By Jessica Allen - Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
Jessica Allen on the (slightly repulsive) allure of Harmony Korine’s new film
In Anthony Lane’s recent New Yorker review of Spring Breakers, a movie about four college girls who rob a Chicken Shack restaurant in order to fund a Florida spring break, the film critic writes that two sorts of people will glorify the film: “Real revellers, randy for sensation, out of their heads; and, a block away, coffee-drinking Ph.D.s, musing on the cinema of alienation, too lost inside their heads to break for spring.”
I have a feeling that Lane may be bang on. Last week a friend saw a special screening of the film (it opens in Canada on March 29.) Afterwards she tweeted that a fight almost broke out during the screening when a man shushed some girls, who then called him a c–t. Afterwards, those girls chugged a two-litre bottle of cream soda and a 40 of vodka in the washroom.
But I also think there might be a grey area, for people–like me–who haven’t quite made up their minds on this Bonnie and Clyde-like beach odyssey set in the bowels of contemporary America, or, for that matter, on the director, Harmony Korine.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 7:22 AM - 0 Comments
If you’re impatient for the “sea of fire” promised by North Korea, and would like to see us move toward the apocalypse at a faster clip, Hollywood is in your corner this Easter weekend. In G.I. Joe: Retaliation, an elite squad of U.S. special forces out-muscle an evil genius who’s trying to blow up the world. It’s an NRA wet dream, a gun-porn action movie for those who found Olympus Has Fallen too quiet and thoughtful. Next to G.I. Joe, the White House siege staged by North Korea in Olympus Has Fallen plays like an Ingmar Bergman movie.
More on that in a moment. But there are are other ways to enjoy the End Of The World this Easter weekend. Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, one of the best films I’ve seen this year, is a riveting story of two teenage girls, who were both born on the day the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, and whose close friendship implodes under the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Elle Fanning and Alice Englert are superb as Ginger and Rosa. The movie belongs to these two young women, whose intimacy is rooted in the knowing detail of a script rooted in Potter’s own English youth. Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) makes a fine frustrated housewife, whose Byronic husband (Alessandro Nivola) is busy being free, changing the world—and drawing Rosa into his web. Timothy Spall, Annette Bening and Oliver Platt fill out a strong supporting cast.
Ginger & Rosa is tinted by nostalgia for the Sixties, but not the Sixties of counter-culture myth. It takes place in 1962, on the cusp of everything that’s about to happen, when the cultural balance was still tipped toward Cold War terror, before the Beatles, before flower power and feminism—before the personal became political. But in this story of young female longing, those two worlds combust. And in the lives of its two naive 16-year-olds, we see a generation lose its innocence in flight to freedom that pinwheels into tragedy. It’s similar territory to An Education, but less subdued. The story’s emotional vortex gives both Marx and Freud and run for their money.
For apocalyptic tale candy-coated in cool contemporary nihilism, there’s Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, a girls-gone-wild story of college coeds enjoying a rampage of sex, drugs, ‘n’ automatic weapons. Whatever ideas pretend to be at work in this über-guilty pleasure are swamped by the director’s flamboyant style, and shock-and-awe orgy that gets tired fast. The esthetic is that of a music video, but the looped dance-beat images of young bodies working so hard to have fun become a chore to watch. Before the long, the movie turns into a numbing trailer for itself. As its four bikini girls on dope ride into the heart of darkness, it turns out that their Kurtz—a drug lord named Alien played played by a southern-fried James Franco—has all the best scenes. So much for the riot girls. With smirking contempt for his characters, Harmony Korine splits the difference between satirizing youthful decadence and exploiting it, leaving us squarely in the middle of the road, dazed and confused.
