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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Might Scorsese build a ‘Snowman’?

    Posted: 27 Oct 2011 04:40 AM PDT

    With all things criminal and Scandinavian being in vogue these days — from “Wallender” to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Working Title has snapped up the rights to Norwegian crime fiction writer Jo Nesbo’s Detective Harry Hole series. They want to make “The Snowman,” the seventh novel in that series, a book.

    Now comes word that Martin Scorsese is taking a close look at that material, a serial killer tale that takes its title from a clue, a victim’s scarf tied around an “ominous looking” snowman.

    Scorsese has a satck of films he may make after “Hugo” hits theaters, among them “The Gambler.” So no promises.

    Good reviews for ‘Puss,’ decent notices for ‘In Time,’ ‘Rum Diary’ and ‘Anonymous’

    Posted: 27 Oct 2011 04:13 AM PDT

    “Puss in Boots” is terrific, a grand spoof of swashbucklers, better animated and written and performed than any of the “Shrek” movies from which the character spun off of, in my book. Got to LOVE Antonio Banderas in the lead voice role.  Other critics are agreeing on this one. It’s a winner, sort of a premature jump-starting of the long holiday movie season.

    “The Rum Diary” brought out Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp’s fans, and some serious doubts. Mixed reviews on this reconstruction of the year that made Thompson as a writer and hard-drinking hell-raiser, the time he spent in Puerto Rico. Not as gonzo as one might have hoped, but fun for anybody who knows the character and the actor who plays him and their connection.

    I found “In Time” something of an eye-roller at some points in its rather predictable story arc. But the sci-fi conceit it is built on — that “time” is the new currency that the rich are hoarding and keeping working people from having – is straight out of the zeitgeist. Brilliant. The future as imagined here is classic Andrew Niccol — cops drive modified 1970s vintage Dodge Challengers. And Justin Timberlake is good in thelead, Amanda Seyfried decent as the rich girl he kidnaps who learns the meaning of the value of time, and Cillian Murphy makes a dandy Javert for this quest, the cop obsessed with maintaining the status quo. The reviews for this one, I am not shocked to say, are all over the board. Mostly positive thus far, but pans aplenty, too.

    I think all of us reviewing types were so amazed that Roland Emmerich didn’t make an utter hash of hi Shakespeare conspiracy drama that we cut him some slack for the historical poppycock of the script. Great performance by Rhys Ifans in the lead, as Edward De Vere, the “true author” (yeah, right) of the Bard’s plays. Mixed reviews for that one. I liked it better than some.

    “All’s Faire in Love” is a shelved film that Regal Cinemas bought and is putting into its theaters nationwide. I like the idea of theater chains doing this, trying to fill in films niches that Hollywood doesn’t always aim for. A movie like “Waitress,” for instance, could have been bought, booked and given a long enough run to find an audience. Even “That’s What I Am,” a flop from the WWE Studios, or “Flipped,” from Warners, would have benefited from a month long booking so that audiences would have a chance to find it. With studios like Universal trying to screw them with VOD versions of their films as they’re still in theaters, the cinema chains need something to fight back with. “All’s Faire” is pretty feeble, but the concept could work.

    ‘Django’ has his Broomhilda — Kerry Washington joins Tarantino’s film

    Posted: 27 Oct 2011 03:43 AM PDT

    Kerry Washington was named repeatedly as the rumored female lead in Quentin Tarantino’s Civil War era Southern-Western, “Django Unchained.” Somebody would have to be the object of Django’s quest, the wife he escapes slavery and seeks vengeance for.
    Jamie Foxx landed the title role, now Washington has officially been announced as Broomhilda, that wife. Don’t ask me about her name. His idea, not mine.
    Kurt Russell and Leo DiCaprio are also on board, with Samuel L. Jackson.
    Washington is a beautiful, sexy and versatile actress at home in comedy and in drama (“Last King of Scotland” may be my favorite performance of hers).

    Movie Preview: The Secret World of Arriety

    Posted: 27 Oct 2011 03:35 AM PDT

    Here’s the latest English language version of a Studio Ghibli film, the anime empire that brought us “Spirited Away,” “Ponyo” and “My Neighbor Totoro.”
    It’s another version of Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers.” Disney is releasing “The Secret world of Arrietty” on February 17. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Carol Burnett are among the US stars doing voices for this one.

    Movie Review: In Time

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 08:59 PM PDT

    “Gattaca” director Andrew Niccol’s sense of the zeitgeist is as on the money as ever with “In Time,” a sci-fi parable that plays like “Occupy Wall Street: The Movie.”

    Though its action beats and story arc are nothing if not conventional, this startling commentary on a world of haves and those-we’ll-keep-from-having touches on the greatest sci-fi trope of all — dystopia, how the future looks because of the things we do wrong today.

