Friday, February 29, 2008

The Other Boelyn Link

Sorry everyone but there has been something of dearth of movie news and link lately. My guess is everyone is just tired post-Oscars. I don't blame them.

Movies: The biggest news heading into the weekend is the end of New Line Cinema. I will be writing my own eulogy for the studio tomorrow but to tide you over until then CHUD's Jeremy Smith has a nice piece here.

Speaking of CHUD they have a wonderful interview that should point you to the must see film of the week, Chicago 10 here. There is also an excellent audio interview that I can't recommend enough on NPR's Fresh Air, you can get it off iTunes for free (if you act quickly). It's the show dated 2/27/08.

TV: Fans of Barack Obama would do well to check out this article if you enjoyed when The West Wing started getting good again. Ask "what's next" here.

Did you see The Wire last week? MY GOD! Bask in the warm glow of series creator David Simon here.

Dubs A: If this keeps up I'll need AAA, Amy Adamsoholics Anonymous. This site certainly won't help here.

Ok one more: The greatest over the top acting performances EVER. With video evidence, here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

First Run and Proud of It

I was inspired by Jeff Rubin's blog to take a look back at the movies I saw when they first appeared in theaters. There is a certain satisfaction to be derived in being ahead of the curb, to being one of the few to help spread the word about something wonderful. Not to follow a trend but to help start one. It should be noted that all these films grossed less than 100 million dollars, in some cases less than 50. Here are a list of some the notable films that I am (or eventually will be) proud to have seen during their first run that eventually became(or will eventually become) popular:

Fight Club
Being John Malkovich
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Kung-Fu Hustle
The Fountain
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
The Squid and the Whale
Shaun of the Dead
Behind the Mask
Children of Men
King of Kong

Are there any films you caught on the big screen and want to boast a bit? Put them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Corporations and gentrification killed the video star

Be Kind Rewind is a perfect surprise, but what kind of surprise will depend largely on the expectation of it's audience. I don't normally recommend movies with qualifiers, but a decidedly inventive visual stylist like Michel Gondry practically demands some reservations about his films to interested viewers. For one, I think having a high tolerance for Jack Black will help enormously. I've always enjoyed the man but I can understand why some find him unbearable. Second, I would suggest you think of this as a fairy-tale sort of story. With that comes a need to enter the theater without your cynicism.
The story is silly but simple. When an accident at the Passaic, New Jersey power plant causes Jerry (Black) to become magnetized he accidentally erases all the VHS tapes (its what they used before DVDs kids) at his friend Mike's video store, the two are in a serious bind. When a local woman played by Mia Farrow drops by to rent Ghostbusters the two tell her it's out and then set about to film their own slap-dash version of the film. The film doesn't endeavour to be so dumb that Farrow or her nephew and his urban friends are fooled into thinking they're watching the REAL Ghostbusters but it does stretch credibility by having them insist on making more of these cheap, amusingly inventive films. As the two set about making more of these "sweded" films (among the ones we see are Rush Hour 2, Driving Miss Daisy, 2001, The Lion King and many others) forces begin to conspire against the creatively freeing enterprise. The store and neighborhood are in danger by encroaching gentrification and chain stores, plus the building itself is out of code. With owner Danny Glover (playing the grown-up in this sandbox) out of town pursuing alternate options, Jerry and Mke start getting the entire community involved in their films. Among the merry band of eccentrics is the adorable, charming and talented enough to bring the same energy as Def and Black, Melonie Diaz. Aside from the phenomenon of sweding, which should be taking youtube by storm any day now, it is Diaz that is the sensational discovery of the film.

Alas, things soon come to a head when word gets out to the studios that Jerry and Mike are infringing on their copyright shortly before the bulldozers come to destroy the condemned building. In a last ditch effort both the protagonists and the film come together to create something that doesn't fall under copyright law, a biography about local jazz legend Fats Waller in order to save the store. I wouldn't dream of spoiling the twists and turns of the making of this film because if I've intrigued you at this point it would be criminal to ruin it.
There are two worlds at war within the film. The first is the more mainstream "let's put on a show to save the local business/ranch etc." comedy and the second is the more artsy meditation on how art and pop-culture are consumed and subsequently become "owned" by the public consciousness. The audiences for both these films don't necessarily dovetail into each other. The indie-hipster crowd may find it too broad and Joe Sixpack may find it too weird. However, those that Gondry manages to hook with his premise will likely be enchanted. Gondry has a lot to say and he tries to say it all at once, sometimes garbling his message. He wants to look at community dynamics, who owns a movie, what constitutes "truth" and the joy found in making art. Gondry eventually become clear, surprisingly through the seemingly pointless sub-plot about Fats Waller, the end-result has an achingly surreal beauty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I go from town to town/empty cups in my wake

I realize it's a little obvious and only a few notches up from Meet the Spartans in terms of creativity but Hader's commitment to the character makes it work. Also the theme song is golden.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A fun albiet predictable evening

Hey everyone, hope you all enjoyed the Oscars. I know I did. Hmm, what could've helped that?
Oh, also this.