For more on Ginger & Rosa and Spring Breakers, as well as two other new films about young women—The Host, The Sapphires, and Beyond the Hills, watch later today for my story: Girls Gone Wilder. And for a less dismissive view of that bikini outlaw flick, check out this thoughtful, provocative piece from Jessica Allen: What is it about Spring Breakers? Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:25 PM - 0 Comments
Opening this week are two Hollywood offerings from opposite ends of the brains/brawn spectrum—Admission and Olympus Has Fallen. Both are about the barbarians at the gate. The first is not as smart as its academic pedigree would suggest; the latter is not as dumb as you’d expect. And neither movie breaks the mold of its own formula—respectively a fortysomething romcom and a stars-and-stripes disaster flick. But each is entertaining, up to a point. It’s an apples and oranges choice—snakes & ladders in an ivory tower versus the wholesale destruction of the White House. I’d recommend Admission, if only for the deft, amiable performances of Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. But for an action junkie who just can’t get satisfaction from another Die Hard sequel, Olympus Has Fallen offers a generic methadone fix. (Also opening this week is Home Again, a drama about Jamaican deportees by Canadian director Sudz Sutherland, which I wrote about in last week’s magazine.)
Tina Fey plays to her strength as brisk, brittle career woman, a control freak with a quick wit who has all her ducks in a row, but is about to see them go flying every which way. She plays Portia, a straight-laced admissions officer at Princeton University—which, surprisingly, has lent its brand to a movie that doesn’t always show the institution in the most flattering light. On a recruiting visit to a rural alternative high school, Portia meets her match in its left-liberal administer, John (Rudd), a former classmate who urges her to consider one of his students (Natt Wolf) for Princeton. He’s a charming but unconventional kid, an autodidact without the required academic qualifications. Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 5:07 PM - 0 Comments
In some ways, Matt Seitz’s review of David Mamet’s Phil Spector (premiering Sunday on HBO) says a lot of what I was going to say. And this article from the L.A. Times has given us a look at Mamet’s distortions of fact, not to mention his reduction of Lana Clarkson to nearly a non-person, in his attempt to argue that Spector was railroaded. I’m still going to try and find some words for it. Lurking somewhere in this basically unsatisfying movie, there’s a potentially interesting two-character play; nearly all the best scenes are set in Phil Spector’s house, and feature Al Pacino ranting and raving while Helen Mirren, as Linda Kenney Baden, tries to bring him down to earth. It’s not the freshest Mamet dialogue, and the tension that should develop between the actors isn’t really there. But it works all right as a series of sketches with Pacino as the comic and Mirren as the straight woman, though even in these scenes you feel like the deck is being stacked in favour of Spector: he may be crazy, but he’s the only person in the movie who’s having any fun, so how can we not root for him?
But this is not a play, it’s a 90-minute TV movie, and so we get a law procedural on top of the two-character play. Lots of discussion about guns and bullets and plastic dummies and putting people on the Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 1:56 PM - 0 Comments
Cannes is casting a come-hither look at Hollywood this year. First it was announced that Steven Spielberg would head the jury of the Cannes Film Festival (May 15- 26). Then came news that Cannes will open with a Hollywood premiere, The Great Gatsby. Now the official poster has been unveiled, bearing a vintage photograph of actor/director Paul Newman and actress Joanne Woodward—the model Hollywood couple whose marriage lasted five decades, until Newman’s death in 2008. The picture was taken during the shoot of A New Kind of Love (1963). For the poster, it was enhanced with a Vertigo-like pop art swirl.
Newman and Woodward were honoured by Cannes in 1958, the year of their marriage, with the Competition selection of Martin Ritt’s The Long Hot Summer, the first film in which they co-starred. As a director, Newman later cast Woodward in two movies that played in competition, The Effect of the Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1973) and The Glass Menagerie (1987).
With hyperbole that may have read better in French, the Cannes press release states: “The poster evokes a luminous and tender image of the modern couple, intertwined in perfect balance at the heart of the dizzying whirlwind that is love. The vision of these two lovers caught in a vertiginous embrace, oblivious of the world around them, invites us to experience cinema with all the passion of an everlasting desire.”
The festival has also created a video teaser of the graphic (which you can watch below) setting it to a dance-beat version of “Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals, the classic Camille Saint-Saëns theme that plays over the red-carpet animation servers as the traditional prelude for every film programmed at the festival.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
Veteran Canadian film mogul Robert Lantos, producer of movies ranging from Black Robe to Barney’s Version, is the most prominent voice behind Starlight, a proposed TV channel that would be solely devoted to Canadian cinema. Lantos is one of Starlight’s three principal shareholders, but the company’s roster of partners is a virtual pantheon of Canadian filmmakers—including David Cronenberg, Denis Arcand, Denis Villeneuve, Atom Egoyan, Deepa Mehta, Patricia Rozema and Paul Gross. In April, the CRTC will consider Starlight’s application for “mandatory carriage,” which would require carriers including Rogers, Bell and Shaw to give it a spot on the basic tier of cable or satellite service.
