Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday Night at the Movies: "Cold Souls"

Welcome to "Saturday Night at the Movies," a weekly feature in which I recommend an older title that you can go watch, right this very minute (provided you have Netflix Instant). 

Here’s a research project for you: find one review of Sophie Barthes’ Cold Souls that doesn’t mention Charlie Kaufman. Good luck! They are, admittedly, pretty easy dots to connect; Barthes’ story, in its broad strokes, mixes the pseudo-celebrity themes of Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich script with the medical/psychological concepts of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But what’s important to note is that Cold Souls is no mere copycat, no proto-Kaufman Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead; it is a film with its own particular style and ideas, and, at its best, is just as strong as the pictures it is so readily connected to.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is T.J. Miller America's Most Charmingly Delusional Actor?

As I'm sure you all know--what with all the websites and their countdown clocks--today is Yogi Bear day, when at long last Warner Brothers unleashes their thoroughly hatable 3-D grab for CG-animated holiday money (or, as its called in Hollywood board rooms, "Chipmunk Cheddar"). The reviews have been, well, somewhat less than kind. But at least one man has positive things to say about the film: supporting player T.J. Miller.

Miller's work as Ranger Jones, whose nefarious attempts to wreck Ranger Smith's gig as head ranger are apparently motivated by his desire to drive the park go-kart really fast (don't ask me, I dunno), was neither memorable enough nor unfortunate enough for me to even bother mentioning him in my review. But the young actor is beating the drum loudly for the picture, most notably in a Movieline interview that must be read to be believed. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In Theaters: "Yogi Bear"

Let’s begin with a public service announcement: If you attend the new big-screen incarnation of Yogi Bear, you will, at one point, see the titular character shake his big, CG-animate bear ass to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” I implore you: do not subject yourself to this. It’s kind of like The Human Centipede; once you’ve seen it, you cannot un-see it.

In Theaters: "Casino Jack"

The thing about the Jack Abramoff story is not that a great film could be made of it, it’s that one already was: Alex Gibney’s thrilling, brilliant, angry documentary account, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, released earlier this year. The most depressing element of the late George Hickenlooper’s dramatization—which carries the simpler title Casino Jack—is that it will presumably be seen by a much larger audience, by sheer virtue of the fact that it is not a documentary and that it features actors you’ve heard of, like Kevin Spacey and Kelly Preston. But it’s a messy, lumpy affair which somehow takes the opportunity to streamline and dramatize the Abramoff story and instead gets all tied up in narrative knots.

On DVD: "The Town"

Fitzgerald famously wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives,” but Fitzgerald wasn’t a film critic. He might have revised his opinion had he witnessed the somewhat spectacular resurrection of one Ben Affleck, who went from Oscar winner and must-have leading man to overexposed pop culture punchline in the space of about half a decade. Some of this was his fault (he certainly didn’t have to make Surviving Christmas, or Paycheck, or that cameo in then-girlfriend J-Lo’s music video), and some of it wasn’t, but Affleck did just about the smartest thing he could’ve done—he went under the radar. Onscreen, he limited his appearances to compact character roles; off-screen, he cast an eye towards the future, co-writing and directing the critically-acclaimed 2007 adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel Gone Baby Gone.

Scorsese, DeNiro, Pacino, Pesci to Team Up for the Movie of my 10th Grade Dreams

Perhaps out of understandable guilt and shame about going off and doing another one of those goddamn Fockers movies, Robert DeNiro is talking more about The Irishman, his upcoming mob movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, co-starring Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Oh, and maybe Harvey Keitel too. Ya know, if they feel like it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On DVD: "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson- Show Date: 05/04/77"

So what’s an even bigger rip-off then packaging a bunch of incomplete, badly edited Tonight Show episodes into a big, seemingly definitive box set? That’s easy—break out a bunch of those incomplete episodes and sell them individually. How’s 13 bucks sound for a 37-minute truncation of a mid-level episode of Tonight? Quite a bargain, eh? The May 4, 1977 edition finds Carson welcoming a pair of very funny men (Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor), but the results are somewhat mediocre; of the three, only Pryor really brings the funny.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Golden Globe Nominations Spotlight Why No One Takes Golden Globes Seriously

Conventional Hollywood wisdom held that True Grit, Somewhere, and maybe The Town would pull down some kudos come awards season, so thank God we've got the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to be all, "Hey dudes, how about Burlesque? And Red? And did you see The Tourist? It's got Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in it, and boy are they easy on the eyes, eh? Hey, did Johnny Depp do anything else we can nominate him for?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

On DVD: "Micmacs"

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs is a delightful little fun house of a movie, and a welcome return to form for the playful French filmmaker, who followed up the internationally beloved Amelie with the well-made but underwhelming (and somewhat downbeat) A Very Long Engagement five years back. It’s an utterly charming picture that takes a dark tale and puts a whiz-bang spin on it.

On DVD: "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work"

Early in Ricki Stern and Anne Sundeberg’s extraordinary documentary portrait Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, the legendary comic’s manager offers up an assessment of the general perception of his client. “Right now,” he says flatly, “they see her as a plastic surgery freak who’s past due.” Full disclosure: I was one of those people. My primary impressions of Rivers were of a, yes, plastic surgery freak, braying on a red carpet on E! (their exclamation point, not mine). I knew her as the woman who quit the gig guest-hosting Carson for a Fox competitor that flopped miserably; I knew her as one of the C-grade schlubs on “Celebrity” Apprentice (my quotes, not theirs). What I didn’t know her as was funny, or fascinating. In Stern and Sundberg’s excellent documentary, she is both.

On DVD: "Cyrus"

Everything you need to know—or remember—about how great John C. Reilly is can be found in the first ten or so minutes of the Duplass Brothers’ Cyrus. As Reilly’s “John” tries to recover from an embarrassing situation with his ex-wife, then attempts to blend in at an upscale party she’s dragged him to, he’s funny, he’s warm, he’s a little bit crazy, he’s a lot awkward. “I am in a tailspin,” he tells a girl that he feels a connection with. “I’m lonely, I’m depressed…” (It’s not exactly party pick-up material.) He’s doing the kind of complex, multi-layered work he was doing for Paul Thomas Anderson in Boogie Nights and Magnolia, about a decade ago when we all started to become aware of this oddly extraordinary actor.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On DVD: "Mother and Child"

“Her birthday’s coming up,” Karen tells her mother. “She’ll be 37.” Karen gave her daughter up for adoption on the day of her birth; she was 14 at the time. She hasn’t seen her since. But she’s out there; her name is Elizabeth and she’s successful and upwardly mobile, but closed off and unapproachable. They have that in common. Rodrigo Garcia’s Mother and Child is about how their lives finally intersect, in none of the ways that you might expect from the summary thus far. And it is the story of another woman, Lucy, who is looking to adopt as well; she’ll come into their lives, but also in a surprising way.