Seems like everyone I was with had a fun night. In a year where the academy was unusually savvy in its choice for nominees, as usual early hyperbole brought the fix-in way too early. Blame for this certainly can fall on interminable post-festival buzz for films like No Country and La Vie En Rose. How can anyone else be a winner when certain films and people have had the phrase "Oscar winner" bandied about beside their name for months? I will say the Jon Stewart seemed relaxed despite a crunched prep-time. He was fun and off-the -cuff and while others may criticize him for being reined in there was a still a lot of strike-fueled bad blood in the room and overly edgy material would not have helped it. Still I felt the evening breezed by considering there were only really two brief "wtf" type montages as opposed to four or five. It was ALMOST interesting seeing how Oscar nominations get done and it's nice to see Oscar moments. I'm sure for non-cinephiles it was dull as dishwater to see the prior nominees bits before each of the "big six" but if you're one of us it's intriguing to see how trends have evolved in Hollywood (and to show off the best and worst choices for that matter).

Ok quick personal favorite moments and superlatives from the evening:
Best line of the opening monologue: In regards to Norbit's make-up nomination "Too often, the Academy ignores movies that aren't good."
Runner-up: On the Democratic front-runners "Usually when you see a black or woman president, an asteroid's about to hit The Statue Of Liberty." Which led to the nights most amusing audience reaction shot; tickled pink (metaphorically) Wesley Snipes and Spike Lee.
Bit that failed at show but killed at the party I was at: Jon Stewart and the girl from the August Rush musical number playing wii tennis.
Best presenters: Josh Brolin and James McAvoy make a lame bit work (reciting classic film lines) through sheer force of personality and Brolin's terrible Nicholson impression. Both were so psyched to be there (and will hopefully show up again in the future). Didn't hurt that they were easy on the eyes. Or McAvoy's adorable little skip as he walked on.
Runner-up: "Not Dame Judi Dench and Halle Berry" Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen. Also quoth the girlfriend "And I know that Seth...Seth Rogen can never figure out if he's the fat guy...the hot guy in Knocked Up or the other guy...or the other guy the one from Juno. I know the fat guy and the other one from Knocked Up presented." A follow-up phone call revealed that yes, my gf think Seth Rogen is sexy and was not in fact talking about Paul Rudd. Yes I am the luckiest man ever.
Worst presenter: Cameron Diaz, you should probably be able to pronounce the title of your category as a prerequisite to presenting. Also she's kind of irrelevant as her face has not appeared in a film since 2006.
Runner-up: Miley Cyrus, why do you exist? No children are watching these Oscars and your presence isn't changing anyone's mind.

Best entrance: Verbatim line from party "Hey wouldn't it be amazing if Travolta were one of the dancers?" Ask and ye shall receive Pat Oscar party. Truly awful Travolta (registered trademark pending) impressions and cheers followed.
The Steven Spielberg appreciation society: Amy Adams (who smiled enormously and genuinely when the themes for Jaws and Close Encounters played) and The Rock (Apparently little 8 year old Dwayne thought the face melting in Raiders "was very real").

Best reaction shot: Seeing Cate watch her clip for Elizabeth 2 and then made a face that looked like someone had just shown a clip from a terrible high-school play. See even she knows that movie had no business being nominated.

Best musical performance: I've got to give it up for Once's Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova who nailed "Falling Slowly" and hopefully got some more eyes on their fantastic movie (now on DVD). It was very cool to see Glenn playing THAT guitar and whenever he peaked over at Marketa it was perfect.

Runner-up: Amy Adams goes it alone and does an awesome "Happy Working Song." A rough position to be in since the number is greatly benefited by context so I'm sure she felt kind of silly just being up there without gross animal helpers. Meanwhile Kristen Chennowth nails "That's How You Know" to the surprise of no-one (though I think she extended her phrases an awful lot). Quoth the girlfriend "I saw some of the Oscars when I was working out. I know that um I think it was the girl from Wicked, Glinda, did 'That's How You Know.' She was wearing a super weird dress that did not fit her."
Classiest moment: Jon Stewart, following Marketa Irglova being cut-off before getting one word in brings her back on stage for her entire speech, which was pretty great. It's reasons like this that Stewart should be invited back again and again. That and his post modest and earnest Glenn Hansard speech moment of saying "That guy is so arrogant."
Runner-up: Daniel Day-Lewis bows to Helen Mirren. Who then dubs him with the Oscar. Fitting, symbolic, memorable.
Second Runner-Up: Art Director Robert Boyle's honorary Oscar presentation and speech. When you're Hitch's, Jewison's and Siegel's set-designer you've earned it.

Biggest surprise: Tilda Swinton for best supporting actress. I certainly didn't mind it, but no one expected it. Quoth the girlfriend "I think a redehead won for supporting actress and she gave a real good speech which is hard to do. Plus she's very interesting looking."
Runner-up: The Bourne Ultimatum mini-sweep. Good movie to be sure, but come on.