Recently on this website, Maclean’s blogger Jesse Brown interviewed George Burger, a partner in VMedia, a Toronto startup offering unbundled TV channels over the Internet. Burger launched a volley of arguments against the Starlight proposal that Lantos has asked to refute, claiming that they are based on erroneous data.
Maclean’s writer Brian D. Johnson interviewed Lantos by phone. [Note: VMedia has filed an intervention with the CRTC against the Starlight proposal, and so has Rogers Communications, which owns Maclean’s.]
Q: What did you find so upsetting about Burger’s comments?
A: First you should know that George Burger was an employee of mine at Alliance, approximately from 1995 to 1998, before I sold the company. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Filmmakers hitch drama about Jamaican deportees to fight against Bill C-43
The idea was sparked by a newspaper story about a young man who was gunned down in Kingston, Jamaica. Toronto film producer Jennifer Holness—sitting at the kitchen table with her husband, director Sudz Sutherland—was shocked. She knew the victim. They hung out back in junior high in Toronto, before he got in trouble with the law and was deported to Jamaica, a country he hadn’t seen since emigrating as a small child. For Holness and Sutherland, the news hit close to home. Both are children of Jamaican immigrants: she came to Canada at 7 and he was born here. Now, six years after reading that story, they have dramatized the plight of Jamaican deportees in a powerful new film.
Set almost entirely in Jamaica (but shot largely in Trinidad to take advantage of tax credits), Home Again is infused with the reggae rhythms, rude-boy dialects and flamboyant atmosphere of the Kingston ghetto—a story of migrant limbo that owes more to The Harder They Come than to Goin’ Down the Road. It’s a tale of three characters who left Jamaica as children and find themselves exiled to a strange land, where they are brutally unwelcome. Marva (Tatyana Ali), a young mother from Canada, convicted as an unwitting drug mule, is forced to leave her children behind and finds refuge with an uncle who rapes her; Dunston (Lyriq Bent), a New York drug dealer, is drafted into a Kingston gang tougher than the one he left; and Everton (Stephan James), a private school boy from England deported for pot possession, becomes a homeless crack addict.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 8:28 AM - 0 Comments
In Hollywood, it has been raining magicians. Last week, in Oz the Great and Powerful—or as I prefer to call it, Disney the Great and Powerful, we saw James Franco rise from his humble station as a sideshow magician and smoke and mirrors to free the Emerald City from female sorcery. And now, in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, we see Steve Carell as a celebrated Las Vegas magician who falls from the glittering heights of phony showbiz, hits rock bottom, and, stripped of illusions, finally rediscovers the true meaning of magic and, uh, life.
Rebooting the American Dream has become as simple as producing a rabbit out of a hat. But like the Franco extravaganza, Wonderstone lacks actual magic; it’s too contrived for that. But it least it has some heart, unlike the Oz prequel, which had all the warmth of the Tin Man on steroids. Wonderstone is an undeniably amiable confection, and watchable, up to a point: Carell’s likeability goes a long way. But this is a classic case of squandered talent. The performances by Carell and his high-octane co-stars—Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey and James Gandolfini—consistently outclass the script, which tries to hoodwink the audience with a some brazen sleight of hand all its own. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 8:22 AM - 0 Comments
The prequel—that miracle of reverse-engineering that Hollywood uses to reboot everything from Batman to Bond, from Star Wars to Star Trek—has now been applied to one of cinema’s most cherished classics, The Wizard of Oz. And it’s impossible to approach this movie without a measure of skepticism—the notion of Disney refurbishing Oz as its own Magic Kingdom, with James Franco starring as the would-be wizard. We can take some solace in the fact that Oz the Great and Powerful does not crudely cannibalize the 1939 movie, or the famous story by L. Frank Baum—none of its major characters make an appearance. Directed by Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and scripted by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire, this 3D spectacle is a relatively original contraption, tricked out with some novel touches of ingenuity and wit.