    Justin Timberlake is Will Salas, a young guy who will be “25″ to the end of his days. Or hours. In this future, people stop aging at 25. Then, unless they can buy, borrow or steal time from another, they die.  “I don’t have time” has a whole new meaning to the working poor. They sprint, breathlessly, from home to work t0 date night and constantly stare at the luminescent digits counting down on their arm. Time, for all of them, is running out.

    The gangs that rule the place are “Minutemen,” thieves who steal from others, kill at will and drive cool retro cars. Portis, given a nicely petulant taste by Alex Pettyfer, is leader of the pack.

    The rich, barricaded in their own fortress “time zones,” stockpile the years, live spectacularly well and spectacularly long. But they live without risk, in fear of the one thing that can get them — accidental death.

    “The poor die, and the rich don’t live.”

    But an act of kindness earns Will time — enough of it to change time zones. He goes undercover and resolves to live it up and take the rich “for everything they’ve got.” That’s where he gambles with the rich guy (“Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser). That’s where he meets the rich man’s stunning, rebellious daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). And that’s where he runs afoul of the timekeepers, led by the obsessed Javert-like maintainer of the status quo, Ray Leon (Cillian Murphy, terrific).

    Timberlake is more adequate than epic in this leading man turn, and Seyfried, in a red flapper’s bob, impossibly high heels and provocatively short skirts, still seems an innocent young thing playing at being bad. But she’s good at suggesting a woman bored with a life where she doesn’t dare so much as take a dip in the ocean behind the mansion she grew up in. A girl could drown, after all.

    Writer-director Niccol manages to cover the same ground as the most recent “Spy Kids” movie without tumbling into silliness. But “In Time still has its silly side, its eye-rolling moments mixed in with the pungent observations about modern society. The poor are sentenced to poverty and the hint that even one of them might escape enrages the system. What do the rich enjoy if not the luxury of leisure — servants to handle mundane tasks, travel expedited, lives lengthened by a system stacked in their favor? Has Sean Hannity labeled this “class warfare” yet?

    But “In Time” is more a potentially great parable than a particularly good one. The earliest scenes, where Will meets a rich man tired of his excess years, are preachy. When Will and Sylvia go on the lam, the film gets a needed jolt of adrenalin. It’s a pity Niccol’s script doesn’t give them anywhere to go. Even with its thoughtful nods to “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Les Miserables,” “In time” never delivers that transcendent “Blade Runner” moment, and never rises above cult classic to simple classic.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some sexualty and partial nudity, and strong language

    Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser

    Credits: Written and directed by Andrew Niccol. A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 1:49

    Movie Preview: Fordson — Faith, Fasting, Football

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 12:51 PM PDT

    “Fordson,” a little-publicized documentary about a Dearborn, Michigan high school that has become predominantly Arab-American, follows the football team as it prepares for a big rivalry game that falls during the holy month of Ramadan. It opens at the West Oaks 14 at West Oaks Mall on Friday.

    Movie Review: Anonymous

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 09:00 AM PDT

    Leave it to a German to blitzkrieg the Immortal Bard and the Virgin Queen in one sitting.

    Roland “2012/Godzilla” Emmerich’s “Anonymous” is a generally sober-minded legitimizing of a couple of the Elizabethan Era’s most fervently held conspiracy theories — that Elizabeth I, far from being a Virgin Queen, had a child or children, and that the commoner William Shakespeare could not have written the glorious plays which are attributed to him.

    It’s all poppycock, built on this widely discounted theory and that scalding, unsubstantiated rumor. Still Emmerich, with all the resources that a career of digital effects blockbusters can offer, doesn’t embarrass himself. He hasn’t made “Shakespeare in Love.” He doesn’t have the touch. But even lacking the laughs and romance, he has delivered an entertaining eye-roller of alternative history, burnishing a substitute Shakespeare — the nobleman Edward De Vere — and recreating the political and cultural climate that would have forced a writer of rabble-rousing histories and comedies full of snide references to members of the ruling classes to let someone else take the credit.

    Rhys Ifans makes a fascinating De Vere, a haunted man who shrugs off accusations that these wonderful plays and poems that suddenly turn up, on stage or in print, sound like what he wrote before he married into a family of “No artists, please” Puritans. He has to hide his hands behind his back as he makes his denials. Ink stains were tougher to get out back then.

    Sebastian Armesto is the not-yet-famous playwright Ben Jonson, who might be persuaded/blackmailed/bribed into plucking the many finished plays off De Vere’s crowded shelves and passing them off as his own.

    “All art is political, Jonson,” De Vere inveighs. “All artists have something to say. Otherwise, you would be a cobbler.”

