Natalie Portman followed up her breakthrough debut as the lil’ assassin in Leon: The Professional with three more Certified Fresh films: Heat, Beautiful Girls, and Everyone Says I Love You. Science-fiction projects gave her first brushes with Rotten ratings (Mars Attacks!) but also global stardom (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), giving her the clout to work with the biggest name directors; people like Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited), Milos Forman (Goya’s Ghosts), Wong Kar-Wai (My Blueberry Nights), and Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), the last of which nabbed her the Best Actress Oscar.
Portman has also increasingly worked directly behind the camera in recent years, first with her own directed segment in New York, I Love You, and then the feature-length A Tale of Love and Darkness. That came after Portman was absent from the screen a few years following mildly compelling if safe turns in two Thor movies. But she’s back in a revamped starring role with Thor: Love and Thunder, directed by Taika Waititi. Now, let’s look at all of Natalie Portman’s movies with Tomatometers, ranked! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus:Annihilation backs up its sci-fi visual wonders and visceral genre thrills with an impressively ambitious -- and surprisingly strange -- exploration of challenging themes that should leave audiences pondering long after the end credits roll.
Synopsis: Lena, a biologist and former soldier, joins a mission to uncover what happened to her husband inside Area X --... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though Al Pacino and Robert De Niro share but a handful of screen minutes together, Heat is an engrossing crime drama that draws compelling performances from its stars -- and confirms Michael Mann's mastery of the genre.
Synopsis: Master criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) is trying to control the rogue actions of one of his men, while... [More]
Critics Consensus: Delivering a quirky spin on familiar twentysomething tropes -- with a cannily-placed soundtrack -- Garden State has enough charm to mark a winning debut for first-time director Zach Braff.
Synopsis: After many years away, television bit part actor Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) returns to his small home town in New... [More]
Critics Consensus: Pivoting on the unusual relationship between seasoned hitman and his 12-year-old apprentice -- a breakout turn by young Natalie Portman -- Luc Besson's Léon is a stylish and oddly affecting thriller.
Synopsis: Mathilda (Natalie Portman) is only 12 years old, but is already familiar with the dark side of life: her abusive... [More]
Critics Consensus: The strong chemistry between Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman as a mother and daughter trying to make a fresh start in L.A. helps to elevate Anywhere But Here above its occasional forays into melodrama.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the Mona Simpson novel, single mother Adele August (Susan Sarandon) is bad with money, and even... [More]
Critics Consensus: Tim Burton's alien invasion spoof faithfully recreates the wooden characters and schlocky story of cheesy '50s sci-fi and Ed Wood movies -- perhaps a little too faithfully for audiences.
Synopsis: A fleet of Martian spacecraft surrounds the world's major cities and all of humanity waits to see if the extraterrestrial... [More]
Critics Consensus: It benefits from the presence of Natalie Portman and director Ivan Reitman's steady hand, but No Strings Attached doesn't have the courage or conviction to follow through on its ribald premise.
Synopsis: Lifelong friends Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) take their relationship to the next level by having sex. Afraid... [More]
Critics Consensus:Knight of Cups finds Terrence Malick delving deeper into the painterly visual milieu he's explored in recent efforts, but even hardcore fans may struggle with the diminishing narrative returns.
Synopsis: A Los Angeles screenwriter (Christian Bale) indulges his wild side with a stripper (Teresa Palmer), a model (Freida Pinto) and... [More]
Jude Law made his breakthrough splash in The Talented Mr. Ripley, though anyone who had been following his early career through Gattaca, Music From Another Room, and Wilde already knew what he was capable of by the time the world saw him in the Anthony Minghella thriller. Not too long after that, Law would be working with the likes of Steven Spielberg (he was the robot Gigolo Joe in A.I. Artificial Intelligence), taking lead roles (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Alfie), and showing off his dark side as nasty villains (Road to Perdition).
And sometimes it seems Law is at his best in large ensemble casts: Just check out Cold Mountain, I Heart Huckabees, Contagion, The Grand Budapest Hotel, or even Captain Marvel for proof. His latest film was Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.. See where it places as we rank all Jude Law movies by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
Critics Consensus: Simultaneously broad and progressive, Spy offers further proof that Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig bring out the best in one another -- and delivers scores of belly laughs along the way.