But weighing in at 130 minutes, Oz the Great and Powerful is as cumbersome and overwrought as its title. Sandwiched between an inventive first act and a rousing finale is a long march down a yellow-brick road of plodding narrative. Perhaps I was tired to begin with, but I got so sleepy I felt I’d been dragged through Oz’s opium poppy fields. Or perhaps I was just experiencing an aversion to the movie’s deeply generic template. Driven by a trio of witches, much of the action resembles the same CGI duels between Good vs Evil that we’ve seen in every other blockbuster fantasy, from Harry Potter to Twilight—a contest of high-flying superdemons swooping around computer-generated landscapes hurling blue lightning bolts and great balls of fire. And don’t get me started on the story, an old-school witch hunt that sends Disney’s pro-princess sexual politics back to the Stone Age. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 9:07 PM - 0 Comments
Rebelle (War Witch), Montreal director Kim Nguyen’s intimate and compelling drama of an African child soldier, swept Sunday night’s inaugural edition of the Canadian Screen Awards, winning 10 of its 12 nominations. A week after the Oscars, where Rebelle inevitably lost to Amour for Best Foreign Language Film, this low budget Quebec feature triumphed over larger Canadian productions such as Midnight’s Children. And after being flown from the Democratic Republic of Congo to attend the Academy Awards, the film’s 16-year-old star, Rachel Mwanza, was on hand in Toronto to accept the CSA honour for best performance by an actress in a leading role. Mwanza, who made her acting debut in Rebelle, was a homeless street kid in Kinshasa when she was cast as 12-year-old Kimona, an orphan rape victim who tells her story to her unborn child.
Rebelle also won awards for director, original screenplay, supporting actor (Serge Kanyinda), cinematography, editing, production design and sound. That didn’t leave much for everyone else. James Cromwell took best lead actor for his role opposite Geneviève Bujold in Still Mine, its only award. Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan’s story of a teacher’s transsexual odyssey, won just two of its 10 nominations, for costumes and make-up. And of its eight nominations, Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children won two: Seema Biswas was named best supporting actress for Midnight’s Children, while screenwriter Salman Rushdie was awarded for adapting his own novel. David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis took best original song and score. And, as expected, Sarah Polley won the documentary feature prize for her acclaimed family memoir, Stories We Tell.
Hosted by Martin Short and broadcast live on CBC TV, the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards have melded film’s Genies and TV’s Geminis with the goal of creating a bigger, glitzier event. Short trotted out a trunk full of his beloved SCTV characters for the event—including Jiminy Glick, who dished out insults on the red carpet, and Ed Grimley, who puffed out his trouser-hoist paunch and said, “I look like Rob Ford from the back.” From his grand entrance on a swing to being cradled by Glenn Healey while giving a performance-art impression of bagpipes, Short gave a knock-out performance that put Oscar host Seth MacFarlane to shame.
Leading the TV winners were two shows that are now defunct: Flashpoint won for best dramatic series and its star, Erico Calontoni, was named best actor in a drama series, while Less Than Kind won for best comedy series, and best comedy actress (Wendy Meldrum), while Gerry D. (Mr. D) won for best comedy actor. Best actress in a dramatic series went to Meg Tilly for Bomb Girls. Continue…
By Jessica Allen - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 5:12 PM - 0 Comments
Should Seth MacFarlane apologize to everybody else?
I have mixed feeling today about Anne Hathaway. I wrote before the Academy Awards aired on Sunday that if she won the Oscar I would leave the comforts of my couch and take the opportunity to have a washroom break during her acceptance speech so as to avoid another cringe-worthy ode to Acting and being an Actor and Acting.
But five days of Hathaway hatred has left me wanting to hunker down with the enthusiastic thespian and watch Actors Acting in films, like Julius Caesar, for example, and pat her back and say, Well, at least you love something.
