Monday, May 31, 2010

Star Wars Cookie Cutters

I remember seeing these William-Sanoma cookie cutters in a catalogue, and kind of laughed, but then saw them to today in person at Williams-Sanoma in the flesh.

Not only did I see these cookie cutters, where one could make there own Storm Trooper sugar cookies...I also so a grown man, with a Star Wars cookie cutter set tucked under his arm.

Now, who can truly judge the situation, but I do not think he was getting this for his kids...he didn't look like the type of guy who had kids.

In fact, he didn't look like the type of guy who had been to the cookware store before...but he did look like he'd seen Star Wars many, many, many times. You know the type.

Now, Darth Vadar is frostered very nicely, but can you imagine what the majority of these cookies look like after being frosted by "Comic-Con" types...the detail, even in the Darth Vadar frosting work in the cookies, is challenging enough, not to mention the work you see pictured for Boba Fett.

Now granted, some of these cookies might turn out nice, but I'm picturing a neon green smiley faces, black ghost with white sunglasses, white ghost with black eyes and goatees, and a whole bunch of people who skip Boba Fett all together.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Indy 500: Film & 4 Women

The first Indy 500 race was in 1911, but due to races being canceled during WWI and WWII, this weekend's race will be the 94th.

As the biggest motor race of the year, the Indy 500 has been not only a part of sports history but pop culture as well.

Film

There has actually been a surprisingly high number of car racing films (and successful one's at that) including Cars, Days of Thunder, Fast and Furious, and Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.

None of those successful stories deal directly with the race held memorial day week at Indianapolis Speedway.

But that doesn't mean there hasn't been films, just not necessarily popular films that have withstood time.

Films about the Indianapolis 500: Racing Hearts (1922), Speedway (1929), The Crowd Roars (1932), Speed (1936), The Big Wheel (1949), To Please a Lady (1950), and Winning (1969). [Image of Paul Newman from Winning, pictured above]

Surprisingly the Indy race was featured more in the first 50 years of the race, then in the most recent 50 years.

4 Women

One of the interesting evolutions of racing has been the addition of women to the race. Unlike most sports, as women have entered the sport, they compete alongside men, not in separate races.

This year's Indy 500 stands apart in that of the 33 qualifiers for the race, 4 of them are women, the most ever. These women (Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Ana Beatriz, and Simona Silveresti) owe there opportunity to Janet Guthrie (pictured left) who was the first woman to race in the Indy 500 in 1976.

It will be interesting to see how the movie Secretariat performs this year, as a story about Penny Chenery a woman in the world of horse racing. If that film is successful, I have a feeling studios could be wise to snatch up an woman race car film, such as the story of Janet Guthrie.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Parenthood Season 1 Finale Thoughts

While the rest of the world is interested in the Lost series finale, Kim & I were waiting for last night's season finale of NBC's Parenthood. (*we're interested in Lost, too, we're just behind so avoiding any information or spoilers).

We've some how got ourselves wrapped into the story of the Braverman siblings and their four families. After it's mid-season introduction post this past February, we've enjoyed watching every episode, despite what sometimes is dramatized stories that tie-up into fuzzy little bows like episodes of Full House.

But maybe that's what we like. My wife, Kim, cries on average 3 times per episode, with touching or dramatic displays of familial love and commitment.

The season finale was no exception.

My wife, likens herself to the Julia Braverman-Graham's character (Erika Christensen), the high power working Mom, who's sometimes wants to care, but has a hard time showing too much compassion for the stay at home with breast enhancement surgery...oops, receipt in the soup. Kim loves the situations and scenes that play up these traits, and Julia's scenes were a little less involved in the finale so she left the season finale a little disappointed.

Otherwise, there was still plenty to cry about with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end, with a full family baseball event just like the show began. This time though, displaced Drew (Miles Heizer) is playing ball instead of Aspergers Max (Max Burkholder).

I thought about making a list of my favorite and least characters, but I'd hate for studio execs to think that I wanted Monica Potter's character to get killed off or anything because she'd be at the bottom of the list...because, it's not that type of show, and even the weaker characters have their endearing place. (Including Joel, Julia's husband who really only has on average 1 line per episode, or Drew who disappeared for 3 episodes).

Of course, Lauren Graham is always entertaining, as is her daughter Amber played by Mae Whitman.

And in many ways, this is Lauren Graham and Peter Krause's show. They play a great sibling pair, and Julia & Crosby (Christensen and Dax Shephard) do a great job mixing it up providing comedy usually more than sentimentalism, while Craig T. Nelson brings his own brand of grumpy old man humor.