Synopsis: Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey,... [More]
Critics Consensus: With a rich sense of period detail, The Aviator succeeds thanks to typically assured direction from Martin Scorsese and a strong performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, who charts Howard Hughes' descent from eccentric billionaire to reclusive madman.
Synopsis: Billionaire and aviation tycoon Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a successful public figure: a director of big-budget Hollywood films such... [More]
Critics Consensus: Although it softens the nasty edges of its source material, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a gothic visual treat, and it features a hilariously manic turn from Jim Carrey as the evil Count Olaf.
Synopsis: After the three young Baudelaire siblings are left orphaned by a fire in their mansion, they are carted off to... [More]
Critics Consensus: Guy Ritchie's directorial style might not be quite the best fit for an update on the legendary detective, but Sherlock Holmes benefits from the elementary appeal of a strong performance by Robert Downey, Jr.
Synopsis: When a string of brutal murders terrorizes London, it doesn't take long for legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.)... [More]
Critics Consensus: Terry Gilliam remains as indulgent as ever, but The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus represents a return to the intoxicatingly imaginative, darkly beautiful power of his earlier work, with fine performances to match all the visual spectacle.
Synopsis: Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer), the leader of a traveling show, has a dark secret. Thousands of years ago he traded... [More]
Critics Consensus: Jude Law is clearly having fun in Dom Hemingway's title role, but viewers may find this purposely abrasive gangster dramedy isn't quite as enjoyable from the other side of the screen.
Synopsis: After serving 12 years in prison, a skilled safecracker (Jude Law) seeks payback and a chance to reconcile with his... [More]
Critics Consensus: Clint Eastwood's spare directorial style proves an ill fit for this Southern potboiler, which dutifully trudges through its mystery while remaining disinterested in the cultural flourishes that gave its source material its sense of intrigue.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of John Berendt's book, a young journalist, John Kelso (John Cusack), travels to Savannah, Ga., to cover... [More]
Critics Consensus:Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore avoids some of the pitfalls that plagued its predecessor, but lacks much of the magic that drew audiences into the wizarding world many movies ago.
Synopsis: Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) knows the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is moving to seize control of... [More]
Critics Consensus: This unnecessary remake wants Alfie to have his cake and eat it, too, but a lack of sexual fizz and a sour performance by Jude Law conspire to deliver audiences a romantic comedy that isn't romantic or funny.
Synopsis: British-born ladies' man Alfie (Jude Law) exploits his job as a New York City limousine driver to meet and sleep... [More]
On September 23, Paramount Home Entertainment is making you an offer that you can’t refuse: The Godfather Collection: The Coppola Restoration, on both DVD and Blu-Ray. Francis Ford Coppola himself spent a year overseeing the frame-by-frame restoration, a painstaking process which is documented in one of four new featurettes; the complete set includes the entire Godfather trilogy (for those of you who count Godfather III), extras from the previous box set, and more new material. Shell out $72.99 for the DVD set, $119.99 for Blu-Ray.
Tarantino To Geek Out on O.G. Inglorious Bastards DVD
If you’re a Quentin Tarantino nut, then you know he recently completed his script for the long-gestating war movie, Inglorious Bastards. But have you seen the original The Inglorious Bastards upon which QT’s flick is rumored to be based? You’ll get your chance when Enzo G. Castellari‘s 1978 cult film hits; the WWII tale of a band of military criminals on a suicide mission in Nazi territory stars ’70s action icons Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, and will be released in a 3-disc Special Edition on July 29. Best of all, Tarantino will appear in the DVD extras, hosting a night of Castellari’s films and talking all things Inglorious with the veteran filmmaker.
Watch Hancock At Home Before DVD Hits
Forget Netflix and iTunes; Sony’s jumping into the digital delivery game with the release of Will Smith‘s Hancock, which will be made available for web-equipped owners of Sony’s Bravia TV sets before the film hits DVD. However, it still comes with a hefty price: $300 for the Bravia Internet link and $7.50 — nearly the price of admission these days — to stream, but not download, the movie. Another thing: you can’t Bravia Hancock, out in theaters this week, until November.
Patriot Games meets Rashomon in this trying thriller about an assassination attempt, as seen from more points of view than you can shake a stick at. Okay, so you can’t shake a stick at a point of view, but neither can you inundate critics with the same twenty minutes over and over again for two hours without being accused of silliness and incoherence. Go see Rashomon instead.
There are plenty of extras here to enjoy, assuming you want to relive the making of a story that you’ve just seen play out eight times over (director commentary, cast and crew interviews, featurettes, and outtakes).
The Judd Apatow touch failed to boost Drillbit Taylor to the ranks of Superbad and Knocked Up (and in fact is the producer’s worst-reviewed film to date); even comic wunderkind Seth Rogen, who co-wrote the script, couldn’t keep it afloat. Even worse? The idea about a homeless scam artist (Owen Wilson) hired as bodyguard to a bunch of bullied kids came from none other than John Hughes.
If you must watch Drillbit Taylor, then pick up the unrated Extended Survival Edition — how else could an Apatow film be seen, but with more swear words and tomfoolery? Check out additional features about co-star Danny McBride (The Foot Fist Way) and the on-set rap battle to enrich your experience.
Tyler Perry is back, which means that you already know if Meet the Browns is for you. (If you know who his Madea character is — and it doesn’t make you groan inwardly — then you’re in his demographic.) This time, Angela Bassett wades her way through soap opera-esque melodrama and borderline stereotypical jokes in a heartwarming tale about family.
A two-disc DVD gives you four featurettes and a digital copy; otherwise, check out the single disc release for the movie alone.
Wong Kar-Wai (In the Mood for Love, 2046) makes his Hollywood debut in this tale of a woman (songstress Norah Jones) nursing heartbreak on a cross-country road trip, a vibrant ode to iconic modern Americana made with the reverent eye of an outsider. Laden with metaphors and partly shot in his gorgeous, Wong Kar-Wai style, My Blueberry Nights was nevertheless deemed a mixed bag of tricks.
If film-as-art and the creative process interest you, then check out the handful of extras here: a making-of featurette and lengthy Q&A with Wong Kar-Wai, plus on-set and scouting photo galleries.
With the long-awaited (and highly secretive) sequel X-Files: I Want to Believe hitting theaters soon, you may need a refresher on the previous adventures of Mulder and Scully. Creators Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter handpick and provide commentary for eight of their favorite series episodes, and throw in a few sequel-related extras just to tease you.
Brief introductions to each episode provide some insight into each selection, but much like the big DVD extra — the X-Files 2 panel at WonderCon — you won’t find any new info about the sequel here.
George Clooney gets compared to Cary Grant all the time, so it’s only natural he would try his hand at Grant’s prime métier — the screwball comedy. Unfortunately, critics say the football laffer Leatherheads, in which Clooney stars and directs, is something of a mixed bag. Set in the early days of pro-pigskin (in the days when college was king), Leatherheads tells the tale of the struggling, ragtag Duluth squad, which has scored a major coup by tapping a college gridiron hero (played by John Krasinski) to team with aging pro Dodge Connolly (Clooney); however, the team is also under fire from an aggressive beat reporter (Renée Zellweger). The pundits say Leatherheads is a funny, amiable affair, but it could take some pointers from the no-huddle offense, which, like screwball comedy, emphasizes quick thinking, deft interaction, and risk. At 54 percent on the Tomatometer, Leatherheads is being thrown for a loss. And it’s Clooney’s worst-reviewed directorial effort to date — well below Good Night and Good Luck‘s 94 percent. (Check out our interview with George Clooney here.)
“Look, we’re running a flea flicker, and that’s final! Do I look like I’m negotiating?“
A sort of Swiss Family Robinson crossed with Indiana Jones, the critics say Nim’s Island is solid family fare — with the pros and cons that implies. Abigail Breslin stars as Nim, a precocious girl who lives on a South Pacific island with her father (Gerard Butler), a scientist; when he goes missing, Nim turns to the hero of her favorite book (also played by Butler) — and the tome’s author (Jodie Foster) — for help. Critics say Nim’s Island has an old-fashioned sense of wonder and adventure — as well as a healthy dose of girl power — that makes for an above-average kids’ adventure. But they also note the movie offers a predictable storyline and some hackneyed slapstick. Nim’s Island currently stands at 48 percent on the Tomatomenter. (Take a look at a clip from the film here.)
Abigail Breslin won’t be so joyous when she realizes she’ll need to eat grubs and berries to survive.