There was a reason that theatre kid irked you in high school. He or she took a vocation–that is, for many, tantamount to entertainment–and elevated it to a life-affirming art. I remember the theatre kid at my high school. He actually made his own Phantom of the Opera mask and wore it along with a black cape to a school dance. Most dismissed him–but that may also have been on account of him standing up in biology class and announcing that he wouldn’t take part in the comparative anatomy component because Evolution was hogwash.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Opening this week are two very different movies about killing. Stoker, a diabolical thriller about a toxic family, is an acquired taste. The Gatekeepers, an Oscar-nominated documentary about Israel’s war on terror, is required viewing. Both explore the banality of evil.
If you want to replace the grey winter chill with something closer to the marrow—a bright, cold shock of beautiful cruelty—you might consider Stoker, an ultra-stylish horror movie for those who can handle a frisson of incest and like to see their blood splattered with sparse, painterly precision. Stoker marks the English-language debut of Korean filmmaker Park Chan Wook (Old Boy, Lady Vengeance) whose refined sadism has made him a cult favourite, and prize winner, in Cannes.
Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) stars as a privileged young woman named India, whose world is shattered by news that her father has been killed in a car crash on her 18th birthday. Uncle Charlie (Matthew Good), a mysterious man she didn’t know existed, shows up the funeral, acting strange and far too pleased with himself for someone who has just lost his brother. Before long, he has enchanted India’s unhinged mother, Evie (Nicole Kidman), while pursuing her anxious daughter with predatory gleam in his vacant gaze. Directed like Hitchcock on acid, Stoker unfolds from the teenager’s point of view as a perverse coming-of-age story, while Goode, who bears a marked resemblance to Tony Perkins, plays the crazy uncle as if channelling Norman Bates. But as the sexual tension heats up in this incestuous love triangle, it becomes clear that Uncle Charlie is not the only one who’s crazy. The whole family is psycho. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 2:38 PM - 0 Comments
For those of us who make the annual spring pilgrimage to the Riviera, today’s news that Steven Spielberg will head the jury at the 66th annual Cannes festival comes as a bit of a shock. In recent years, Hollywood has become increasingly estranged from Cannes. American studios still use the festival to premiere timely blockbusters, but after being burned by Cannes juries too many times, they tend to keep their films out of competition. And while Hollywood stars still flock to Cannes each May, they’re often promoting non-mainstream movies—such as Tree of Life (2011) and Killing Me Softly (2012), which both drew Brad Pitt to the Riviera. As the gulf widens between the American studios and the kind of auteur cinema celebrated at Cannes, for many critics no one epitomizes Hollywood’s Evil Empire more fundamentally than Spielberg, except perhaps George Lucas.
But to be fair, Spielberg is an auteur in his own right. Perhaps his biggest influence is Kurosawa. And he has developed a signature style that has been hugely influential, as sentimental as it may be. He’s also sentiment about cinema. He is one of the last major American directors still stubbornly shooting on 35 mm film. Lincoln was one of 2012′s most literate American films. And even though he pioneered the sci-fi blockbuster, even he must feel a bit left behind by the juvenile onslaught of comic book sequels, prequels and reboots.
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
Right off the top, you knew something fishy was going on when Canada’s own William Shatner, in full Captain Kirk regalia, loomed above Oscar host Seth MacFarlane as a retro patriarch from the future, putting that young upstart in his place. Sure, the 85th annual Academy Awards belonged to Hollywood, and to America—right down to Michelle Obama announcing Best Picture from the White House. But Canada was the surprise winner in this strange spectacle, as the Great White North kept usurping the limelight throughout the evening.
Spielberg’s Lincoln led the pack with 12 nominations, but it won just two of them, for Production Design—shared by B.C. set decorator Jim Erickson—and Best Actor. (Spielberg got more notice from the orchestra, which used the theme from Jaws to amputate acceptance speeches). In the end it was Life of Pi, based on the novel by Saskatchewan-based author Yann Martel, that won the night’s biggest haul with four Oscars. They include Best Original Score for Canadian composer Mychael Danna, and a Visual Effects Oscar for Vancouver-based Guillaume Rocheron. And when the film’s director, Ang Lee, accepted his Best Director prize (favoured to go to Spielberg), he said “I need to thank Yann Martel for writing this incredibly inspiring book.” Ang also took care to thank his Canadian crew—most of the movie was shot on a Montreal soundstage. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:28 AM - 0 Comments
The complete list of winners from the 85th Academy Awards
Here’s the complete list of the 85th Academy Awards winners. (Find all of our Oscar coverage right here.
