Thursday, November 27, 2014
The mistake made with the holiday release of Penguins of Madagascar is a common one. Expanding the franchise by spinning off its comic relief into his/her/their own project rarely works. It's the reason Seinfeld's Kramer never got his own show. Or the reason Happy Days floundered once Ron Howard left the show and it became all about the Fonz. Eccentric sidekicks are often so potent that they overwhelm the story, and it's no different with Madagascar's four lovable clowns, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights).
Sunday, November 23, 2014
by Tony Dayoub
"Nichols discovered within himself a natural talent for drawing good work out of actors and for guiding playwrights through rewrites without making them feel threatened or trampled. He also found, to his own surprise, a kind of emotional comfort at being at the center of the action. 'I think people try to become famous because they think: If you can get the world to revolve around you, you won't die,' he remarked to a reporter. The comment typified the way Nichols handled himself with a press corps that was insatiably curious about his life with and without Elaine May—it was fast, funny, and so offhand that nobody could be certain whether it was self-revelation or just a good line."
- writer Mark Harris in his essential Pictures at a Revolution, describing one of the directors at the vanguard of the New Hollywood
Recommended Films - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, Regarding Henry, Wolf, The Birdcage, Closer
And an even better list of titles I haven't seen but should - Catch-22, The Day of the Dolphin, The Fortune, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, Primary Colors, Wit (TV), Angels in America (TV), Charlie Wilson's War
Sunday, November 16, 2014
One of my favorite comedies of the year is the gloriously misanthropic Listen Up Philip. Sadly, I missed it while it was playing at this year's New York Film Festival because it screened the day after my flight back home. But it's now playing on VOD and opened here in Atlanta (at the Plaza Theater) this past Friday. Jason Schwartzman plays what might be the douchiest among his repertoire of arrogant, self-absorbed characters. Promising young novelist Philip Lewis Friedman is someone who looks for any way to sabotage the great things he has going for him. He's the kind of jerk that finds it notable that another young, more famous rival killed himself not because of the inherent tragedy but because he turned down a chance to profile the author in what would have been the man's last, and therefore most attention-getting, interview.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The idea of Disney exploiting its newly acquired Marvel properties for an animated film is a great on its face. The first of these films, but hardly its last I believe, is Big Hero 6, a cute superhero movie that should prove to be a font of unending merchandising opportunities directed to young boys the way Frozen has been to young girls. Cute as it is however , Big Hero 6 still comes up short as a children's fantasy.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
An adventure into time, space and the human soul, Interstellar is more than reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But any similarities only heighten the sense that the nearly 50-year-old Stanley Kubrick science fiction classic may never be surpassed as the definitive movie on space exploration. And for director Christopher Nolan, that's a problem. Interstellar, with its integral dramatic dependence on concepts like the Einstein's theory of relativity and Newtonian physics, is Nolan's most significant stab at coherence. Yet the increased focus on the film's attendant technobabble only serves to demonstrate how inept Nolan is at advancing a story with anything that might resemble logic.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Elements of Peeping Tom, Network, Taxi Driver and a powerhouse performance by Jake Gyllenhaal are all fused together by veteran screenwriter Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut, the jittery, sleazy Nightcrawler. A gaunt-looking Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a twitchy bottom-feeder with aspirations, but for what? Even he's not certain. At the start of the film, he is busted by a security guard as he steals copper wiring, scraps of metal, and even the guard's wristwatch after he manages to overpower the man. But a transaction for the stolen items sets Bloom on a different path after his polite eagerness isn't enough to convince the buyer to overlook his thievery and hire him, even for free. Before long Bloom has a chance meeting with Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a scumbag who scans police airwaves to arrive first on the scene and shoot video he sells for top dollar to bottom-rated KWLA's news team. The entrepreneurial Bloom is soon teaching himself how to shoot and edit ratings-grabbing news packages for KWLA's ambitious director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo).