(Photo by Disney)
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 The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively. See where it places as we rank all Jude Law movies by Tomatometer!
The critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men comes to DVD this week, accompanied by a litany of fellow Fresh films (Lake of Fire, Summer Palace, Dan in Real Life) as well as a gaggle of critical duds (Hitman, Bee Movie, August Rush, and more).
Joel and Ethan Coen add another celebrated film to their resume with this four-category Oscar-winning thriller about a bag of stolen cash, a man on the run, the killer on his tail, and the old lawman desperately trying to make sense of it all. While we’ll get no commentary track on this initial DVD release (just wait for the inevitable super-sized special editions), three features comprise the bonus menu, but the film itself is its own reward — just ask those Academy voters.
Jerry Seinfeld‘s bid for post-Seinfeld success came last year in the form of a honeybee: a neurotic, rather Jerry-esque bee named Barry Bee Benson, to be exact, who leaves corporatized hive life for the great big world of humans in New York City’s Central Park. When Barry discovers that humans have been stealing the hard-earned honey of his buzzing brethren, he takes the most American action there is — he sues the human race. With a supporting voice cast that includes Chris Rock, Renee Zellweger, Patrick Warburton, and Matthew Broderick — and cameos by Sting, Ray Liotta, and Oprah Winfrey — Bee Movie is full of that familiar Seinfeld sardonic humor, although, as the critics say, it’s fairly forgettable.
Dan in Real Life
Steve Carell‘s trademark hangdog deadpan finds appropriate anchor in this romantic comedy from Peter Hedges (Pieces of April). Carell stars as Dan, the widowed father of three girls who writes an advice column for a living; when Dan meets his dream girl (Juliette Binoche) during a family get-together, he’s elated — until he learns she’s his brother’s new girlfriend. A soundtrack by Swedish singer-songwriter Sondre Lerch underscores Dan’s comic heartache, though some critics found the script to be occasionally too flat and contrived. A decently packed bonus menu with director commentary, deleted scenes, and outtakes round out the disc.
Freddie Highmore, Britain’s omnipresent kid actor, stars as a musically-gifted orphan on a quest to find his birth parents — and exposure any and every person he meets along the way to the magic of music. Sound schmaltzy enough for you? Well, throw in Robin Williams (channeling his doppelganger, U2 front man Bono) as a musical street pimp named Wizard, salvation in the form of a choir, and lines like “The music is all around us. All you have to do is listen,” and you’ve got one heckuva a saccharine smorgasbord.
If, like some of us, you were an avid fan of the Nancy Drew mystery books — over 170 stories published under the pseudonym “Carolyn Keene” since 1930 — then you might have felt some apprehension when a feature-length film about the classic sleuthing teen was announced. Unfortunately for us purists, the reviews confirm those fears. Emma Roberts stars as the titular teen, whose prudish, Type-A manner clashes with the spoiled kids she encounters when she and her dad (Tate Donovan) move to Tinseltown. A Hollywood mystery surfaces, of course, but grown audiences will remain unspooked. I say, bring on the Choose Your Own Adventure movie instead!
The gimmick of casting this cat-and-mouse thriller is intriguing on its own; having starred as a young adulterer opposite Laurence Olivier in 1972’s Sleuth, Michael Caine now plays the older role opposite Jude Law in Kenneth Branagh‘s remake. Unfortunately, the script by Harold Pinter, adapting Anthony Shaffer’s play, fails to serve the two leads well, making for a tedious time — unless you enjoy watching two distinguished British actors out-act one another. Law, Caine, and Branagh make recompense in a jointly recorded commentary track in the special features.
With a title like Hitman, you know what you’re getting into with this video game adaptation from French director Xavier Gens (Frontier(es)). Timothy Olyphant stars as a bar coded professional killer named Number 47 dealing with his sinister bosses, a Russian politico, and a hot prostitute (Olga Kurylenko) on the run. Overwhelmingly derided by the critical set, who might alternately recommend the film to a PS2-obsessed pre-teen boy, Hitman at least serves one purpose: bringing you a closer look at future Bond girl Kurylenko half a year before Quantum of Solace hits theaters.
When Nirvana covered the Meat Puppets’ “Lake of Fire” in their Unplugged album session, they sang that the Biblical body of water was “where bad folks go when they die.” In his sprawling documentary on abortion, director Tony Kaye brings us a comprehensive look at the often violent, always vehement hot button debate that has raged for 25 years since Roe vs. Wade. Kaye, who filmed the doc over a period of 17 years, is the same director who earned Hollywood’s praise for directing the 1998 skinhead drama American History X (then disappeared from view following his bitter falling out with New Line and star Edward Norton). Be warned that Lake of Fire contains graphic images; a commentary with Kaye accompanies the DVD.