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Best Animated Short Film: Paperman
Best Animated Feature Film: Brave
By Brian D. Johnson - Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
On Sunday night Hollywood will pay homage to itself with a rite of regal pageantry not seen since . . . well, Obama’s inauguration. And after a year saturated in American politics, the Oscar race has come down to what may be the most politically charged showdown in the history of the Academy—a Mexican stand-off that pits the drama of a legendary American president against two tales of heroic CIA agents battling evil Islamic fundamentalists.
Lincoln started out as the natural-born front-runner. But during the string of pre-Oscar primaries—from the Golden Globes to the directors’/producers’/actors’ guild awards—Argo surged into the lead, powered by the populist charm offensive of its self-effacing director and star, Ben Affleck.
Lincoln’s other challenger, Zero Dark Thirty, was bloodied by a Washington backlash from high-ranking senators who claimed the movie condoned torture by misrepresenting its role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Those charges effectively tainted the movie in the eyes of liberal Hollywood, and robbed director Katherine Bigelow of an Oscar nomination.
By macleans.ca - Friday, February 22, 2013 at 9:58 AM - 0 Comments
Our critics weigh in on who will win and who should win
- Click here to see our Oscar interactive on who writers Jessica Allen, Brian D. Johnson and Jaime J. Weinman think will win on Sunday night, plus who should win.
By Daniel Barna - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 11:57 AM - 0 Comments
Winning an Academy Award can be the worst thing for an actor’s career
This Sunday, Jennifer Lawrence will cap off a stunning year, when she’ll likely be handed the Best Actress Oscar for her firecracker performance in Silver Linings Playbook, at L.A’s Shrine auditorium. Though Jessica Chastain has an outside shot at nabbing the award from Lawrence’s clutches, the 23 year-old actress is everything to everyone these days, and her official coronation as “America’s Sweetheart” come Oscar night feels all but inevitable. So with pre-Oscar-winning Lawrence already Hollywood’s current It-girl, J-Law the Oscar winner should become the biggest star on the planet, right?
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, February 11, 2013 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Aging movie stars are in no rush to give up the spotlight, and a good thing for studios, too.
Not so long ago, once a movie star reached a certain age, it was time to shuffle off into minor character parts—various grandparents, coots and crones—leaving the lead roles to less wrinkled faces. Hollywood was known to be no country for old men, or even middle-aged women. These days, however, that’s changing. Hollywood may still be addicted to youth and beauty, especially when it comes to the studio blockbusters that drive its economy. But as boomer icons hit their 60s and 70s, they seem to be in no rush to relinquish the spotlight. Like the Rolling Stones, movie stars are doubling down on their longevity.
Recently we’ve seen Arnold Schwarzenegger, 65, as a creaky, small-town sheriff battling a Mexican drug cartel in The Last Stand, and Sylvester Stallone, 66, baring cast-iron abs in Bullet to the Head, while Al Pacino, 72, and Christopher Walken, 69, play grumpy old gangsters in Stand Up Guys—with 78-year-old Alan Arkin as their wheelman, sprung from a nursing home and unhooked from oxygen. There’s a whiff of desperation about these attempts to keep screen legends in the game. Despite its droll performances, Stand Up Guys fell flat at the box office, as did the Schwarzenegger and Stallone vehicles, which critics dismissed as geriatric odes to the ’80s action genre. Though Clint Eastwood may have aged well, there’s something freakish about a leathery old gladiator. Continue…
By Michelle Magnan - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 4:30 PM - 2 Comments
He went to Hollywood to get Francis Ford Coppola’s autograph, and revitalized a studio instead
He was a real estate magnate, arts supporter and unlikely Tinseltown power player. Jack Singer, 95, died Saturday, and was laid to rest today in Calgary. From our archives, here’s a look at how the one-time boxing champ became “an angel in the City of Angels.” (Story first published November 29, 2011.)