Hooray, for a second season of the show. We're excited that Ron Howard's second attempt at a show called "Parenthood" has outlast his 1990 attempt...because we enjoy watching this show every week.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet Baby Jesus - Not Quite a BioPic

Pixie Lott. Maybe if I was in to the British pop scene, I would have heard of this new artist known for her 2009 singles "Mama Do (Uh Oh, Uh Oh), "Boys and Girls," "Cry Me Out" and 2010 singles "Gravity" and "Turn it Up" (all off her debut platinum album Turn it Up).
Pixie Lott (pictured above) is about to headline in a film...as a 1st Century celebrity. Mary, mother of Jesus.

Production and casting has kicked into gear for this film with a potential late fall 2010 release. The film is called Sweet Baby Jesus, which is a comedy from director Peter Hewitt, who delivered ridiculously unimpressive films such as Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Garfield, and Zoom.

Sweet Baby Jesus tells a 1970s retelling of the nativity, with Pixie Lott playing hippie Mary.

Kim Catrell plays Mary's mom, and Bette Midler plays the guest house owner in Bethlehem, Maryland.

Not sure what to make of this comedy.

Perhaps it's the quote from director Peter Hewitt that really gets my head scratching...

"The script has fun subverting the treasured details of the Nativity, posing the question, 'What would we do if it all happened again?' "
- Peter Hewitt as quoted in Variety

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book of Numbers (imagining it as a movie)

The book of Numbers is the 4th book of the Torah (and Christian bible).

This chapter of the bible gets a bad rap sometimes because of the sense that this title makes it sound like math, and in reality, has some very historically significant sections, with very little high energy narrative. These "dry" sections would be the title bearing section, involving the numbering of the Israelites...so reading Numbers, can be like reading census data.

Yet that doesn't mean that it is lacks valuable and interesting narrative.
If they made a movie about this section of the bible in it's entirety, I would not recommend The Book of Numbers be it's title, because frankly that would sound like a stupid horror movie, or perhaps the subtitle to the next installment of the Nicolas Cage's National Treasure series.

Rather, I would want to borrower from the Hebrew title Bəmidbar (במדבר) which literally means "In the desert." To me this title is more appropriate because while filled with numbers, this part of the bible tells the story of the Israelites 40 years of wandering the desert. That title is used in my mock-film poster at left.

This book also tells about Moses disobedience that excluded him from being able to enter into the promised land. This story, involving the striking of a rock, instead of speaking to it calling forth water is an interesting story in many ways, but how it would be carried out in a feature film is problematic because it's one of those events that encourages some discussion and information to create understanding.

Although, seeing Moses strike the rock and water pouring out could be an incredible scene.

Another incredible scene could be the budding of Aaron's rod in the desert as the tribe of Levi is chosen to be the priestly people.

Or, the brazen serpent that Moses makes to ward of the serpents plaguing the Israelites for speaking against God.

Numbers certainly does not lack some exciting, interesting, thought provoking, and interesting moments.

There are one story that I think could really be a great cinematic story, and that is the story of Balaam.

Balaam, Balak & A Talking Donkey

Balaam's often pictured, as with the Rembrandt painting, right, with his donkey, in the story of a Balaam and the donkey. This story involving the donkey is an aside to a bigger story that happens shortly before the death of Moses.

Balaam, could be called the cursing prophet. Balaam a non-Israelite, was famous for offering prophetic curses for pay.

Balaam was summoned by Balak the king of Midan was very concerned about the Israelites, having defeated other kingdoms. Balaam, having received a prophetic dream said he'd only do what the Israelites god, Yahweh, wanted him to do, and eventually is instructed by God to go. Along the way there is a scene in which Balaam's donkey is abused by Balaam as it avoids a dangerous angel, which upon the donkey speaking causes Balaam, the angel becomes visible. Balaam repents.

Balaam is taken by Balak to various places to curse Israel and it's people, but instead Balaam uncharacteristically issues blessings and prophesy about the success of the Israelites.

This, I could see as an interesting period piece, perhaps with some cleaver marketing, casting, and production it could be a dynamic summer blockbuster.

Posts in the series: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Art: Balaam and his Ass by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1926; and of course, mock poster graphic created by RC

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reel People: Hiam Abbass is Hind Husseini

The movie is Miral directed by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and written by Rula Jebreal based her novel Miral (also by Rula Jabreal).

