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After a divided reception at May's Cannes Film Festival (and a UK release earlier this summer), David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis" finally opened for New York and Los Angeles audiences on Friday. On Friday, meanwhile, it opens wide, exposing itself itself to hordes of Robert Pattinson fanatics who might well find themselves baffled by Cronenberg's (or rather Don DeLillo's) chilly, talky, unapologetically freeze-dried essay on the alienation of the One Per Cent. They'll do anything for love, those Twi-hards, but I'm not sure they'll do that.
The Pattinson fans that decide to give it a skip, however, will ironically be missing their idol's best screen work to date. Many sneered when it was announced that the veteran director would be working with the modern matinee idol, not an actor yet treasured for immense range -- but his pinched, low-temperature charisma has found its perfect manipulator in Cronenberg, a director who has seemingly always been as interested in a star's physique as their technique. In my review of "Cosmopolis," I noted "the effectively slippery [energy] inherent in Pattinson’s compellingly blank screen presence," which perhaps sounds more backhanded than I intended; it's harder than it looks to play a cypher.
“I’m as shallow as you can get,” a charming Alanis Morissette surprisingly confessed at a Los Angeles event, and then proceeded to prove just the opposite.
The small gathering, held at Sonos Studios in Hollywood, featured a Q&A conducted by Billboard's Phil Gallo, with Morissette about the making of her new album, “Havoc And Bright Lights,” as well as a mini-concert by the Grammy winner.
[More after the jump...]
Greg Daniels was the man who started the American version of "The Office," adapting Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's work for NBC. And now Daniels is the man who is ending "The Office," as he announced today that the upcoming season (debuting Sept. 20) will be the final one.
This year's New York Film Festival just keeps expanding. Yesterday it was revealed that anniversary screenings of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Princess Bride" would be on the docket for the 50th annual, and today, it's been revealed that, like Telluride and AFI Fest, NYFF has added a tribute element to its proceedings.
The first-ever honorees will be actress Nicole Kidman -- whose film "The Paperboy," from director Lee Daniels, was also added to the line-up today -- and NYFF Selection Committee Chair & Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center Richard Peña.
"Richard Peña has been the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival since 1988," the press release states. "At the Film Society, he has organized retrospectives of Michelangelo Antonioni, Sacha Guitry, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Aldrich, Roberto Gavaldon, Ritwik Ghatak, Kira Muratova, Youssef Chahine, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Saura and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Israeli, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Swedish, Taiwanese and Argentine cinema."
Occasionally, if you write about movies for a living, you will come across one that will simply frustrate any and all attempts you make to write about it. "Cosmopolis" is one such beast, wild and ugly and cold and unwilling to give the viewer any of the standard kicks that they have been taught to expect from genre films, even those created by the uber-smart David Cronenberg.
I was decidedly not onboard for his last film, "A Dangerous Method," and it left me depressed afterwards. I have been a fan of Cronenberg's work since early exposure, and I think a major part of my own aesthetic standards were defined in some small part by the movies he's been making as long as I've been watching movies. I remember the first time I saw "The Brood" the way I remember things that actually happened to me. I remember "Scanners" that way. I remember "Videodrome" that way.
Dax Shepard has come a long way. His first major acting gig was assisting in Ashton Kutcher's pranks on "Punk'd." It paid (well as much as MTV pays), but it probably didn't provide great clips for his acting reel. Still, he persevered, worked hard and eventually his talent won out in what has always been a very cutthroat business (and no doubt his reality background didn't help). Currently, Shepard plays Crosby a fan favorite on NBC's "Parenthood" and has memorable turns in flicks such as "Baby Mama," "Let's Go To Prison" and "Zathura." Moreover, he's publicly always been humble about his relatively modest success to date. When "Hit and Run" opens this Wednesday he'll earn another career bump and be recognized for crafting a broad action comedy that's unexpectedly sweet and dramatic. Considering it's just his second official directorial effort and was made on a shoestring budget, Hollywood executives should be taking meetings with Shepard about his potential behind the camera and not just in front of it.
Shepard's partial ode to comedies such as "Cannonball Run" features a strong ensemble of actors who get a chance to broaden their range. Bradley Cooper, Kristen Chenoweth, Tom Arnold and Joy Bryant are clearly all having a ball often playing against "type." Shepard crafted most of these characters for each actor most of whom are old friends. One character who many audiences will enjoy is a gay cop played by 6'6" red-headed who, along with his partner, get wrapped up in the film's wild goose chase. Unless you're a die hard fan of "General Hospital" this will likely be the first time you've experienced the impressive talents of Jess Rowland.