It appears the folks behind The Ruins feared its critical reputation would be left in ruins, since it was barely screened before its release. Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, and Shawn Ashmore star in this tale of a group of tourists who find danger lurking at a remote archaeological site — an obvious oversight by the Lonely Planet people. Kids, take your noses out of that atlas and guess the Tomatometer!
“While I’ve got you guys here, I wanted to talk about my vision for Freejack 2…”
And finally, props to Grendel-san for correctly guessing Superhero Movie‘s 17 percent Tomatometer, presumably while doing battle with Beowulf-san. One question for ya, G.S: is it hard to type with only one arm?
American songstress Norah Jones makes her feature film debut – if you excuse a brief cameo in Two Weeks Notice – in My Blueberry Nights which opens in the UK this weekend (and opens in the US on April 4). It’s also the first English-language film from renowned Chinese auteur Wong Kar-Wai, a sweepingly romantic epic which opened this year’s Cannes Film Festival. No pressure then. Jones tells RT why she has taken it all in her stride.
This is your first acting job, straight into a starring role. You’re surrounded by some of the most talented actors around at the moment — was that intimidating at all?
Norah Jones: No… I mean, I felt definitely they were more confident in what they do — they know what’s going on and I don’t, but they’re all really easy to work with and such nice, normal people, and they really made me feel comfortable. Also, they’re great actors, so I believed their characters — especially because I didn’t really know them. We got to know each other as we were shooting, but in the beginning I didn’t really know Natalie Portman, and I’m wasn’t really thinking “That’s Natalie.” I was thinking, “Wow, that’s an interesting character — what a weirdo!”
But before you got on set, did you feel the need to study?
NJ: I did, I felt the need to study acting, and I wanted to do a good job — I wasn’t taking it lightly, and I didn’t want to be laughed at if I could help it! I found a good acting teacher, and I asked [Wong Kar-Wai], “Can you tell me what to work on? Can you tell me something about the story, the character, anything?” He said, “No, and I don’t want you to take acting lessons — I think you should stop. It’s okay, you’ll be fine — you’re a natural.” And I’m saying, “How do you know that? You don’t know that! You’ve never seen me do anything!” He was so sure of himself though that I just believed him, so I stopped.
Were you afraid of becoming a name on the list of failed singer-turned-actors?
NJ: No, because I don’t think I’m doing the kind of film here… this is not Glitter, first of all. It’s not all about me, as a singer or whatever — it certainly doesn’t have the same kind of pressure attached to it for me.
Wong Kar-Wai has said that he built Elizabeth’s character from hearing your voice. Did he then try to change you to become the character, or was it all about fitting the character to you?
“This is not Glitter. I don’t think I’m doing that kind of film here.”
NJ: I think he definitely let me be myself, but certainly as far as my body language goes, the first two weeks of shooting he was constantly coming up to me going, “Norah, shoulders back — stand up straight!” So there were things about my body language that he needed to tune. It was kind of funny, because I’d never thought about that before.
And the rest is all you?
NJ: Yeah. He would even change things sometimes, if my reaction wasn’t honest — I’m kind of bad at faking things, so maybe in a typical film I wouldn’t be good at acting. It’s pretty obvious when I’m not genuine, and he knows that. He never wanted me to fake anything, which again was why having such great actors around was good — I could honestly react to their character, because I believed them.
So given that he cast you from your singing, do you see a connection between your songs and his films?
NJ: Somebody who saw the film said to me once, “I really liked the film, it was like a very sweet ballad.” And of course, I sing a lot of quiet ballad music, so there’s a similarity there. Chungking Express is not a ballad, that’s a different kind of movie, but certainly some of his movies are melancholy, and slow moving, and subtle. Likewise, I think the way I make music is with a lot of subtleties that people don’t always catch – but to me they’re there, and of course I make melancholy, quiet music. That’s the only relation I can think of. I think mood-wise it can be similar, but not everything — not when I sing country music, maybe!
Do you feel there’s anything in common between the way he filmed the women in this film and the women in his Hong Kong films? Do you think there’s a way he looks at women?
NJ: I do, but I’m not sure if I could put it into words… I think he admires women very much, and it’s a womanly thing. Whenever I was doing the stuff in New York with Jude Law, he would always make me more womanly, because I’m kind of a dude; I don’t really carry myself as a woman, you know? I’m not like that – some people are just like that. So he was constantly trying to get me to move a hair on my neck, and then tell me to wipe it away in the middle of a scene, stuff like that. He definitely tends towards the beauty of the feminine thing, I think.