Biggest non-surprise fun anyway: Javier Bardem's win, followed by a sweet and brief speech. He's about to become super-duper famous. Quoth someone at my party (I think it was Katie, could be wrong): "He's the Spanish Clive Owen." Too true.

Fashion Faux-pas: Gracious winner and screenwriter Diablo Cody. Way to not remind everyone of the old gig Ms. Busey. Quoth Frank "This is the first time I've seen someone cry the amount in proportion to how high their slit is."
Fashion Faux-pas: Daniel Day-Lewis rocking not one, BUT TWO earrings. Wait, whats that? DDL can wear any damn thing he pleases? I guess you're right internal monologue.

Biggest death montage snubs: Brad Renfro, Robert Goulet. GOULET!

So bizarre it bears mentioning: Jack Nicholson during his best picture montage presentation , "Each of these film touches the humanity ha-ha-ha inside us." Was he laughing at the whole "touching inside us" thing? What is he, Michael Scott?
Most Coen-esque moment: During their accepting best director Joel says what everyone was thinking "I don't have a lot to add from the last time I was up here. So thank you."

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A special message from Daniel Plainview

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’ve traveled over half our state to get here this evening. I couldn’t get away sooner because my new well was coming in at Coyote Hills and I had to see about it. That well is now flowing at two thousand barrels and it’s paying me an income of five thousand dollars a week. I have two others drilling and I have sixteen producing at Antelope.
So - Ladies and Gentlemen - if I say I’m an oil, man you will agree. Tonight, your usual "blogger" is watching an awards ceremony, known as the Oscars. Now I knew a man named Oscar, bald as a piker he was. But not made of gold. It's three hours of finery and not plainspoken folk like myself. Just a bunch of thick dandies who don't know about my business. Still it IS a competition and I do have a competition in me. I've been told by our host that he'll be back tomorrow with a review of the ceremony, of something called Be Kind Rewind, maybe even some photographs.
So tonight, my son and my partner, H.W. Plainview will abide this here blog. But please no comments. I don't like...people.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Be Kind, Re-Link

Oscars so close I can smell them. Here are some ways to fill the time until then.

OMAR'S COMIN'! If you live in Baltimore and are on my favorite TV show ever, The Wire, there are no two scarier words. But you dear reader can enjoy the actor who plays Omar, Michael K. Williams, from the safety of your computer right here.
It wouldn't be a Sickness Cinema link roundup without Amy Adams. Here is a kick-ass interview with the Advocate. Surprise, surprise, she was bugging Idina Menzel to sing during the entire shoot, awesome.

Samuraifrog has a thoughtful piece on the sexual undertones (and overtones) in QT's Death Proof right here.
Speaking of Grindhouse, the Deuce has you covered with their list of the 20 greatest grindhouse films of all-time here.
Matt Seitz has a very thoughtful piece on No Country here, even if I continue to wrestle with the film, it still bares reading about. (thanks to Etan for the link)
The New Yorker has an intriguing piece on the Coen's if that last article still leaves you hungry here.

The most overrated movies of all time according to AC here. I find myself doing more agreeing than disagreeing.
Entertainment Weekly takes a look at the 100 worst Oscar snubs of all-time here. Don't worry, Miss Adams, you're in good company.
A little late for Valentine's Day but here are five great screen-worthy declarations of love.

And I leave you with this: Behold a talented kid who in mere minutes proves to be more entertaining than the entirety of Across the Universe.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Don't get me wrong, I love the ladies but...

I gotta admit, George Clooney is probably the most handsome man on the planet.
Face it, the man is the closest thing our generation is getting to Cary Grant/Clark Gable. It's not just me, Time Magazine thinks so too.

Clooney is next doing double duty as star AND director (something that ads are curiously not playing up) of Leatherheads this April.

Update: Oh and we also have virtually the same Oscar picks, see here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If=Then 1: Babbling Brooks

Premiering a new feature tonight at the Sickness' Cinema. I'm hoping this can become a semi-recurring feature wherein I can send some love to similarly toned TV shows and films. Tonight's If=Then will feature The Office and the films of Albert Brooks.

In the past decade or so a popular trend in comedy is to play up the horrible awkwardness that can ensue when something as simple as two human being interact. Certain shows nail this kind of humor; the Larry Sanders show, Curb Your Enthusiasm and most recently The Office (both the UK and US versions). All these shows feature moments where characters display brutally naked emotion; whether they be intense moments of desperation, loneliness or yearning these shows, particularly the Office, shows its characters at their absolute lowest moments and the audience gets to make the choice whether to laugh of wince. These shows didn't pioneer this style though. As far as I'm concerned this style dates back to the seventies and eighties in the films of writer/director/actor Albert Brooks.