Full disclosure, I've known Jess for over 10 years. We've played basketball together in a local LA league and anyone with an eye for talent can tell you his comic timing is as good as his offensive rebounding and scoring ability. Jess is a very funny guy who met Shepard while they were both studying improv comedy at "The Groundlings." They remained friends over the years and when Shepard was writing the script for "Hit" he specifically wrote this role for Jess. Not a one or two scene cameo, but the big break Jess has been pursuing for years. Shepard (who also wrote a quieter role for his sister in the film) was under no obligation to do this for Jess. He did it because he knew Jess would deliver and maybe a little part of him wanted to give back. So, if you see "Hit," and I hope you do, you'll be hard pressed not to remember Jess just as much as you remember Cooper, Shepard or Kristen Bell's performances. In fact, during my interview with both Shepard and Bell, Bell point blank says Jess "steals the movie."
It may sound naive, but living and working in this town for as long as I have has taught me that if you are a good person, have talent and work hard you'll eventually get your shot and rewarded for it. Basically, you don't need to be an epic [expletive] or sleep your way to the top to make it. Sure, many do, but their success is usually short-lived and when they eventually fall from grace it sure isn't pretty. Knowing Jess, I'm sure he'd joke that he'd have slept with whoever he needed to for that big break, but sometimes the long road is more rewarding when you can really appreciate it. Even in tintsletown.
You can watch my interview with Shepard and Bell where, much to their surprise, we mostly talk about Jess' performance embedded at the top of this post.
"Hit and Run" opens nationwide tomorrow and I'd highly recommend it even if I didn't know one of the stars personally (of course I might recommend it more if he passed the ball out of the post more, but that's a different story…)
Three years ago Summit Entertainment surmounted considerable odds -- a 17-month viewing window, a Goliath "game changer," low box office numbers that became the story -- to claim the Best Picture prize for Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." It was a pretty significant moment. The house that "Twilight" built had secured the industry's highest honor.
Things have changed a bit since then. Obviously, the biggest event has been Lionsgate's acquisition of the company, which yielded plenty of personnel changes. But in the frame of awards season, Summit has been there when it had the goods. Last year brought "50/50," a near-Oscar player that had a good time at the Independent Spirit Awards, and summer release "A Better Life," which brought a surprising Best Actor nomination for star Demián Bichir. This year, they have another one-two punch, a pair of films that couldn't be more different but that nevertheless showcase strong directorial voices.
Whenever the conversation about potential new categories at the Academy Awards rolls around among award geeks, a Best Casting prize (generally in tandem with one for Best Ensemble) will usually be one of the first suggestions. It's a worthy idea, but one that -- like the oft-suggested category for stunt work -- I fear would prove useless in practice. Casting may be one of the most vital contributions to the filmmaking process, but I doubt most laymen would be able to discern what it actually entails. They struggle enough with sound editing without having to judge off-screen disciplines too.
I strongly suspect an Oscar category for Best Casting would just wind up dully adding to the laurels of sundry Best Picture winners, brilliantly cast or otherwise. You might expect the Casting Society of America's awards to take a different tack, but no: despite landing far outside awards season, the nominations for their Artios Awards check off most of the same 2011 contenders all the other guilds did seven months ago, with a few 2012 early birds thrown in for good measure.
Paramount is betting big on Tom Clancy.
They've had a fair amount of luck with the author's work in the past, and they've done their best to reinvent Jack Ryan as they've dealt with cast changes. "The Hunt For Red October" was a great showcase for young Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery hot on the heels of his "Untouchables" Oscar win. With "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," they reinvented the series around Harrison Ford as a central personality. With "Sum Of All Fears," Ben Affleck stepped into the part as they attempted to back everything up for a younger take on the character.
Since then, they've worked to figure out how to reboot it again, and they've also worked to figure out what they can do with the other Clancy books that they own. In "Sum Of All Fears," they cast Liev Schreiber as John Clark, a CIA operative who has become a major part of Clancy's overall world, the same character who was played by Willem Dafoe in "Clear and Present Danger." He's an important part of the studio's overall franchise plans, and today, it looks like they're one step closer to making those plans a reality.
After two album teaser tracks -- a goober-y Olympic theme ("Survival") and goofy dubstep-Hans Zimmer hybrid ("Unsustainable") -- Muse have finally named their first single from new album "The 2nd Law." And it's a ballad.
"Madness," unlike other single-word declarative titles from the British troupe, hardly sounds like crazy-time at all. It's slow-moving with a a fairly pedestrian melodic line, harmless lyrics and a grounded guitar solo. It's listenable modern rock when it slows down with more electronica, as the band has been prone to these days.
And it keeps reminding me of a more lethargic "One Tree Hill" by U2. Matthew Bellamy has those pre-note groans down before a long big pop run. Like the river to the sea.