Hind al-Husseini

Hind al-Husseini , a Palestinian, was born to a prominent family in Jerusalem in 1916.

Husseini became very interested in social causes and education, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s was involved in student unions, the Women's Solidarity Society, and eventually became the coordinator of the Arab Woman's Union.

Husseini is most noted for an event in 1948, while the Arab-Israeli War was occurring in the region. In April of 1948 Husseini found 55 children near the Church of the Resurrection. This child had survived the Deir Yassin massacre (located in a town near Jerusalem), but did not have families or homes.

Husseini provided the children a place to stay in two rooms rented by the Social Work Endeavor Society. She would bring the children food daily, but due to war-torn area moved the children to a convent, and then later to her grandfather's mansion (and birth place).

This mansion was then named Dar al-Tifl al-Arabi (the Arab Children's home).

Post-ceasefire, this orphanage remained and continued to grow into the thousands.

By 1967 the orphanage expanded to allow for educational facilities, and became a girl's only boarding school, providing education to female orphans.

In 1982 Husseini created the Hind al-Husseini College for Women.

Hind Husseini continued her work with the orphanage and college until her death in 1994.

Miral

Miral tells this story of Husseini, based on the Miral by Rula Jabreal). Hiam Abbass (The Visitor) plays the famous humanitarian, but the title character Miral is played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire). In this story Miral is sent to institute at the age of 7 following her mother's death and she grows older falls for a political activist.

Other cast besides Abbass and Pinto include William Defoe.

Will Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass' portrayal of this honored woman and educator have a chance for an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Photo credit

Monday, May 17, 2010

10 Kisses for Valentine's Day Follow up: New Year's Eve

For those who love ensemble explosions, the Valentine's Day DVD is released this week. (Just in time for that very romantic holiday...Memorial Day).

It's also coincides with the recent announcement of the Valentine's Day follow-up New Year's Eve. Garry Marshall returns as director.

The film due out December 2011 hasn't had announced cast, although Garry Marshall is expected to include regular favorite Hector Elizondo, but otherwise, it is expected to be an entirely new cast of characters.

I imagine a New Year's Eve theme romantic comedies has the Times Square ball drop and multiple kisses. Here's my vision for the 10 couples who kiss in the uncast film...

We'll see how I do.

10 Kisses for New Year's Eve, the movie:

1. Matthew Fox & Jennifer Aniston
2. Joshua Jackson & Scarlett Johansson
3. Ryan Reynolds & Cameron Diaz
4. Mark Ruffalo & Rachel McAdams
5. Justin Beiber & Miley Cyrus
6. Nick Cannon & Halle Berry
7. Alec Baldwin & Helen Hunt
8. Hugh Grant & Amy Adams
9. Richard Gere & Reese Witherspoon
10. Ben Stiller & Jennifer Lopez

While Taylor Swift & Taylor Lautner won't be kissing in the new film - you can imagine it with the help of my photo illustration above.

Let the Right One In // Let Me In

You can feel free to dock me "hip and current points" because I just watched the critically acclaimed 2008 vampire film Let the Right One In this past weekend.

But...you may know how I feel about modern horror films. So, I generally avoid the genre...but decided this film warranted an exception.

So, excuse the delay in discussing this film, but I have a feeling, despite it's critical acclaim that the majority of readers of this blog haven't seen this Swedish vampire film either...whether that's because it's foreign or is a "horror film" I can assume a lot of people are outside of the venn diagram.

In fact, I've made a venn diagram for this very point.




You see, this film Let the Right One In...is highly acclaimed, won many awards, and has been ranked in the IMDB top 250 as well. But you see, the film falls in section "C" of my diagram.

So...as it turns out this wildly popular 2008 film is already having a remake made...this time in English (the concept get rid of the foreign film angle and expand it to a wider audience).

As you know, this type of stuff is not for film purest...it can make them angry.

All the same, this Vampire Romance Horror (between 12 years olds, no less) has a remake set to come out this fall, similarly title Let Me In.

Let Me In is written and directed by Matt Reeve's who's previous accomplishment was for his direction of Cloverfield as well as being the producer creator of J.J. Abram's television show "Felicity".



This film, now will fall in section B of the venn diagram above, as a "horror film" and it's hard to say how this film will do, and how the appreciate of the Swedish film will (or will not) have an impact on the success of this film.

