Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood
Has he had his own 'Marilyn' on set?
If anyone deserves the 2011 comeback of the year award it may just be Kenneth Branagh.
The four-time Oscar nominee burst upon the scene in 1989 with his acclaimed adaptation of "Henry V." It was a remarkable achievement which he both directed and starred in at the ripe old age of 28. Branagh became a creative force and incredibly prolific during the early to mid-90's with more Shakespeare adaptations such as "Much Ado About Nothing" and a four-hour "Hamlet," the underrated thriller "Dead Again," cult comedy favorite "Peter's Friends" and the studio misfire "Frankenstein." His career hit a major bumpy patch after his villainous turn in the disappointing "Wild Wild West" and the critical drubbing of his musical version of "Love's Labour's Lost" in 2000. What followed was almost a decade of supporting roles in films such as "Rabbit-Proof Fence," "Valkyrie" and "Pirate Radio" and little substantial directing work. I remember speaking to Branagah when "Sleuth" screened at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and he was humbly grateful star and producer Jude Law offered him the chance to helm a movie people were paying attention to. It was a far cry from a decade earlier when he was the toast of Hollywood and "Hamlet" was perceived as a best picture nominee (which didn't happen although it did land four nominations).
Who are the 'ghost whisperers' of European film sets?
If you happened to head to the local multiplex on Sunday there's a good chance the movie you ended up seeing was "War Horse." Before the holiday, Steven Spielberg's 2 hour and 26 minute epic was projected to have a good, but not great debut. Instead, "War Horse" burst onto the scene with $7.5 million in just 2,600 theaters, almost double what pre-release polling indicated. And, its per-screen average was barely behind that of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which played in over 1,000 more theaters and had the added benefit of higher IMAX ticket prices. DreamWorks and Disney kept Monday's estimate much more conservative than its competitors, but a $15 million plus cume over two days is a stellar launch for the Oscar player.
Fassbender, 'Game of Thrones,' '30 Rock,' Adele and...Britney
I already ranked my top 10 films of the year last week, but taking a page from In Contention's own Kris Tapley I've decided to post my own picks in some of the major award season categories. Just for fun, I've also included some of my "best of the year" picks for TV and music as well. Granted, music is the most subjective these days, so if it makes you feel better consider my Top Singles of 2011 a "favorites" list.
And again, thanks to Mr. Tapley for letting me poach his idea.
Comments are included where it was deemed necessary.
Which franchise surprisingly made the list?
Aren't you glad that's over? Yes, 2011 was clearly one of the more mediocre and likely unmemorable years in cinema in quite awhile. Sure, there were some amazing films released over the last 12 months, but it was much easier picking the top five pictures on my year end list than the second five. It was just one of those years.
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2012 promises to be an eventful year in animation
No best animated feature nominee this year New York Film Critics Circle? Well, we beg to differ, but something tells us 2012 might suit your peculiar tastes a bit more. Not only is Pixar returning with "Brave," but LAIKA is back with their first feature since "Coraline," "ParaNorman." DreamWorks also has "Rise of the Guardians" based on William Joyce's acclaimed "The Guardians of Childhood" novels, Disney Animated Studios has "Wreck-It-Ralph," Aardman returns to stop-motion with ""THe Pirates! Basednd of Misfits" and Universal brings "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" to life. One of the most anticipated new animated films, however, has to be Tim Burton's long awaited feature length version of "Frankenweenie."
DreamWorks Oscar contender hits SoHo House
2011 has been the year of Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain, but the latter hasn't really been around much to enjoy it. I spoke to "The Help," "Tree of Life," "Coriolanus," "The Debt," "Take Shelter," "Texas Killing Fields" actress Wednesday evening at a relaxed and holiday cocktail party DreamWorks held at SoHo House Los Angeles to celebrate "The Help."
Universal puts serious money in TV spots for a best picture nod
Was I awake enough to ask coherent questions?
After a long and very busy Golden Globes morning last Tuesday, this pundit collapsed into a well deserved nap. Being an entertainment writer/journalist/critic/commentator is a fantastic job, but the back to back days you have to get up at 5 AM to hear both SAG and Globe nominations are arguably the toughest of the year. An hour later, I groggily woke up and stared at the 40 new E-mails that somehow found their way into my inbox. Just two minutes later the phone rang. Smartly, I answered the unknown number and heard, "Greg? This is Albert Brooks."
Crap Ellwood. You better wake up, snap out of it and get it together.
Focus Features dates their awards players for next year
In theory, there is nothing wrong with having your film labeled "Oscar bait." Sure, it insinuates that the picture is being released or aimed at an audience interested in awards worthy films, but most of the time they usually turn out more than O.K. Some major Oscar bait movies this year were "The Descendants," "War Horse," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Ides of March" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Of course, "Carnage," "Anonymous" and "J. Edgar" had that label too. Focus Features, which has had a superb year so far with "Beginners," "Tinker," "Jane Eyre" and the upcoming "Pariah," released their 2012 schedule today and - no surprise - a number of potential contenders for the next Oscar season made the list.