Chances are that my younger readers aren't familiar with Brooks, or if they are it's through his voice. To some he's the voice of Marlin from Finding Nemo, others may know him through his numerous vocal roles on The Simpsons ranging from Jacques to Hank Scorpio to most recently as Russ Cargill. It should be noted that Brooks was probably the first big name celebrity to lend his name to the show (one of many times that Brooks preceded the zeitgeist by some years).

Brooks began his career a writer and stand-up comedian finding his way into films like Taxi Driver and again showed himself to be far ahead of a popular trend by directing video shorts for SNL in it's earliest years. Brooks took on directing a feature film for the first time in 1979 with the incredibly prescient Real Life. Brooks, in addition to directing, wrote and starred in the film as an obnoxious documentarian who lived with a suburban family. Appearing decades prior to the first reality shows, Real Life commented on the sordid but compelling everyday drama that goes on in households everywhere. The awkwardness that stems from having a camera in people's most intimate nooks and crannies can make for equal parts drama and comedy. Brooks was capturing something that would pull in audiences to shows like The Real World and Big Brother long before either show were twinkles in their producers eyes. If you love when the Office scopes out Dwight and Angela through window shades this might be a worthwhile film to check out.

Brooks next film, 1981's Modern Romance, is probably one of the most piercing, well observed comedies EVER made. No less than Stanley Kubrick called it "A perfect film". Stanley. Kubrick. The film couldn't be more simple, it follows Brooks, a needy, nebbishy film editor (big clue right there as editors have an almost godlike level of control over a film) breaking-up and subsequently getting back together with his girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) several times. The film never leaves Brooks who agonizes over every word and gesture, every decision, over-analyzing every aspect of the relationship. It'd be painful to watch if it wasn't so damn funny. Brooks doesn't pull punches or give himself real happy endings and while his character's may be smart they're not smart as they think they are. If you love those moments when Michael bumbles his way through interactions with ANYONE in the show I would wholeheartedly recommend Modern Romance. A quick note on the title, despite this film being made in the early 80's Brooks doesn't bog it down with period signifiers, setting the universal conflicts between men and women front and center. In other words, don't worry that it's an 80's fim.

Brooks next film Lost in America served as a reaction to yuppies and wannabes trying to ape the counter-culture trends of the 60's and 70's. When Brooks and his wife (Julie Hagerty) decide to throw away their posh life and live on their nest egg traveling the country in an RV and are met with comic disappointment. I'm reluctant to give this film my full endorsement as I think it doesn't give Hagerty a single redeeming moment. She's a naieve and vapid yuppie and never gets a chance to be anything else. But if you enjoy watching fish-out-of-water flop around like...say Michael Scott at Diwali Lost in America is worth a look.

Defending Your Life is probably my sentimental favorite Brooks film. Brooks went to great lengths to sketch out an entirely new conception of the afterlife. People shy away from death and what comes next but Brooks embrace the concept in this story where Brooks' yuppie protagonist dies and is transported to a very professional sort of heavenly way-station where Brooks' deeds in his life are assessed in a trial. Brooks is represented by the always delightfully gregarious Rip Torn. While in "Judgment City" Brooks befriends and develops an intense attraction to another member of the deceased, a woman who was near-perfect in life, appropriately played by Meryl Streep. Even in the afterlife Brooks is unwilling to properly assess himself as a human being and whether he goes on to heaven or if he even deserves it leads to an intense emotion filled climax (one of my personal favorites of all-time). If you love those season-finale moments where the Jim and Pam romance is advanced just a teensy bit, Defending Your Life is as good a film as your likely to see.

Brooks more recent films have not set the world afire either critically or at the box-office, but it could just be more of Brooks being ahead of his time and these films will be revered down the line (unfortunately the best thing about Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World is the title). I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention the brilliant Broadcast News that Brooks neither directed nor wrote but did star in. The film is a perfectly enchanting story about sensationalism and personalities creeping into newscasts. Brooks is entirely sympathetic and hilarious as the writer desperately in love with his best friend and producer played by Holly Hunter. Throwing a serious wrench in the works is pretty-boy anchor William Hurt. If you must see one movie I'm recommending to build up sympathy for Brooks (the man has none for himself) see this one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Novel Ideas

