “West Coast Godfather of the Game” seems better known for his pimping background than his music career. But he did put out five albums and his notoriety, according to Wikipedia and other sites on the net (I’d never heard of him) gets him included in many a music event on the west coast.

    Snoop has popped up in the occasional film, served as MC of a horror spectacle a few years back. And as he turns 40 this fall, it’s probably smart for his to take his shot at scoring a film career now, rather than later. Will he start going by Calvin Broadus on the screen? We’ll see.

    Movie Review: Straw Dogs

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 07:36 PM PDT

    Equal measures smug and savage, Rod Lurie’s infuriating remake of Sam Peckinpah’s vengeance thriller “Straw Dogs” still packs a visceral punch. An exploitation picture built on redneck cliches and big city liberal outrage, it’s not all bad. But it is a pretty unpleasant wallow in the obvious.

    Lurie, whose career has become a careen (unreleased or under-released failures) since “The Contender,” has cleverly re-set the tale, that of a mild-mannered bookish and emasculated city dweller (Dustin Hoffman in the original, James Marsden here) challenged, bullied and battered by brutish, primitive locals from England to Mississippi.

    In the small town where his hot-actress wife. Amy (Kate Bosworth) grew up, God, guns and goal posts are the measure of a man. Beer swilling and deer hunting, in and out of season, is the “way of life.” David (Marsden) tips too generously, drives a flashy vintage car whose tires he doesn’t know how to change and rolls the cuffs of his dungarees up. He sings. He jumps rope. He prefers light beer. The locals see him and think “pansy.” Or worse.

    Hiring a bunch of them, including Amy’s high school beau (Alexander Skarsgard) to fix the roof on the barn on the family farm Amy inherited is just asking for trouble. She is way ahead of her screenwriter husband on this. He’s too over-awed by the staggering collection of William Faulkner/Tennessee Williams cliches that Lurie slaps in the script — the simpleton with a history of taking sexual liberties from the local girls, the drunken, belligerent ex-coach (James Woods) who threatens one and all, his harlot cheerleader daughter who flirts with the slow-witted guy (Dominic Purcell). These characters are all tolerated, because “we take care of our own,” as they say in all the old Southern movies and plays.

    All that’s missing from Lurie’s dated and limited research is Blanch Dubois  and “the kindness of strangers.” All that’s missing from the performances are the city slicker John Lennon glasses. Oh wait, he gave those to David.

    David, writing a script set at the Battle of Stalingrad, listens to his Tchaikovsky and Beethoven as the redneck roofers blast out Molly Hatchet. They, especially Charlie (Skarsgard), challenge him repeatedly. He bends over backwards, trying to fit in, go along to get along. And Amy loses another chunk of respect for him every time he lets some rube walk into their kitchen, take a beer out of the fridge and grin about it.

    He is far too willing to buy into “That’s the way we do things around here.”

    In the “code” of such tales, we know David is asking for trouble. He’s gun-shy, smaller than every man in town and yet still expecting to live by civilized big city rules. Amy knows better. Maybe she’s seen the original film. Every time you give a bully an inch, he takes a mile — or liberties with your wife.

    The foreshadowing is comically obvious, the petty insults and egregious outrages formulaic. And Amy’s ways of fighting back are risible pages from the Melodrama 101 textbook. Yeah, take off your shirt (no bra) in front of them. That’ll show’em. Marsden, more at home in light comedies and musicals, may have seemed like inspired casting. But we never believe he’ll stand up to these guys, that he’s even up to it.

    Lurie’s resetting of the movie may seem dated to a real Southerner. But you don’t have to dig into ancient history to find the redneck thuggery suggested here. Where the original film was a commentary on the endangered state of manhood in the late 20th  century, Lurie seems to be making points about the ineffectual ways reasonable people face belligerent ignorance. It’s intellectual liberals vs. Tea Party hicks with guns. Get it?

    One “improvement” stands out. Sam Peckinpah rather famously forgot to leave out the Chinese proverb that gave the original film its title. Lurie has David explain it in a moment that feels like a class recitation. It comes right after the  nightly chess lesson he gives his young/naive wife.