This is Wong’s first English language film. Did you ever find any aspects of culture shock?
NJ: He said something quite recently which I felt but had never actually heard him say; he said he studied our country, our culture and grew up watching beautiful American cinema, but he’s never going to be an American director, because he just culturally can’t be. So this film was, in a way, a tribute to a lot of the American films, music and culture that he grew up watching. I think we all felt that that the movie and these characters represent his view of America, and it’s a very romantic view, but in a good way. You can go to Memphis, and people don’t wear diner costumes like me any more, you know? That’s a romantic view; it’s from another era. And a woman like Rachel Weisz‘s character probably doesn’t exist today — maybe 40 years ago, but she represents an idea, an impression.
Did you give advice on the soundtrack?
NJ: He asked for suggestions, he showed me pictures of the locations. So I suggested the Cat Power, and the Otis Redding, and especially because we were going to be in Memphis, I suggested this Cassandra Wilson cover of a Neil Young song, and he ended up using all of those in the film, which was cool — everything else, he picked. The Ry Cooder? that was all him.
My Blueberry Nights seems to have the heart of a road movie…
NJ: I think it was meant to be one. There’s not a lot of travelling in the end product, it was meant to be more of a road movie I think. It’s still about journeying to different places, but it’s more implied.
That must be something you relate to.
NJ: Well I travel quite a bit these days with touring yeah, but even as a kid my Mom and I took a lot of road trip vacations – it’s cheap, and gosh it’s a beautiful country to take a road trip in. We lived in Texas, and it takes forever to get anywhere because Texas is so big, but if you go west it’s gorgeous, and if you head east, you get into America’s South; a completely different culture, and equally gorgeous. So I did relate to it, yes.
“[The kiss] took three days, because they were trying to figure it out, it was very technical.”
The colour palate on this film feels a lot like Chungking Express…
NJ: Yeah, the café, I think was meant to feel a little bit like that. Or maybe not meant to, but it does for many people feel like that. We shot in a real café, but of course they dress it up they way they want.
Really? We would have sworn that was a meticulously designed studio set…
NJ: No, in fact nothing was done in a studio; it was all shot in real places. But William Chang – his partner who does all the set design and costuming – everything has to go by him. He’s basically the art director for everything. He’s a genius, and he chooses the most amazing colours and things. The scene where Natalie and I are in the bed, for example, there’s these wallpaper things on the wall. He had come in and completely wallpapered the whole room, but he didn’t just use wallpaper – he put a black square in every sequence of four white squares, and he went around the whole room! It’s very meticulous, but we did shoot it in real places which were half re-dressed.
And is it true your kissing scene took three days to shoot?
NJ: Yes — but not the ones you see. They were very quick, but we had another one which was similar — the same pose, actually, the same camera moves and everything. It took three days, because they were trying to figure it out, it was very technical. But then when we came back to it at the end, it was pretty quick.
Are you up for doing more movies in future?
NJ: I’d be open to it, but I wouldn’t want to do a ton of films. It would have to be something like this, that seemed like a cool experience, and something that I thought I was going to enjoy doing. But I’d love to do it again, and get better at it, see what I could do, but it’s very demanding on your time. It takes over your whole life, and I would only be able to do it if it was something I was really excited about.
She’s been wowing critics (and attracting a fanboy army) with her work in front of the camera for half of her life. Now, what Natalie Portman really wants to do is direct.
As Variety reports, she’s set to do just that, via her newly minted Handsomecharlie Films imprint, which has just signed a two-year production deal with Participant Productions. From the article:
Banner’s first project is “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” on which Portman plans to make her feature helming debut. Story is based on the bestselling memoir of Amos Oz, with Naomi Foner (“Running on Empty“) in negotiations to adapt the screenplay.
Handsomecharlie’s mission statement, according to the report, is to “develop socially relevant films,” which fits right in with Participant’s focus on, in Variety’s words, “such forward-thinking projects as Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck, and An Inconvenient Truth.” Portman is quoted as saying:
“We all have the same desire to make meaningful and artistically fulfilling films and are committed to the idea of stories leading to greater empathy and action for world issues.”