And if you're interested in how someone who doesn't care for horror films (or vampire films) felt about Let the Right One In? Well...I will say it's an impressive film...it certainly has a few "gore moments" but one of the reasons I imagine Reeve's was attracted to this project, is much like Cloverfield which plays down the images of gore, but plays up the implications of "the monster" this story is similar...the story is not the gore or the spectacle, it's the strange connection between two people. Would I say "go out and watch this now." Not necessarily, but I certainly walked away appreciating this film and the story telling.

I hope that the remake presents something worthy of respect. The reality is the two main roles (Oskar and Eli in the 2008 Swedish version and Owen and Abby in 2010 English version) offer up an exceptional opportunity for a young actor to give a powerful performance. We'll see how Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz due in the remake.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

10th Anniversary Premier of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

10 years ago today, on May 16, 2000 the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wu Hu Cang Long) premiered. It was in France at the Cannes film festival, where it premiered out of competition.

It wouldn't be until December of 2000 that I would see this film when it opened in the United States, but this Mandarin Chinese language film out of Taiwan is my favorite film of the year 2000 and one of my favorite of the previous decade.

I actually remember watching the film in a packed movie theater, and the two men behind us understood mandarin, and were not reading the subtitles along with us. And at certain points they would laugh, chuckle, and make various other noises, clearly picking up on dialogue that didn't translate the way I was reading it.

Something about the adventure, and the experience of these stylized sequences and the unique story-telling captures me, making this a favorite film. This film finds it's way to be both artistic and entertaining at the same time. And I certainly have to say Tan Dun's score is beautiful.

And as this film celebrates it's 10th anniversary, it makes me wonder if any of the films at Cannes this year are hiding out, waiting to be a favorite that I will want to continue to talk about 10 years from now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Will Blockbuster Survive 2010? Should it?

In 2009 I did a serious of posts on Blockbuster Inc. exploring the questions of whether or not it would and should survive 2009. I even threw out 8 recommendations for how Blockbuster might rebound.

I sent my thoughts to Blockbuster Video as well - but did not get a response.

But, it's almost mid-year 2010 and Blockbuster stores still are found on many corners across America, and perhaps they will survive...although I'm not seeing a financial recovery for this company that was previously the gate keeper of the home video rental market.

And I think I still find myself asking an even more basic question, of should they survive?

According to the Wall Street journal report yesterday, Blockbuster's low earnings continue to push their stock (BBI) to all time lows from their 2002 high of $30 per share. At closing yesterday, Blockbuster stock was 41 cents a share.

International Closures and Sell Off

Additionally, I keep on reading about Blockbuster selling off, or getting out of the market in non-US markets. Blockbuster apparently is attempting to sell it's European stores, after closing down all it's stores in Spain and Portugal, as well as Latin American countries like Peru. Blockbuster has gotten out of many of these countries for issues relating to piracy.

It's anticipated that Blockbuster UK will be sold off by June 2010.

I'm curious to see what happens in this sell off. If Blockbuster UK, or other European parts of the company are sold, what will these new owners do differently? Is the video rental store a thing of the past, or is there a chance to revive it, and Blockbuster Inc. is just doing it all wrong?

Honestly, I think there's some potential, but probably at this stage in the game, the video rental store might be fading away.

It's been a long time since I've rented from a Blockbuster, and have this strange feeling, it's been awhile for you as well. Then again, that might just be because you forgot how to use your DVD player.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reel People: David Strathairn is William J. Flynn

The film is No God, No Master, written and directed by Terry Green.

William J. Flynn
William Flynn was born in New York City in 1867. After graduating high school he became a member of the Secret Service of the United States. He then went on to work for the city of New York reorganizing their detective agency, and then was made director of the US Secret Service.

During WWI, he served under Woodrow Wilson as the Chief of the United States Railroad Secret Service, where his primary role was to fight against threats of sabotage.

It wasn't but a couple years after the end of WWI, that in 1919 Flynn was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation. Flynn, the fourth man to have this title (the FBI was formed in 1908).

William Flynn's specialty as the leading detective in the nation was to find and stop social anarchist. He had tendency to identify those with the intentions of destroying government and social society through means of bombs and sabotage of important people and institutions.

One of the first things Flynn did in this position of bureau director (the first to use the title) was to help push for importance of the National Vehicle Theft Act which made it easier to prosecute criminals who crossed state lines.

During his time as director of the FBI, the arrest of Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bertalameo Vanzetti where arrested in what would be come the very well known and controversial Sacco and Venzetti trial. Sacco and Venzetti's trial became well known because these two Italian's had no criminal record prior to the being arrested for murder, and had trials that many would view as unfair.