    It’s not a terrible film, but “Straw Dogs,” this time around, does push the wrong sorts of buttons. It veers from its social commentary into the trite and bloody, with a finale that is unimaginative and rote. Lurie, desperate to make something people will see, has bloodied his hands and sullied his motives to make a movie that is as ugly as it is out of date.

    MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence including a sexual attack, menace, some sexual content, and pervasive language

    Cast: Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods.

    Credits: Written and directed by Rod Lurie, based on the Sam Peckinpah film and the novel “The Siege of Trencher’s Farm” by Gordon Williams. A Screen Gems release. Running time: 1:49

    Movie Review: Drive

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 09:00 AM PDT

    If you want to make your getaway, you need to play it cool. No squealing tires. No panic at the first sign of the police.

    You need to stick to the speed limit. You need to know when to pull over behind a truck, turn off your lights and wait for the po-po to pass you by.

    Or you need to hire “the kid,” a guy who knows those things. Ryan Gosling oozes Steve McQueen cool in “Drive,” a lean, pulsating thriller about a mechanic and part-time movie stunt-driver who moonlights as a “wheelman,” the fellow who can pick you up, take you to your robbery and get you out of there before the cops catch you.

    He is the guy who knows that “there are a hundred thousand streets in this city,” the guy who knows how long a police helicopter will be able to commit to a search for a getaway car, what streets will be darkest, what public event will be letting out just in time for him to ditch the car and just stroll away with the crowds.

    Gosling (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) suggests a sort of blue collar cunning here. He’s probably seen a few heist movies, a few car pictures. He builds cars, works on them and drives with precise abandon, when the movie stunt he’s asked to do calls for it. He could be a stock car driver, if his boss and partner in crime (Bryan Cranston) has his way. But in the meantime, he’s got this other gig — and a very precise set of rules about method of payment and the window of time he’ll be at the scene of the crime  — “five minutes,” he says. And he lashes his watch to the steering wheel to show he’s serious.

    “I don’t ’sit in.’ I don’t carry a gun. I drive.”

    Carey Mulligan (“Wall Street 2″) is “the girl.” The driver takes the toothpick that’s always in his mouth out and gets this goofy grin every time he sees her and her little boy. And he finds something noble to do when her husband gets out of prison and needs help with a job he’s been blackmailed into pulling.

    Albert Brooks and the great Ron Perlman perfectly embody lowlifes just slightly higher on the underworld food chain in Nicolas Winding Refn’s film of the James Sallis novel. Each is dangerous. One, at least, seems reasonable. And that’s the one you worry about.

    Refn, who did the searing British prison picture, “Bronson” as a Tom Hardy tour de force, has created the quietest car picture ever. The dialogue is spare, with deadpan stares and meaningful glances developing the relationships. The silences, muted chases scored with understated music, build tension. We know there’s a “Bullitt” moment coming, a violent and noisy reckoning.

    There are no cops hot on the trail of the criminals, just double dealing and double-crossing and blood and secret sides to every personality. This mild-mannered driver is capable of something. We feel it long before we see it.

    Refn and Gosling are planning to team up for future movies, and based on what we see in “Drive,” that’s a good thing. The minimal dialogue does lead to a few too many fussy/busy “actorly” moments. But they have collaborated on a car picture that unnerves us with its idling quiet, and then pins our ears back when they stomp the accelerator.

    MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity.

    Cast: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Brayn Cranston, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac.

    Credits: Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, script by Hossein Amini, based on a James Sallis novel. A FilmDistrict release.  Running time: 1:40

    Movie Review: I Don’t Know How She Does It

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 08:59 AM PDT

    It’s exhausting, but that’s sort of the idea.

    “I Don’t Know How She Does It” is an old fashioned spin on the manic pace of motherhood for today’s working woman. With high unemployment and those of us still working scared to say “No” to the boss, “juggling” has become not just the norm, but positively blase over 20 years after “Parenthood” and “Baby Boom.”

    The novelty here is that it’s that “Sex and the City” conspicuous consumer Sarah Jessica Parker “discovering” what Allison Pearson’s novel didn’t exactly discover, either — parents are perpetually overworked and over-committed.