Ask Jack Singer how he became a Hollywood player and he’ll deliver the same line he’s been using for nearly 30 years: “I went there to get an autograph and I ended up owning a studio.” The autograph—not to mention the studio—belonged to Francis Ford Coppola, who, in 1981, was filming a movie called One from the Heart. At the time, Coppola was a big-time director celebrated for The Godfather films, had recently bought a studio and, luckily for Singer, needed money to finish his film. Singer was a big-time real estate developer from Calgary, a one-time Canadian boxing lightweight champion and, luckily for Coppola, a man who liked to take risks. They met when Singer, who’d been golfing in Palm Springs, took up a friend on an offer to tour Coppola’s studio. Perhaps, the friend said, they’d snag his signature. In the end, Singer snagged much more. A meeting with Coppola that day turned into a $3-million investment in his film, an invite to stay in a bungalow on set and, ultimately, the beginning of Singer’s long relationship with Tinseltown. “I believe in fate,” he says. “Everything good or bad that happened was fate.”
Singer was recently recognized for all the good that came from his fateful encounter with Coppola. In October, a Los Angeles city council member presented a special resolution honouring Singer for his “vital role in the revitalization of the District of Hollywood” and for his work in establishing the facility known as Hollywood Center Studio, which he bought in 1984, as a “world-class resource for feature film and commercial production.” The resolution ends declaring him “an angel in the City of Angels.” Remarkable, considering Singer is a frail 93-year-old living in a modest bungalow in Calgary.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Academy Award-winning director says Behind the Candelabra is his last film. But he’s only 50.
Steven Soderbergh swears he’s getting out of the business. After he completes his Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra—which features a scene of Michael Douglas as Liberace making out with Matt Damon as his lover—the director, who just turned 50, has vowed to retire from movie-making, and focus on directing plays and painting. It’s hard to imagine. There isn’t a major filmmaker in America more prolific, or provocative, than Soderbergh. In the past two years alone, he’s made four movies, a diverse suite that includes a disaster flick (Contagion), an action picture (Haywire), and a $7-million story of a male stripper that grossed $167 million (Magic Mike). His latest film, Side Effects, is a thriller that poses as a cautionary tale about pharmaceutical drugs, then derails expectations with such diabolical mischief you can almost smell the ﬁlmmaker’s impatience with convention.
Soderbergh is Hollywood’s most successful misfit. For all his success as both a director and producer, he still hasn’t found a comfort zone. In an interview in New York magazine, he expresses mounting frustration with “the tyranny of narrative . . . or at least narrative as we’re currently defining it.” He says, “I’m convinced there’s new grammar out there somewhere.” He also complains that “the audience for the kinds of movies I grew up liking has migrated to television.” In fact, after no Hollywood studio would risk $5 million on distributing his Liberace movie (which he describes as “pretty gay”), he took it to HBO, the promised land for filmmakers aching to break out of the Hollywood straitjacket.
In Side Effects, Soderbergh casts Rooney Mara, that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, as a girl with a lethal prescription in a thriller so perversely deceptive it should come with a list of side effects all its own. The movie’s time-release narrative is a jagged little pill of retro noir, coated with a smooth, contemporary glaze of pharma politics. Emily (Mara) and Martin (Channing Tatum), a New York couple who once owned a yacht and a mansion, are struggling to rebuild their lives after Martin comes home from a four-year prison term for insider trading. A suicide attempt leaves Emily in the care of a shrink (Jude Law), who puts her on a new anti-anxiety drug called Ablixa. As her former psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) enters the picture, lies are unravelled and we’re pulled down a very different rabbit hole from the one we signed up for.
At the heart of each characer is a haze of moral ambiguity—something Hollywood abhors and Soderbergh adores. He seems to delight in aiming curveballs at his audience. But then this is a director who made his name by breaking the rules. He was just 26 when he won the Palme D’Or in Cannes with the first of his 26 features, Sex, Lies and Videotape, a brazen feat of minimalist style that helped launch a new wave of American indie cinema. He’s since won an Oscar for Traffic, which he accepted with barely a flicker of emotion. He turned George Clooney into a movie star, by stubbornly casting him until the notion stuck. And he has mastered the art-commerce shuffle, switching between studio blockbusters, like the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, and experiments on film’s wild frontier—such as casting porn star Sasha Grey as a high-priced hooker in the Godard-like verité of The Girfriend Experience (2009).