In 1921 Flynn resigned from the bureau, stating a need to attend to personal business matters.

He died of a heart attack in 1928.

No God, No Master

This independent film, No God, No Master, stars David Strathairn as this head of the Bureau of Investigation.

Strathairn previously worked with director Green in the 2006 film Heavens Fall, the true story about an attorney who defends 9 black men accused of rape in the South.

No God, No Master
also stars lesser known Alessandro Mario and James Madio as the Italian criminals Vinzetti and Sacco. Other famous historical features come into play in this film including Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, John D. Rockefeller, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Will previous Oscar nominee David Strathairn's portrayal of this anarchy fighting detective have any chance for an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?

Photo credit, Strathairn pictured left next to Sam Witwer who plays Eugenio Ravarini

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Leviticus, as a film (or cinematic Priest)

It's been over 6 months, but in following the series of the bible in film and as film, I present Leviticus: The Film.

The stories we find in the first two books of the Bible are dynamic. Genesis and Exodus are both filled with cinematic moments that have been captured to varying degrees.

These two narrative books are followed by Leviticus.

Now there is really know narrative in Leviticus, rather this book outlines priestly and holy living...in great detail.

There's much to do with offerings (sin offerings, burnt offerings) for the removal of sins, and laws concerning cleanliness, clean and unclean animals, sexual conduct, idolatry, rules for feast, and so forth.

Now, there is little that could probably make for a "Leviticus" film per se (although a film taking place with a priest, one of the sons of Aaron perhaps) could be interesting with some creative work and cultural research.

At the same time, Priest have played a huge role in as characters (real and fictional) in stories and films.

Priest: My Gripe

I could go far back into many of the distant examples of priest in film/tv (such as a recent favorite, such of mine I Confess.)

I do not come from a Catholic tradition, but all the same, I find it offensive that films usually present two sterotypical priest.

Stereotype #1: sleazy pervert priest. As a recent example see Phillip Seymour Hoffman's character in Doubt (pictured right).

Now it's not completely outlandish that this stereotype would exist. Recent news stories over the years certainly make this one of the important events of our time. So I don't criticize Doubt or Bad Education dealing with these themes. But it just seems like these spiritual leaders are often portrayed as "up to no good."

In fact, I think an interesting take on the topic doesn't involve pedophilia, but sexual integrity of priest in general that we see in Carlos Carera's film El Crimen del Padre Amaro. This is the type of film that explores the issue, without just giving you a creepy feeling. Otherwise, these other films, just leave you disgusted.

Stereotype #2: the saccharine priest. Keeping the focus on recent examples I think of the priest from the film Gran Torino, Father Janovich who continues to Clint Eastwood character Walt Kawalski trying to get him to confess his sins at the request of his wife.

Another character who seemed identical was Colin Hanks character in the TV series Mad Men (pictured right). Super sweet and caring, but some how just a little too caring. Enough so that it's almost annoying.

A Hope

I think a hope of mine would be that films and television shows could have characters that have religious convictions, even religious vocations without being so extreme on the spectrum. I would love to see someone's religious devotion be a characteristic of their personality that while impacting who they are, doesn't serve as a plot device because we are shocked by their fall or seen how other characters respond to their deepest devotion.

I know the reason stereotypes in art exist is to create easy ways to identify and build character development, but you can hope, right?

As for a film based purely off of Leviticus...can't say I see what that would look like, or have any recommendation for transforming the text of this into any direct one-to-one story.

Posts in the series: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Statue of Liberty: Emergency Exit

West Point civil engineering professor Major Mark DeRocchi gave his cadets a unique assignment. Their assignment...create an emergency evacuation device for someone who needs an emergency exit from the crown of the statue of liberty.

At first I was pretty excited about this when I heard the story about these students creating an evacuation device.

Of course, we've seen people in distress on the Statue of Liberty...sure most of it in film...but this device (a gravity driven stair chair) could hardly help people stuck in the crown during some more famous situations (usually the result of tsunami, global climate change, monsters, or aliens).

This is a video I found on youtube shows some famous times when a rescue system would have been appropriate...the stair chair by the West Point students wouldn't work in these situations.



The tradition of destroying The Statue in film goes back to 1933 film Deluge, but it has really become en vouge over recently, especially in the last decade.