    Parker, cast so she could narrate in voic- over just as she did in “Sex and the City,” is Kate, the frazzled investment banker trying to keep her job, but also her kindergartener and two year-old happy and her working husband, Richard (Greg Kinnear) content. She travels. A lot. Kate is closing in on a big deal, and has to win over a handsome upper level manager (Pierce Brosnan). And that’s the straw that may be the one that breaks this mother camel’s back.

    She lies awake working on “The List” — birthday party plans, school bake sale obligations, home repair arrangements.

    “Number 3, Call Richard’s mother. Number 4, Wax something. ANYthing.”

    The cute lines don’t have a lot of snap to them. So to spark things up, the script and director Douglas McGrath (“Infamous,” “Nicholas Nickleby”) lean heavily on testimonials — the friends, colleagues and fellow moms who marvel, either genuinely or sarcastically to the camera — “I don’t know how she does it.”

    Christina Hendriks is the single mom pal, Seth Meyers is a back-stabber at the office, Olivia Munn is the younger assistant who looks at Kate and vows “never getting married, never having kids.” Her assessment of Kate?

    “You’re tired and always insufficiently groomed.”

    Jane Curtin shows up as the judgmental mother-in-law, who can deliver withering condemnations with a smile.

    “If you had stayed home with Ben (her toddler), would he be talking by now?”

    Busy Phillips make a funny impression as a “mini-Martha Stewart” who has time for elaborate baking projects because she doesn’t work, who “doesn’t judge” the frumpy, frazzled Kate and who is “interviewed” on a non-stop Stairmaster session at her gym.

    Truthfully, the “mean mom” Martha Stewart clones play better on TV, in “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” for instance. The story’s thesis has resonance. We’re all missing out on important things in our over-scheduled lives. But the idea that working moms feel the strain of achieving some balance more than working dads is nothing new. And that’s true of most everything in the movie. We’ve been here and done that, repeatedly, over the past 25 years or more.

    Parker gamely plays the slapstick, the little wardrobe disasters that anybody with kids will recognize. But she’s swimming against a riptide of a script, a movie that no endless voice-over, no cute testimonial and no number of freezeframes where she stops the action to address the camera, can save. She looks exhausted, first scene to last, and that fatigue spills off the screen onto us.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual references throughout.

    Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Christina Hendricks, Olivia Munn, Seth Meyers

    Credits: Directed by Douglas McGrath, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, based on the Allison Pearson novel. A Weinstein Co. release. Running time: 1:30

    Movie Preview: Breaking Dawn

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 08:16 AM PDT

    Here’s the latest trailer for “Breaking Dawn,” the first half of the wrap-up of “The Twilight Saga.”

    Weddings always make me cry.

    Depp in ‘Dark Shadows’ — first photos have fans going ‘OMG’

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 07:51 AM PDT

    The first shots of Johnny Depp all “dolled up” for his role as dapper tormented vampire Barnabas Collins have leaked off the set of “Dark Shadows,” and fanboy and fangirldom are not amused.
    They are lighting up the web with complaints and speculation.

    Go to for a couple of shots, unedited. Tim Burton’s film based on the TV series is looking more Burtonesque than perhaps fans were expecting. That hat! Those sideburns! That kabuki makeup!

    That’s Bella Heathcote with him, I think.

    Seriously, though, the TV show? A freaking soap opera with vampires aimed at kids who turned on the tube just as they got home from school. Fondly remembered, but all that? No.

    Trying to track down who took the photo and where it turned up first.

    Movie Preview: ‘Anonymous’

    Posted: 14 Sep 2011 05:24 AM PDT

    I love the ambition that Roland “ID4″ Emmerich shows with this period piece, an attempted debunking of the idea that Shakespeare was not “The Immortal Bard” of Avon that history remembers him as.

    Very disturbed that Shakespearean Derek Jacobi is the voice of authority that opens it. Scholars, including TV historian Michael Wood, have easily shredded the big “He didn’t write the plays” conspiracy theories. But “Anonymous” still looks like a fascinating film. Look for this Rhys Ifans/Vanessa Redgrave/David Thewlis project on Oct. 28.