Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In Theaters: "Hereafter"

In a New York Times interview, Hereafter screenwriter Peter Morgan tells the twisty tale of how his script went from an instinctively-written first draft through several revisions for potential director Steven Spielberg before landing with Clint Eastwood, who turned around and shot, basically, the first draft. Similar stories circulated back in 2004, when Eastwood shot Million Dollar Baby from Paul Haggis’s first pass, so Eastwood apparently likes the notion of putting the writer’s work right up on the screen. “When something hits you and excites your interest,” he explains in the Times piece, “there’s really no reason to kill it with improvements.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

On DVD: "Holy Rollers"

Kevin Asch’s Holy Rollers is based on the true story of a smuggling ring in which Orthodox Jews were hired as couriers to bring ecstasy into America from Amsterdam—the logic being that no customs agent would give them a second glance, much less any hassle. It would be easy to imagine the plot being played as a broad, goofy comedy, particularly considering the cutesy title they’ve given it. So the surprise is what a thoughtful, weighty picture Asch has made, and how skillfully he’s done it; he (and screenwriter Antonio Macia) take these characters and their situation seriously, and the film is better for it.

On DVD: "Please Give"

Is there a more underrated director than Nicole Holofcener? Since her 1996 breakthrough film Walking and Talking, she’s written and directed a steady stream of witty, smart, female-friendly indie comedies, pulling terrific performances out of Frances McDormand, Jennifer Aniston, Emily Mortimer, and her cinematic alter ego, the DeNiro to her Scorsese, the great Catherine Keener. But she’s never brought up in discussions of our better indie filmmakers, in spite of the fact that she’s more consistently reliable than many of her peers. (Maybe people don’t talk about her because they still haven’t figured out how to pronounce her name.)