Here's a list of movies where The Statue of Liberty is destroyed:
Deluge (1933) ♦ Planet of the Apes (1968) ♦ National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985) ♦ Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) ♦ Ghostbusters II (1989) ♦ Batman Forever (1995) ♦ Independence Day (1996) ♦ Deep Impact (1998) ♦ A.I:Artificial Intellegence (2001) ♦ The Day After Tomorrow (2004) ♦ Cloverfield (2008) ♦ 2012 (2009)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Super 8 - Shhhh!

Have you seen the preview to J.J. Abrams new film, Super 8?

In the tradition of Cloverfield, Abrams has released a preview that warrants confusion, speculation, and reminds us of the joy of mystery.

I caught the first preview to Super 8 as it premiered with Iron Man 2.

The preview tells us nothing other than it deals with something presumably extra-terrestrial being moved from Area 51 to Ohio.

That's it.

But the preview, which is reminiscent of the Close Encounters of the Third Kind train scene creates intrigue.

Clearly one of the most intriguing films of Summer 2011.

I don't know what other people are saying because I really don't think there's anything else to say. There's not even a cast announced associated with this film.

But we're talking about it. I'm talking about it.

I love the mystery. Thank you J.J. for creating the experience of intrigue and anticipation.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

5 Thoughts on Iron Man 2

When Iron Man came out May 2008, I was pleasantly surprised with the film, in part by my low expectations. I was not alone in low-expectations & high prize.

1. Expectations

Expectation's of the audience are far higher this go-around, and I think that unfortunately that makes this film a little less of a jewel.

But, there's still a sense of expectation in this film that is fostered by the massive project that is just underway in the Avenger's project. "How will this all play out?" you ask as Nick Fury's character shows up, not just in a post-credit tease, but as an actual character.

You ask, "who's here to stay?" and are excited by the prospects of what characters will cross over into Thor, Captain America, and the larger Avenger storyline.

2. Suit-on/Suit-off.

The thing I like about Iron Man is that he's more interesting with the suit-off then with the suit-on. I credit it this the writing and Robert Downey Jr. It's fun to see him build, and be the Tony Stark character. His interaction with other characters, his wit, his ego, and his narcissism is what I believe make the film the success that it is.

Not many super-hero films can claim this success. The fight scenes are big, but it's not his power's that impress us, nor the typical "will they figure out who he is" mystery, rather it's the way his personality improves and hurts his heroism.

3. Cast

I love this cast. In 2008 I praised the cast of the first film and I continually love the performances. In fact, beyond Downey Jr. I really think this film was Don Cheadle's baby. He was superb. Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johannsson were good, Mickey Rourke was better than I expected, and I loved seeing John Slattery as Howard Stark, and look forward to Clark Gregg's continue role as Agent Coulson.

If there was a disappointing performance in this film, I would say I had hoped for more from Sam Rockwell.

Oh, and Gary Shandling, as Senator Stern -- surprisingly well played and cast.

4. Fresh?

Honestly, this film was not as "fresh" as the first, and fell into some super hero sequel traps, which was a little unfortunate...the side kick angle, while well played by Cheadle, seems overplayed, and I felt like there were many "repeat" scenes in this film from the first (example the Expo fan fair and shop-redesign) seemed to be a little deja vu. It's inevitable, but it lacked some of the new, fresh, and intelligent that we saw in the first film.

5. Legacy

The concept of legacy was clearly the overall "theme" or concept that the Jon Fraverau as screenwriter was bringing out in the context of Tony Stark's character, as well as Ivan Vonko (Mickey Rourke), and to a lesser extent in some of the supporting cast.

Probably somewhat an over-played theme in general, but well played. But where the film hit this theme throughout the film, I don't think it ever really said anything about legacy, other than touching on the human desire to "make an impact" whether that's in terms of revenge, family, science, peace, business, or national recognition.

I expected some wrap up of this concept in the story, but didn't see it.

Final Thought

Despite some "critic" it's a good film. I do think that the larger Avenger story probably had some influence on "weakening" a film that could have been great, but at the same time this massive-scale project to tell the Avenger story in multiple films is certainly going to be something that is not only interesting to watch, but to see how it holds up and becomes that great success that studios are surely hoping for.

Here's to more Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans as Captain America, and Thor (which we see a little hint of after the credits role).

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Vomit Inducing Summer Movies (2010 Movies)

This is the 5th annual list!!

It's that time again for the Vomit Inducing Movie list for 2010. This is the fifth year of this list, and the 2006, 2007, 2008 , 2009 list can be reviewed - of course, these lists are made before these films come out and some of these perceived flops end up being winners.