The other day I had the opportunity to see William Wyler's 1939 adaptation of Wuthering Heights and can firmly say I enjoyed it. There's a lot to chew on for fans of classic studio era productions, not the least of which being the SUMPTUOUS cinematography of Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane, The Grapes of Wrath) coupled with great gobs of melodrama. What struck me the most about the film is how clever it is in parsing down the non-essential elements (though fans of the novel may disagree) of the story; particularly Cathy and Heathcliff's children.
As we get oh-so-closer to the Oscars I find myself thinking more about adaptations (which comprises a good chunk of the nominated work) and how the various films do and don't work for me. My friend Frank really changed my thinking about No Country by pointing out that the film offers up very little different from the book. This is not to say that the film is not a remarkable technical achievement or has insightful things to say about the modern world, HOWEVER, these are not things that the film itself offers up as an independent work of art, these are things that the story provides as it's own entity. Now compare this to Wuthering Heights which sacrifices huge chunks of plot to streamline the story and make it about one thing and one thing only, the romance of Heathcliff and Catherine. The novel talks about fate and families, social mobility and revenge but the movie is built around the romance. As a result the emotions and dynamics are heightened by the film (especially the lush lighting and cinematography). Now all these themes I mentioned are touched upon in the film but it's not the primary focus. By making the film really clamp down and focus, Wyler is able to make a film that stands on it's own merit.
For me, the best films that start out as books tend to be the one's that streamline or alter their source material. Whether it be There Will Be Blood, The Godfather, Beowulf, Naked Lunch, Jaws or the Unbearable Lightness of Being adaptations are best when they stray away from their source material, otherwise what's the point? Now the moment you start altering things to the point of being unrecognizable then you're screwed BUT as longs as you keep the basics of the story then my feeling with a film is go with it. If you don't believe me ask yourself, which Harry Potter film is your favorite? I can virtually guarantee you it is not the rote first two films of Chris Columbus.

Question for visitors, what are YOUR favorite novel-to-film adaptations and what changes from the source text work for you?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Seven for the Sickness in March

Sure the weather may be lousy, your friends have better things to do and you're waiting to hear back from various fellowships and jobs (ok that last one may just be me) but soon-oh so very soon-the Oscars will be here and then the 2008 movie year can start in earnest. So let's take a look at the seven March releases I'm looking forward to the most:
7. 10,000 B.C.-Devlin and Emmerich (the men behind ID4 and The Day After Tomorrow) take us back to prehistoric times. I don't doubt that historical accuracy and intense character dynamics will be absolutely paramount and dumb action set-pieces will be kept to a minimum...BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! Watch Omar Shariff whore himself out March 7.
6. Doomsday-The Road Warrior took Escape from New York back behind the middle school and got it pregnant. Nine months later out popped Doomsday. The always solid Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) directs Rhona Mitra, Malcolm McDowell and Bob Hoskins and a ton of spikes and leather. Think of other genre classics you can reference to sound pretentious by March 14.
5. Snow Angels-Before David Gordon Green inevitably explodes after the release of the already classic Pineapple Express check out one last quiet, atmospheric, human drama. Green is aided by his most impressive cast yet including Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Amy Sedaris. See how a single gunshot brings to separate families together March 7.
4. Drillbit Taylor-Seth Rogen proved himself as an incredibly talented writer in 2007 with Superbad and in this film he's riffing on a John Hughes story concept. Three picked on kids pool their resources to hire security to protect themselves in junior high. Think My Bodyguard with Owen Wilson in place of Adam Baldwin. The previews make this look like a lot of fun and I'm thinking with all the talented ringers on hand (Leslie Mann, Ian Roberts, Cedric Yarbrough and Danny McBride) it should be a winner. Tip-toe around the elephant in the room March 21.
3. Funny Games-Director Michael Haneke remakes his own critically acclaimed story about an incredibly disturbing home invasion. I have not seen the original but I hope to remedy that before this new English language version comes out and scares the willies out of audiences. If Haneke can keep up the pacing of the trailer (which you can see here) we've got a winner on our hands. Go off on Tim Roth with golfing equipment March 14.
2. CJ7-Did you see Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer or King of Beggars? No? Go watch one of them. No it's ok, I'll wait. Really. Hmm hmm hmmm that's how you know/she loves you hmmm hmm hmmm. Back? Great. Ok so Stephen Chow is directing/writing/starring in his own take on E.T. Yeah, that's what I thought. Now count the days until March 7.
1. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day-Four words: Amy Adams in lingerie. AHHHHHHHHH GLORIOUS! The divine Miss Adams brings her supreme talent as a Marilyn Monroe-esque ambitious ditz in this London set screwball comedy. Oh also Francis McDormand, Cirian Hinds and Pushing Daisies Lee Pace (oh man do I miss that show) show up as well. I keep hearing the phrase "Howard Hawks inspired" associated with this film but come on people, you already made the sale, I'm buying the ticket. Be my very annoyed (but supportive) girlfriend on March 7.

A Reminder from President James Dale

This President's Day Please Remember:
We've still got two out of three branches of government working for us and that ain't bad.

