By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, February 1, 2013 - 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 Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Cheating moves from today’s headlines into tomorrow’s plots on the big screen
If David Petraeus is seeking to escape his marital woes at the multiplex this month, he’ll have to choose carefully. Best to steer clear of Anna Karenina. It’s the season’s most exquisite costume drama, and Keira Knightley has never looked lovelier, but it’s still the story of an affair that turns into a train wreck. Petraeus, who resigned as CIA director over an extramarital romance, may also want to avoid Hyde Park on Hudson. This light confection about president Franklin Delano Roosevelt entertaining British royalty may seem harmless, but FDR’s knack for blithely cheating on his wife without missing a beat would make a modern philanderer envious. If Petraeus hopes to soothe his soul with a cathartic blast of Beethoven, A Late Quartet may look like just the ticket. But not so fast: it’s about a famous string quartet that becomes unstrung by one member’s affair and another’s adulterous fling. Even 18th-century Copenhagen is not a safe escape. In A Royal Affair, Denmark’s queen betrays her king with his doctor, a heroic civil servant whose free-thinking behaviour costs him his head.
The holiday movie season is awash with sobering tales of adultery in high places. In each of these four films, sexual betrayal results in someone getting hurt, if not killed, but the cheating lovers are portrayed with glowing empathy and affection. Even if they’ve doomed themselves by following their desires, they seem nobler for it—true to their passion, if not to their mates. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM - 0 Comments
I once asked David Cronenberg what, if anything, makes him squeamish as a movie-goer. Without hesitation, he replied: “Needles.” That’s right. The man who has made heads explode and parasites erupt from the body, is scared of needles. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that as I watched this afternoon’s Cannes press screening of Antiviral, the feature debut by David’s 32-year-old son, Brandon Cronenberg. Antiviral is a sci-fi drama set in a fame-obsessed dystopia where pathogens that have infected celebrities are purchased and injected by their fans. It gives a whole new meaning to that red-carpet phrase “Who are you wearing?” The film never asks that question, but if it did, its answer would be something like: [celebrity name here] Herpes Simpex 2. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, October 21, 2011 at 3:33 PM - 4 Comments
Swashbuckling is not enough. That’s what Hollywood has learned from the massive success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Sure, there is plenty of fencing. But you also need ghosts, killer mermaids, zombies, squid-beards and a shipload of special effects. As Jaime Weinman point outs, the sci-fi travesty of The Three Musketeers 3D marks yet another chapter in Hollywood’s perennial quest to remake and reshape the Alexandre Dumas classic. But its also a shameless attempt to create another Pirates-style franchise. Staging battles in the clouds between galleon-like airships, it takes swashbuckling to a whole other level, as if rewiring the 17th century with Star Wars swordplay. But this movie is clearly not designed as a one-off. It desperately wants to be a franchise, and makes that crudely obvious.
Without completely spoiling the ending (though I’m sorely tempted to), let’s just say that the filmmakers feels they can’t afford to kill off their villains—not the evil genius Cardinal Richelieu, played by a depressive Christoph Waltz, who still seems to be in recovery from his Oscar victory for Inglourious Basterds; not the oily Buckingham, played by Orlando Bloom as a rock star in a pompadour, and certainly not the femme fatale trickster Milady de Winter, played as a ninja sexpot spy by Milla Jovovich doing her best Courtney Love impression. Jovovich also happens to be the wife of the director, Paul W. S. Anderson (Resident Evil), and judging by the doting way he’s filmed her, the man is totally smitten. There is yet another villain, Richelieu’s henchman, Rochefort, portrayed by an eye-patch wearing Mads Mikkelsen (he must still be recovering from his bleeding eye in Casino Royale). Mikkelsen shouldn’t be around for any sequels, unless this would-be franchise takes a another cue from Pirates of the Caribbean and brings ghosts into the mix. Continue…