    De Vere wants to score points against the Puritans, especially his father-in-law (David Thewlis, properly self-righteous and sneaky) and brother-in-law (Edward Hogg). For decades, they have had Queen Elizabeth’s ear. And now that she (Vanessa Redgrave, excellent, with her daughter Joely Richardson playing the younger Elizabeth) is in her dotage, there is wheeling and dealing about the future of the country going on just out of her earshot.

    “Since when did words ever win a kingdom?” the dashing Earl of Essex (Sam Reid) wants to know. But De Vere, Earl of Oxford, knows better. Words can persuade, woo, cajole and inflame — “That’s POWER, Essex!”

    Shakespeare, here, is an “illiterate” actor somehow able to read and memorize his lines without being able to make a coherent mark on parchment. John Orloff’s script and Rafe Spall’s performance turn The Bard into an  arrogant but cunning fop. Somehow, after all, he did wind up with the credit for “To be, or not to be,” right? Not Jonson (blandly written and played) or Christopher Marlowe (ditto, by Trystan Gravelle), two other favorites of the conspiracy crowd.

    In between the arrests, betrayals, tortures and flashbacks — De Vere’s life at court included writing and appearing in plays since childhood — we see Shakespeare’s plays rehearsed, performed and acclaimed. Casual Shakespeare buffs will appreciate the ways the acting customs of the day are presented, the ways The Globe theater was financed and what became of it.

    And as educated, titled and well-traveled De Vere’s dramas, comedies and histories become the sensation of London, “our Will” steps out to take the bows.

    Emmerich frames all this within the premiere of a “play” in modern day New York, where the great Derek Jacobi, the chorus in Kenneth Branagh’s “Henry V,” lends legitimacy to these proceedings, debunking “our Shakespeare…the soul of the Age, the wonder of our stage.”

    Even a cursory bit of research punches holes in the grassy knoll moments presented here. But “Anonymous” takes its “J.F.K.” shot and is never so wide of the mark to provoke giggles. The paranoid world conjured up by the screenwriter of “A Mighty Heart” and rendered onscreen by a fellow whose specialty has been end-of-the-world spectacle is most convincing, and that world could have produced a conspiracy this deep and this enduring.  That makes “Anonymous” as fascinating, in its own way, as the “true” history of these plays, or as much of that as is known.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and sexual content

    Cast: Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis, Vanessa Redgrave, Rafe Spall, Edward Hogg, Sebastian Armesto, Joely Richardson

    Credits: Directred by Roland Emmerich, written by John Orloff. A Sony Pictures release.

    Running time: 2:10

    Movie Review: Puss in Boots

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 08:58 AM PDT

    DreamWorks’ cunning casting of the silky Spaniard Antonio Banderas as a swashbuckling Puss in Boots pays off,brilliantly, in “Puss in Boots,” a star vehicle for the nursery rhyme kitty cat from the “Shrek” movies.

    Thanks to Banderas and his Corinthian leather purr and writers who know how to use it, “Puss” is the best animated film of 2011. This is no mere “Shrek” sequel. There is sex appeal in every syllable, swagger in every line. And even kids get the joke of a voice that sensual and grand coming out of a kitty so small.

    “I am but a humble gato [cat] looking for his next meal,” Puss insists. But that’s after he’s mentioned that, as a legendary lover and swordsman, “I am known by many names — The Ginger Hit Man, Chupacabra, Frisky Two Times.” So we know better than to take this con-artist, thief and seducer seriously.

    His childhood pal Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) has a plan for stealing magic beans from the burly thugs Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). If Puss can pull off the theft, there’s loot at the top of the beanstalk those beans will grow into.

    “We go up the beanstalk outlaws, we come back legends!”

    But first, he has to get past a competitor, a cat-suited cat-burgling kitty who turns out to be Kitty Soft-Paws (Salma Hayek). Before you can yell “Cat FIGHT!,” they launch into an epic 3D flamenco dance-off.  Being cats, their moves include one any dog or cat owner will recognize — the butt scootch.

    “How DARE you do the Litter Box to me!”

    This quest will test Puss, and may cost him his boots. But a gato has his principles, a code he lives by. They need cash. Maybe the local church?

    “I do not steal from churches!”

    Maybe from the homeless kids?

    “I do not steal from orphans!”

    Banderas vocally vamps this up in ways he never gets to do in live action films. And the writers — Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Jon Zack — never forget how funny these words will be coming out of that voice inside that  itty bitty kitty cat.

    A couple of dandy 3D chase scenes suggest theme park rides to come, and the sight gags almost outnumber the verbal ones. In a flashback, Puss and Humpty remember the day they became “blood brothers” as kids — pricking their fingers and swapping blood…and yellow egg yolk. Humpty’s “plan” for climbing the beanstalk is written on a child’s pop-up book. Director Chris Miller (“Shrek the Third”) never lets this settle into the lazy “Shrek” music videos and pop culture riffs.