Put it on your schedule, you can mock and review my choices in August. I can take it.

May 14: Just Wright
A lame story that looks like "Precious the romantic comedy" staring Queen Latifa in the role of physical therapist (they love casting her as a "therapist" don't they), helping a basketball player get back on his feet again. Blah.

Gary Winick follows up Bride Wars with this film. (note: Winick's next film Rat Bastard is in development) proving that Hollywood loves rom-coms with dumb set ups, here Amanda Seyfriend goes on vacation to Italy and tries to find the lover for an old woman who wrote a thousand love letters hidden in Verona.

May 21: MacGruber
Val Kilmer and Ryan Phillipe in a comedy? Did they hire them just so they could put their names on the poster? Will Forte plays MacGruber.

With each film worse than the last this one is destined for stinkitude. Cameron's probably worried she will be unemployed if they stop making these energizer-bunny-like films.

George A. Romero's film will get it's theatrical run after it's DVD release in the UK and video on demand release in the US and HDNet TV release two days before it hits theaters. Even the fans who've seen this zombie picture seem unimpressed...can't imagine this Magnolia picture will get many screens, showings or box-office dough.

June 4:
Killers
Despite it's edgy title - this is not a slasher flick (I don't think) but rather a comedy staring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl who fall in love on a vacation and then think their next door neighbors are hired to assassinate them. This can't be a real movie...Ashton, you've been PUNK'D.

June 4: Marmaduke
Beverly Hills Chihuahua meets a daily newspaper comic that isn't funny. Great Dane lovers and the folks at the nursing home will love it.

June 11: The A -Team
Keep in mind Mr. T does infomercials for an a counter top cooking product, so I'm not sure if an A-Team remake is the fast-track to success. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson plays Mr. T's iconic role. The cast beyond that is relatively high caliber (Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley, and Patrick Wilson) but my expectations are low. I expect reviews that read the "the D minus team."

June 25
: Grown Ups
They tacked a teaser trailer of this film onto last year's film 2012. The message "If you're showing up to see 2012 opening weekend, then we have another idea for how you can waste your money." I'm sure with heavy marketing and a comedic flair this film will do alright at the box office. But I'm keeping my money in my wallet. The "best friend reunion story" staring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider sounds all too...1990s to me.

Are you serious -- this instead of a Will Smith movie over 4th of July weekend? A girl choosing between vampire and werewolf? No comment is necessary as to why this film is included on this year's list.

I've ranted about this film over a year ago - check out the full gripe of barfness in my post titled: "What are they thinking? Jerry Bruckheimer's Modern Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nicolas Cage"

A indy film about Norse vikings and the main characters are "One Eye" and "Are." Sci-fi action is sometimes a tough sell for me, and believe me this one is a really tough sell.

July 30: Beastly
A modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, staring Burberry model Alex Pettyfer (Beast) and High School musical star Venessa Hudgens (Beauty). I could easily see this attracting the Twilight crowd, of which, I am proudly not a member.

Bette Midler, 2 Oscar nominations, plays the voice of Kitty Galore. Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin plays the voice of Butch. Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan plays the voice of Sam. And these three actors take home a paycheck and our glad that there faces aren't actually seen in the film, just their voices.

August 6: Step Up 3-D
Who knew Step Up would be a trilogy? But how convenient the 3rd installment came when 3D was all the rage!

August 13: The Expendables
Sylvester Stalone directs, writes, and stars in a a film about mercenaries overthrowing a dictator. In addition to Jet Li, Jason Stratham, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke. It even has (what I assume is a cameo) for Arnold Schwartzenegger. Stallone loves to put up those roman numerals, so we should be expecting The Expendables II, Expendables III, and the Expendables IV sometime over the next decade.

April 20: The Switch
I've mentioned this film about a sperm donation switcheroo staring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman (as well as Jeff Goldblum, Juliette Lewis and Patrick Wilson). But really, this film can only compliment Aniston's downhill spiral alongside her earlier flop this year, The Bounty Hunter and last year's Love Happens and He's Just Not That Into You.

April 27: Piranha 3-D
Elizabeth Shue stars as a sheriff saving townspeople from prehistoric piranhas. "Oh yea, and it's in 3D and it will be soooo cool and scary, and it will be like the piranhas are coming right towards you, it'll be totally crazy." A gimmick of a film if I've ever seen one.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Horse Movies

Never a big "animal film" fan, horse movies are different than say a pet movie (Beethoven or Milo and Otis) or a wildlife movie (The Bear).