A young rural woman gets accepted to Peking University and encounters sexual awakening, politics, and discontent against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square protests in controversial director Lou Ye‘s epic drama. Actress Hao Lei gives a brazen performance as the film’s restless protagonist, who spends over two decades (the late 1980s to the 2000s) struggling to get over the lost love of her life. At over two and a half hours, Ye’s film could be split into two stories — one of the young woman and another of her adult years) — but his film captures the zeitgeist of an entire generation forever marked by Tiananmen-era experiences, at times recalling the verve of Godard and the French New Wave. Shown in competition at the Cannes Film Festival without government approval, the sexually-explicit film was subsequently banned in China, its filmmakers censured from further filmmaking for a five year span.
So there you have your new releases for this week. In the words of the ancient Romans, “Amicule, deliciae, num is sum qui mentiar tibi?”
Kenneth Branagh is a man who needs very little introduction, and that’s probably because he could soliloquise his own if he needed to. A renowned Shakespearian performer who has brought to screen no fewer than five adaptations of Bard plays like Henry V, Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost, he’s also just as familiar to younger audiences through roles as Gilderoy Lockheart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and as Dr. Arliss Loveless in 1999’s rather infamous Wild Wild West. With three directorial projects arriving in UK cinemas this year, Rotten Tomatoes sat down with Branagh to discuss Sleuth, a reimagining of the classic play of the same name and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine with a script by Harold Pinter.
I don’t know whether it’s just the UK release schedule, but you seem to have been busy – you have three films coming out within the space of a few months…
Kenneth Branagh: That’s right; As You Like It came out in September, and then here in the UK Sleuth is 23rd November and The Magic Flute is the 30th November. But they were shot over the previous three years! It’s a bit like buses; you wait for one and then three come along at the same time. You’re so grateful that the films get made, but I’ve never been in this situation before so it’ll be interesting to see how it may affect the business in terms of how many people go and see them by perhaps their proximity. Maybe that’ll be a positive thing.
I should imagine you’ve felt it most keenly on the promotional trail these last few months.
KB: Absolutely, moreso than I’ve been for a long time. As you’ll know as well as I, it’s a brutally competitive market out there, particularly since all three films probably fall into the category of specialist film given the sort of divide that seems to be the case in the movie market these days. So you do have to – and thank you for being interested to talk about it – go out and bang the drum and that’s a very honourable tradition. It’s about sharing your enthusiasm and passion for the films and hopefully showing to people that in this great plethora of choice we now have that these might be ones that they could enjoy.
You rather unusually joined the project quite late, after the script had been written and Jude Law and Michael Caine had already been cast.
KB: That’s right; I came probably three or four years into a process initiated by Jude as a producer who had elected Harold Pinter as screenwriter. Both of them, I think, knew that the world’s best casting in the older part would be Michael Caine. I think not just in a knee-jerk, “Hey, he was in the 1972 film as the younger man,” sense, but that his natural aptitude for the cadences and rhythm for Harold Pinter’s sort of loaded, sinister and menacing dialogue would be a perfect marriage.
So to be able to read the screenplay, which I did when they first approached me, knowing that it was Harold’s and that those two men were already involved was very exciting. It probably took me ten seconds to say yes, I think.
It’s certainly possible to worry that Caine’s involvement is a gimmick, but the involvement of Pinter and Law must be exciting enough on its own.
KB: Absolutely, and I hope that’ll be enough on its own for people to take a risk on it. There’s something neat when you watch the film about seeing Michael and, if you know the other film, thinking about him the younger man role. But with its leaner, darker and frankly more brutal tone in Harold’s hands, and with this particularly combination of these two in a more modernist world wherein the game-playing of the previous film and the play is replaced by a deadlier game involving modern gadgetry and the soulless arena of Andrew’s house – this palace of wealth and modern art but no love, no soul, no home – these things I think absolutely get away from the idea of some neat remake idea.
And it’s a funny thing with remakes. I, myself, find shot-by-shot remakes a little hard to understand although I do realise that a new generation may simply be unfamiliar with the previous and excellent piece of work and a remake in that way might work for them. But this was more a reimagining of the great central idea; two guys, an older and a younger, trapped in a house arguing over a woman we don’t see and playing a deadly and eventually murderous game.
With such an enclosed setting the film really relies on the performances; do you find that with your experience as an actor you have something of a shorthand when it comes to directing performers?
KB: I think it does help but I don’t think it’s necessarily any more of an advantage than a very talented director who has come from a different avenue, perhaps a man who’s come through cameras, or script or whatever. In a way it’s only about the quality of the communication you have with the actors.
I think I do have a way of predicting – not always accurately – what is a nerve-wracking day for actors, what may be a difficult scene or a difficult moment, how small – and it may be down to one line – a thing may be that is upsetting or undermining a performance.