Almost, Kind of

Face it folks, right now it’s Judd Apatow’s universe and we’re just living in it. The stories that feel least manufactured and most emotionally honest are concerned with arrested adolescents taking hose first bracing steps into maturity. Defintely, Maybe’s protagonist is a bit more mature but the film gets torpedoed the moment the story falls in love with him. Definitely, Maybe gets perilously close to being great but instead winds up being entirely slightly above-average. Written and directed by Adam Brooks, the screen-writing veteran of multiple mediocre romantic comedies (Wimbledon, Bridget Jones 2 and Practical Magic among them) the film is billed as a “love-mystery.”
The story centers around Will Hayes (Reynolds), a former idealistic political consultant turned ad agent, relaying the story that amounts to “how I met your mother” (though sadly neither Jason Segel nor NPH show up). It’s nice to see Reynold evolve as a leading man, he no longer wears a permanent smug expression and les himself look vulnerable at many points in the film. He tells his story to his inquisitive daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin), who having just had an unannounced sex-ed class (the first and biggest time I called bullshit on the film) is curious about how her father and his soon to be divorced wife met. Will, more game to disclose the intimate details of his adult relationship to his pre-teen daughter then one might expect a responsible adult to be says he’ll change the names of the three potential women who could be his wife-to-be in order to up the difficulty.
Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher play Will’s three would-be soul mates with charm and enthusiasm. All three are luminous and all three manage to have convincing chemistry with Reynolds, though Banks gets short-shrift as Will’s college sweet-heart, Emily. She is presented as more of a cipher, an ideal that serves more as a pleasant obstacle than anything else. The other two women get more screen time and better fleshed out personalities. Rachel Weisz exudes a mature, intense sexuality and worldliness that reminded me of Lena Olin in Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. There is also a moment where she sings the Gershwins’ “I’ve Got a Crush on You” that is absolutely devastatingly hot. Though of the three it is Fisher though comes off as the real winner here as she brings real star-making life into a turn that at first comes across as a Sam from Garden State knock-off but turns into something less pixie-ish and more adult. She keeps Reynolds on his toes and remains a constant in the film even when she is off-screen.
All three women are unwilling to compromise their ideals in the pursuit of marriage or have their relationships predicated on lies or any number of clich├ęs that have been embarrassing women in the mainstream American romantic-comedy. It’s nice to see Will transform and the fact that the Clinton era serves a the backdrop to the story lends a nice thematic counterpoint to the loss of innocence. Still, the film drops the ball in that it deigns to reward Will long after the film should run it’s natural course and end. I was under the impression that the film was unconcerned with hurting it’s lead, leaving him disillusioned and heartbroken, not once, not twice but many, MANY times. It’s refreshing to think that this large scale romantic story is predicated on the eve of a divorce but as the movie drives home numerous times we can’t feel too bad for Will as he has the rue love of his love, his daughter. However, the film can’t leave well enough alone and instead of going for the realistic ending goes on five minutes longer then necessary and rewards him again. This decision turns a potentially honest and clever look at relationships into a cloying formulaic film. It’s kind of a shame as otherwise it could’ve been a contender.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Link Up 2, The Streets

Lots of links, lots of fun, by category:

Recommended by users: My dad, MY DAD, pointed me in the direction of this very amusing web series that deals with philosophy and religion in a very wry and clever way (no REALLY). It's called Mr. Deity and you check it out here. You can also subscribe to the series online (for FREE) at the iTunes store.
Mmmmm look whose on the cover of Interview magazine, the interview is very thorough and the pictures are so very great. Drool here. Thanks to Cary who had to deal with a great deal of innuendo when he sent me the link.

Interview: The Onion AV Club has an interview with George Romero here. See what the father of zombies has to say about the genre and his latest film.

Retrospectives: Here's a look at one of my favorite classic character actors Claude Rains and a look at some damn dirty apes.

Funny: Will Ferrell and Mrs. Seal (Auf! or should I say...Arf?) did a sexy/amusing or sexmusing photo shoot to promote Ferrell's new formula sports comedy Semi-Pro here.
The cast of Spongebob Squarepants re-dubbed some scenes from classic movies, if it's funny that must mean it's on collegehumor.

Awards: As always you can find the BEST Oscar coverage ever at
Additionally is hosting its annual Golden Schmoes awards. You can fix a great injustice and vote Amy Adams for best actress by clicking here.

The Ubiquity of Christopher McDonald or Hey it’s that smug guy’s birthday

For the bevy of new readers, once in a while when a beloved star or character actor celebrates a birthday, we here at the Sickness Cinema like to take some time examining their work.
For nearly three decades no one has delivered smug white-bread bastard performances with the smooth skill of Christopher McDonald. He is “the man” personified; puffy, insincere, bullheaded and slick. With over a hundred and twenty plus film and TV credits even if you don’t know his name you unquestionably know his face.

We’d be here all day if I were run through the man’s entire resume (and hit some pretty mediocre shows and movies-hey man’s gotta eat) but let me show off the glory that is McDonald with a look at some of my favorite bits of his work.

Perhaps the most critically acclaimed film McDonald’s appeared in is Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. In the film, McDonald plays self-help guru Tappy Tibbons. McDonald brings that game-show host level of charisma but brings it with a sinister edge, so when his character finally “turns” it’s fairly horrifying. You’re drawn in by him and at the same time scarred of what that “third step” is. The mantra “Juice by Tappy” has never seemed so ominous. Below is an extended feature from the Requiem DVD where you can see the entire Tappy infomaercial in all it’s glory. It’s a testament to McDonald and Aranofsky that with no background info this would just seem like a well produced infomercial.