Horse movies are different, maybe because the amount of time, money, and energy it takes to train a horse is different than a domesticated pet, although it's wild nature is controlled.

This year's bid "horse movie" is Secretariat, but it far from a novel idea to try to capture hearts with a story of a horse and it's rider.

Probably the most noteworthy recent horse film (both in terms of box-office and award acclaim) is Gary Ross' 2003 film Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit is the highest gross horse film ($120 million domestically) and earned 7 academy award nominations (but no wins).

I imagine Walt Disney's Secreatariat is attempting to beat out Seabiscuit's record. But win or loss Secretariat will be earn the prize as the first horse film of the decade added to annals of horse filmography.

5 Top Grossing Horse Films

5. The Electric Horseman (1979) $61 million
4. Hidalgo (2004) $67 million
3. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) $73 million
2. The Horse Whisperer (1998) $78 million
1. Seabiscuit (2003) $120 million

Some other horse film "standards" from almost every decade:

Flicka (2006)
Racing Stripes (2005)
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (2005)
Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken (1991)
The Black Stallion Returns (1983)
The Man From Snowy River (1982)
The Black Stallion (1979)
International Velvet (1978)
National Velvet (1944)
My Friend Flicka (1943)
A Day at the Races (1937)
Black Beauty (1921, 1946, 1971, 1994)

Pictured above: Tobey Maguire in Seabiscuit

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Reel People: Diane Lane is Penny Chenery

The film is Secretariat directed by Randall Wallace (We Were Soldiers) and written by Mike Rich (The Rookie, Finding Forrester, The Nativity Story).

Helen Bates "Penny" Chenery

Penny was born in 1922 in Virginia. Her father, Christopher Chenery, was a influential businessman and WWI veteran who was the president of Chenery Corporation who's company held the controlling interest in the Federal Water Service Company. Despite this success, he has become most known for his ownership of the thoroughbred racing operation called Meadow Farms located in Caroline County, Virginia.

Christopher Chenery and his wife Helen Bates had three children: Hollis, Margaret, and Helen Bates "Penny."

Penny was the youngest of three children. She attended Smith College, earning her Bachelor of Arts and then attended Columbia School of Business were she met her husband John Baynard Tweedy. They had four children of their own: Sally, Christopher, Kate, and John.

In 1968, Penny's father Christopher was admitted long-term in to a hospital in New York and his children were considering selling Meadow Farms, particularly because it was not a profitable enterprise at that time. Penny decided that she would take over operations of the almost 3000 acre farm.

In 1969, Christopher's long time trainer Casey Hayes retired after 25 years, and Penny had to hire a new trainer. After consulting with family friend and business associate Bull Hancock, Penny hired Roger Laurin. Roger Laurin helped the farm by cutting cost, but also led to Penny having the opportunity to hire Roger's father Lucien Laurin, a successful Canadian jockey who came out of retirement in 1971 to work for Penny.

Lucien Laurir, the french Canadian jockey helped Meadows Stable become the number one stable for a period. This began with the two year old Colt Riva Ridge being 1971 and winning numerous stakes races including five of the six US triple crown races between 1972-1973 including the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Penny was involved with breeding at the farm and early in her operations bred two horses (Somethingroyal and Bold Ruler) twice. The first horse bred was named The Bride, the second Secretariat born in 1970.

Secretariat was trained by Lucien Laurin, and primarily jockeyed by Canadian Ron Turcott. Secretariat went on to be the first horse to U.S. Triple Crown setting new race records in many of his races.

The horse was bred by Penny, but was listed Christopher Chenery as the breeder, due to the male nature of the sport.

It wasn't until 1983, that Penny (along with two other women, Martha F Gerry and Allaire du Pont) were the first women admitted into the The Jockey Club, after years of serving as president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

Chenery now lives in Boulder, Colorado near her children.

Secretariat

This Walt Disney Picture focuses on the story of Penny and her unique challenges as a woman in establishing respect as a woman in the breeding and horse racing world.

One can assume from the casting of the film that the film will tell in part the legendary story of how a coin toss led to Penny getting Somethingroyal's colt, Secretariat from Ogden Phipps.

Ogden is played by James Cromwell. Diane Lane is Penny. Scott Glen plays Christopher Chenery. And in a role that seems as big as Lane's performance is John Malkovich's performance of Lucien Laurin.

Will Diane Lane's portrayal of this historic sportswoman have any chance for an Oscar nomination/win for portraying this Real (Reel) Person?
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