And I do feel as though I know how to rehearse inasmuch as I know what can be valuable for film which is not to do with setting things, angles, lights or anything but quite the opposite, it’s to do with releasing the actors on the day to feel as absolutely spontaneous as possible. And that’s a practice developed over many moons and it’s still developing organically I hope.
And if it’s not an advantage I think it’s something actors respond to. I think they feel more comfortable in that environment.
This week at the movies we got lawyer types (Michael
Swinton), dueling brothers (We Own the Night,
starring Joaquin Phoenix and
virgin queens (Elizabeth:
The Golden Age, starring
baseball hopefuls (The
Final Season, starring
Sean Astin and
Beatles-inspired lovers (Across the Universe,
starring Evan Rachel
and reunited college friends (Tyler Perry’s Why Did I
Get Married?). What say ye, critics?
Critics frequently bemoan the fact that movies are no
longer made for adults. Who better to come to their rescue than
oft-called the Cary Grant of our generation? Clooney stars in
Michael Clayton as
a washed-up legal consultant caught up in a pesticide case that isn’t quite what
it seems, with support from Tilda
Tom Wilkinson, and
With strong performances all around, critics call this a challenging but
rewarding movie that also doesn’t skimp out on the popcorn factor.
At a Certified Fresh 89 percent, critics sustain Michael Clayton‘s appeal.
Actors frequently re-team with directors they’ve worked with before. But two principal actors? Only once in a blue moon. Such an
event strikes for
We Own the Night, a crime drama/thriller about two brothers on
opposite sides of the law. The film reunites
Joaquin Phoenix and
with director James Gray, who all previously created 2000’s
The Yards. But the
trio isn’t having as much luck the second time around: critics say Night cribs from
The Godfathers and
The Departed, while relying too heavily
on improbable plot turns to fuel the action. But moviegoers who don’t expect
anything particularly original can have a reasonably good time. At 50 percent,
Night gets close, but doesn’t quite Own.
is one of the best actresses on the planet today, and with
Elizabeth: The Golden Age,
she revisits the role that made her a star. Big mistake, critics say. Age
picks up where its predecessor left off, with the Virgin Queen navigating the
rough waters of political unrest in 16th Century Europe, as well as palace
intrigue closer to home. The pundits say the costume and set design are
impeccable, but otherwise, this is a campy, bombastic flick, filled with silly
dialogue and featuring a script that’s more hysterical than historical. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, this one ain’t golden. And it’s a steep drop from
the Certified Fresh
original (at 79 percent).
It’s October, and that means it’s time for some
super-dramatic baseball action. Unfortunately, we’re talking about the MLB
The Final Season, which critics say is as predictable as
Alex Rodriguez failing in the clutch. Directed by
David Mickey Evans (who helmed
the cult-fave The Sandlot), Season is the story of a tiny Iowa
high school with a proud baseball tradition that may come to an end because of
redistricting. Season features a strong cast that includes
Powers Boothe, and
Rachael Leigh Cook, and the film oozes sincerity. But pundits
say it’s as safe as an intentional walk and as clichéd as a post-game interview.
At 11 percent on the Tomatometer, The Final Season is way below the
cinematic Mendoza line.
Is there anybody going to listen to this story, all about
Julie Taymor‘s attempt to capture the zeitgeist of the 1960s through the music
of the Beatles? As far as
Across the Universe goes, some critics say
stop, others say go, go, go. Universe is the story of Lucy (Evan Rachel
Wood) and Jude (Jim Sturgess), a young couple who stalk across the political and
social landscape of the tumultuous decade to the tune of such classics as "Come
Together," "Helter Skelter," and "All You Need is Love." The critics are pretty
split on Universe: some say the film is an audacious, beautiful movie
that will make you feel all right. But others say it’s all wrong (that is, they
think they disagree), calling the film an exercise in excess with bland
characters. We hope the film’s 52 percent Tomatometer will
Help! you decide to see it or not.
With his heartfelt domestic dramedies, Tyler Perry has
established himself as a commercial sure thing. But he’s yet to win over
critics, which may be why his latest,
Tyler Perry’s Why Did I
wasn’t screened before release. It’s the story of a reunion of college friends,
who, over the course of a long weekend together, begin to question their
marriages. Guess the Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release:
biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, is at 90 percent (check out our interview with director Anton Corbijn
Schroder‘s documentary portrait of an
attorney for the undefendable, is at 83 percent on the Tomatometer;
the Real Girl, starring
Ryan Gosling as a delusional guy dating a female doll, is at 78 percent (check out our review from Toronto
a drama about a family dealing with one member’s schizophrenia, is at 71
Golda’s Balcony, about the Israeli prime minister, is at 64
percent; and Sleuth, an update of the 1972 murder mystery starring
Michael Caine and
Jude Law, is at 48 percent.