In the spirit of Godard, Soderbergh toggles between stylistic subversion and political expression. His “issue” movies range from whistleblower dramas (Erin Brockovich, The Informant!) to his Communist opus, Che. But all his films are inflected with dissent. And in a movie culture that thrives on lush sentiment, Soderbergh frames stories with a clinical, dispassionate eye—literally, given that he serves as his own cinematographer.
Along the way, he has built a cohort of loyal actors, notably Douglas and Damon, who agreed to take the plunge as gay lovers in the Liberace film. “It was great to see Michael and Matt jump off the cliff together. They just went for it,” says the director, apparently content to finesse his career with another end game of truth or dare.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 10:25 AM - 0 Comments
We’re talking videos, geofencing, plus ‘exclusive opportunities and special offers’
Tiding over eager fans of director J.J. Abrams’ next Star Trek installment–which doesn’t premiere until May–is a new app that will allow users to “have unprecedented access to all Star Trek content, as well as the opportunity to participate in missions and win valuable prizes,” according to a Paramount press release.
The free app includes:
- A geofencing function for location-based experiences such as encouraging viewers to go to the movies
- An audio scan function that can be turned on to automatically recognize and reward users for watching Star Trek Into Darkness content on TV and other media
- An image scan function that enables users to interact with images printed or viewable in the real world
- New Star Trek Into Darkness content, such as videos, images and wallpapers delivered directly to users’ mobile devices
- Exclusive opportunities and special offers only available to app users
IMdB says that Abrams’ second Star Trek film will have Captain Kirk, played by Chris Pine, leading the crew of the Enterprise on “a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.”
Who’s the man? Even though Abrams has said the villain’s name is “John Harrison”, it’s rumoured that the “unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization” might be a young Khan. Yes. THAT KHAN. The Khan–played memorably by Ricardo Montalbán–who was Captain Kirk’s nemesis in the 1983 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
I can’t even. It’s too much. Can you even imagine? It gets better. This John Harrison, who may actually be Khan, is being played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes, the guy who plays Sherlock Holmes in the television series. I know. Believe me. I am counting down the days, too. (It’s 105 days.)
In the meantime, fans can download the free app here.
Or just rewatch Star Trek II.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, February 1, 2013 at 7:38 AM - 0 Comments
This week’s designated blockbusters are Warm Bodies, a zombie romance, and Bullet to the Head, Sly Stallone’s latest. Sadly, I wasn’t able to pre-screen the former. And I wasn’t allowed to pre-screen the latter—the distributor decided Stallone’s movie would be better off if it were hidden from critics. (Never a good sign—last week the disastrous Movie 43 was released with the same strategy.) But also opening this week are a couple of smaller films featuring some of the best actors in the biz: Stand-up Guys, with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin; and Denmark’s A Royal Affair, starring Mads Mikkelsen. Unfortunately, only one of them, A Royal Affair lives up to its onscreen talent. A worthy Oscar nominee for Best Foreign-Language Film, it’s a handsome period piece with a juicy intrigue. I recommend it. Too bad about the other one.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:19 AM - 0 Comments
The cast of Argo, Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence don’t leave empty-handed
Argo continued to pick up top honours on the film awards circuit at the 19th annual Screen Actor Guild Awards in Los Angeles Sunday night. The Ben-Affleck-directed CIA drama won best overall cast performance. Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in Lincoln and Jennifer Lawrence’s in Silver Linings Playbook secured both actors lead acting awards, while Lewis’s co-star Tommy Lee Jones and Les Misérables’ Anne Hathaway won best supporting actor trophies.
The SAG awards, often considered a barometer for Oscar season, presents 13 awards annually to television and film performers. Here is a complete list of this year’s winning actors, voted for by their fellow actors:
Cast in a motion picture
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Silver Linings Playbook