    The comedy here comes from the characters, and the incongruity of that wondrous voice saying those dashing lines in the body of a small, but not-remotely “humble” gato.

    MPAA Rating: PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor

    Cast: Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Salma Hayek (Kitty Soft Paws), Zach Galifianakis (Humpty Dumpty), Amy Sedaris (Jill) and Billy Bob Thornton (Jack)

    Credits: Directed by Chris Miller, written by Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Jon Zack, a DreamWorks animation release. Running time: 1:29

    ‘The Missionary,’ by the ‘Cassadaga’ folks, starts shooting Monday in Sanford

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 08:53 AM PDT

    The producer/director team that made “Cassadaga,” a low budget horror film starring Louise Fletcher and Rus Blackwell, among others, are about to get their second film before the cameras.

    “The Missionary,” another thriller in the horror vein, starts filming in Sanford on Monday, with co-production help from the Valencia College Film Program. They’ll provide crew and gear, and students will get the experience of working on an ultra-low budget horror film.

    “Cassadega” was screened at LA’s Screamfest horror film festival recently. “The Missionary” will be directed by “Cassadaga” director Anthony DiBlasi (he had a producing credit on “Midnight Meat Train”) and produced by Bruce Wood and Scott Poiley.

    No word yet on the cast.

    Movie Review: All’s Faire in Love

    Posted: 26 Oct 2011 06:50 AM PDT

    The “Renaissance Faire” phenomenon is the ultimate expression of fandom. Medieval history buffs, chivalry and courtly love fans gather and put on a show by dressing up like lords, ladies and vassals, and stay in character as they run jousts and sell turkey legs to those who come to take in the spectacle.
    It’s a good setting for a comedy, as the makers of “All’s Faire in Love” realized. It’s colorful and easy to make fun of, like anything whose fans take it too seriously. So it’s a pity there aren’t more laughs in “All’s Faire,” a generic romantic comedy set amongst the show folk who put on a faire.
    Christina Ricci plays Kate Miller, whom we meet as she ends a corporate job interview by stripping out of her business suit — “I’m an actress. I like drama, comedy, show tunes!”

    Her plan B? Go join her pal Jo (Louise Griffiths), in costume, at Ye Olde Times Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

    Then, there’s Will, the arrogant, class-cutting college quarterback (Owen Benjamin, miscast). He’s cut his Renaissance Lit class so often that his teacher (Cedric the Entertainer) assigns him three weeks of work as a peasant “fetch boy” at the faire, where the professor dresses up as a knight.

    “There’s no way I’m going to one of those dork-a-thons with you!” Wanna bet?

    Will and Kate learn the hierarchy of the faire, who is queen (Ann-Margret, good) and who is a little too into the festival and their character. That would be most everybody — Jester Roy (Dave Sheridan), whose unicorn sock puppet he has naughtily named “Horny,” Count le Petite (Martin Klebba) and especially Prince Rank.

    As Rank, Chris Wylde is the stand-out in this farce, the one guy who could have made it work as a PG comedy, or as a more gonzo “Role Models” style R-rated raunch-a-thon. He’s on the make for our Kate, and every bit of interference in his pursuit, by Will or Crockett, Will’s mentor (Matthew Lillard, subdued) has him roll out some plummy insult in his over-the-top accent.

    “It’s people like that who make me twirl my mustache!”

    There are romantic attachments and semi-rude sexual moments that put this comedy in that uncomfortable not-clean-enough-for-kids/not-funny-enough-for adults PG-13 zone. A seriously sexy witch (Nadine Velasquez) puts a curse on one character’s man-parts, a guy in a dragon costume does things you’d smack your dog for doing to your leg. Clunky, not nearly funny enough and slightly off-color, it comes as no shock that “Faire” was directed by Garry Marshall’s kid, Scott.

    Benjamin has decent comic timing and a little of that Jason Segel thing with the goofy charm and apparent musical talent shining through. But he’s twice as tall as Ricci, making them an odd match. His line-readings don’t sparkle as he’s utterly unconvincing as a college athlete.

    Cedric the Entertainer was the smart one. He shows up in a couple of opening scenes, is played by a visored stand-in knight in shining armor (no sign of his face) in the middle acts, only to raise his visor for the finale. Nice work if you can get it.

    Give it points on setting and a couple of the performances, but the joke-starved “All’s Faire in Love” only rarely rises to the level of fair to middling.

    MPAA Rating: PG-13, for some sexual content, including references.

    Cast: Christina Ricci, Owen Benjamin, Chris Wylde, Ann-Margret, Matthew Lillard, Cedric the Entertainer.Credits: Directed by Scott Marshall, written by Marshall and R.A. White. A Hannover House/Regal Entertainment Group release. Running time: 1:44.