The Iron Giant, Brad Bird’s Warner Bros outing prior to his tenure at Pixar, is as glorious as anything he’s produced during his time at the house that Lassiter and Jobs built. McDonld is a stand-out among a surprisingly versatile voice cast. Once again McDonald brings the charm and smarm as he tries to be little Hogarth Hughes buddy as he tries to search out all potential threats to America. As antagonist G-Man Kent Mansley, McDonald sets the film’s dramatic conclusion into motion when his fear of the Giant puts the world in danger of nuclear armageddon. Yes this is a children’s film, why do you ask?

McDonald made all men everywhere look bad as the bloated prick Darryl in the woman empowerment screed that is Thelma & Louise. Darryl is the type of man whom the fashion and term “wife-beater” were invented. McDonald brings the funny with a heaping helping of entitlement. He’s glorious indignant when Geena Davis’ Thelma leaves him (though makes no comment of her unusual teeth to gum ratio) as though he couldn’t possibly understand why Thelma would leave him. It should be noted that McDonald has played the impossibly dickish husband many times before including for Jim Jarmusch in Broken Flowers. McDonald plays a jerk like no other and his work in T&L is an absolutely essential performance that many, many people associate with McDonald…

…unless you grew up with Happy Gilmore. Yes, McDonald just narrowly edges out Bradley Whitford and Sandler’s bloated sense of self-importance as the greatest antagonist in any Sandler film ever. Let me say here and now that the one who brings the funny in the film is not Sandler but McDonald. As Shooter McGavin, McDonald nails the character’s pompous delivery and is just as good with one liners as he is in setting-up bits for Sandler. Simply put the man makes a wonderful comic foil. I don’t know what cracks me up more “Damn you people, go back to your shanties!” or “I saw two fat bikers having sex in the bushes, how am I supposed to CHIP with that going on!” It should be noted that McDonald did a variation on his Shooter character in another Sandler connected film, Dirty Work. Substitute schmucky golfer with schmucky Opera enthusiast and you get the idea.

McDonald has done some time under the Coen’s in the underrated (and GORGEOUS) The Man Who Wasn’t There as of all things a smarmy Macadam Salesman. McDonald really does fit in well in late forties, early fifties Americana (little wonder then that's he the voice of Jor-El, Superman's dad for those of you who've had sex and Ward Cleaver in the Leave it to Beaver movie), it’s got to be that puckish smile that protests too much that everything is just swell. Also macadam may be one of the few words in the world that’s as fun to say as it is to type.

Still after there’s one role that forever marks McDonald in my head it’s as Matthew Lillard’s establishment father in SLC! Punk. As Lillard rebellious youth begs his father why he sold out McDonald sells the next line PERFECTLY. “I didn’t sell-out son, I bought in.” Check out about 45 seconds into the trailer below.

Looking ahead for Mr. McDonald he’ll be appearing (if it ever comes out) in the long delayed Fanboys and looks to be fulfilling my friend Aron and mine’s dreamcasting playing a Norman Osborn analogue in the Spider-Man spoof, Superhero Movie. These may not be great films but you can be rest assured that no matter the film McDonald will bring his “A” game. Do you have a favorite McDonald line or performance? Put it in the comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My personal reactions

Before reading this you ought to watch the teaser trailer in the post below. Get to it. Ok, get ready for very little joking and wise-cracking and analysis and a lot of personal (and potentially embarrassing) reveals.

A long time ago a young boy in Woodland Hills, California sat down and watched a VHS tape that his dad brought home from work that looked like this:
Look at that cover. It was incredibly exciting and promised a lot of action; guys with swords, sinister looking Nazis (who the boy knew from a very, VERY early age were no good), a very pretty lady and then there was the guy in the center. The man with the whip and the hat He looked rugged and daring and larger than life. The little boy watched that movie, sure he was scared and grossed out a lot but boy was it exciting. It was the most exciting thing he had maybe ever seen and it made him feel good to see it. He wanted to be the hero and as Purim and Halloween pictures would attest he dressed up like him a lot with a too-big leather jacket, makeshift whip, satchel, gun and of course the hat. It sparked his imagination and made him want to dream and explore and travel. It made him feel so good that the boy fell in love with that feeling and so a great romance was born between the boy and movies. And for that I cannot thank Misters Spielberg, Lucas, Ford, Williams and the entire cast and crew of Raiders of the Lost Ark enough.

So how do I feel about the new teaser. I love it from frame one. I really do. I love that it looks film-y and barely digitally tweaked. The costumes and the chases and whip action. Man there is nothing greater then a man swinging from something. Of course the clincher, the thing that started the tears flowing was the score. My god, the score. As iconic as the costume is there is nothing that even gets close to what is probably the greatest piece of film music ever. Oh sure there's a teensy, tiny nagging voice in the back of my head making minuscule quibbles about timing and the needless legacy reminders (like we forgot who Indiana Jones is? Really?), but really this is a perfect teaser because it sells the action and feel of the film without spoiling ANY of the plot. Oh sure there are clues (check out the location on the crate) but you really have to go out of your way online to put it into context. And THAT is the mark of a good teaser.

So, what did YOU think of the teaser?

Sweet God in Heaven YES!

Yeah so I caught the bootleg of this at about 4 am this morning when I couldn't sleep. I will be back later today with my reactions cause it's now around noon and I'm still overwhelmed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Save Our Bluths: The Movie

Welcome to the many, MANY visitors from Beingfamous. I’m the Sickness/El Gigante and I love movies.

Let’s get down to it.

You would be hard pressed to find a bigger Arrested Development fan than I. I think the show serves as a benchmark for quality television comedy. The kind of show that deserves to be mentioned in the same breathe as Your Show of Shows, All in the Family, Taxi, the old Simpsons, the Larry Sanders Show, the Office; really the best of the best. But now that the strike is over can the potential AD join the ranks of great movie comedies? I’m cautiously optimistic. Obviously the die-hard fans will come out (maybe we’ll do a big ribbon cutting premiere) but does the cast appeal to the common man? Perhaps, but who the big pull may surprise you as I run down the MOVIE CAREERS OF THE BLUTH FAMILY.
The reason for this article is for my late-night-can’t-sleep-screening of The Brothers Solomon. Damn it all the math just didn’t work at all. I mean check it out.

Will Arnett=Funny, Bob Odenkirk=Funny, Will Forte=Funny, Chi McBride=funny

But somehow

(Will Arnett+Will Forte+Chi McBride) x Bob Odenkirk=Not funny

This is why I scored so low on my math SAT’s. It’s really made me reconsider my whole stance on Will Arnett as a viable filmic leading man. On Arrested the guy is fall on the floor funny just by existing, but is it that I find GOB Bluth that funny and not Arnett? Blasphemy I know.

Ok so let’s run it down:
Jason Bateman: A frequent face in the "Comedy clique" films people may recognize him from his work in Dodgeball, Starsky & Hutch or the Break Up all of which did big business. As Bateman branches out he begins to demonstrate greater range he is not pulling in an audience in films like The Kingdom or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Too many he’s the wryly funny supporting guy. He ain’t a lead.
UPDATE: Oh crap, I forgot Juno. Or did I? Could my omission be a tacit reaction to my feelings on Bateman in the film? Or am I just an idiot?

Will Arnett: God knows they’re trying to make him a legitimate member of the comedy clique but nothing is sticking. The studios don’t push his comedies and then to compound the problem the movies aren’t that funny. Let’s Go to Prison? The Brothers Solomon? Sorry even the biggest Will Arnett apologist would be hard pressed to call these “good.” Sterling and amusing supporting work in films like Hot Rod and Blades of Glory are all well and good but he’s not the flashiest or funniest thing in either film. Maybe his work as an announcer in the forthcoming Semi-Pro will give him a Fred Willard-esque bump.

David Cross-The Mr. Show vet is a dynamic performer and powerful voice in alternative stand-up comedy. But again, the guy doesn’t bring in a massive audience. Except he appeared in a 200 MILLLION dollar grossing film last year. Oh sure, he got a mountain of shit for it but the fact is to thousands of little kids he’s Ian, Alvin and the chipmunks dastardly manager. Could seeing ole Ian bring in the kiddies? Maybe.

Portia De Rossi: Her life as Mrs. DeGeneres (and you know, give her a fulfilling relationship) may put her in a lot of magazines but nothing in her filmography suggests that audiences know who she is.

Tony Hale: Oh yes I can see it now “Oh hey that guy from the short lived Andy Richter TV series!”

Alia Shawkat: Puberty has been VERY kind to her. Who could blame the boys for flocking to see a lovely young woman?

Jessica Walter: Menopause has been VERY kind to her. Who could blame the septuagenarians for flocking to see this GILF? Watch out boys loose seal on the loose.

Jeffrey Tambor: I love that his mst successful film work has been in the Hellboy films. Should Golden Army be a success (and I don’t see why not considering Guillermo’s traction post Pan’s Labyrinth) Tambor could bring the geeks who don’t already know AD. Oh and on a personal note, please Mr. Tambor no more sub-par TV series. You’ve been on two of the greatest TV shows of all-time (AD and The Larry Sander Sanders Show) so why settle for Welcome to the Captain.

Michael Cera: Ladies and gentleman, meet the reason why an Arrested Development movie will be successful. The two movies he appeared in in 2007 broke 100 million. Heck even the most strident detractors of Superbad (which is to say most women) think Michael Cera is adorable and hilarious and EVERYONE likes Juno. Except the people who like to be contrary. Cera is now a bonnafide movie star with huge appeal to audiences, if virgins will check-out an AD movie, it will be to see Cera. “Everybody likes you, you’re George Michael.” Well said Michael, well said.