P. T. Anderson’s Oscar-winning oil opus There Will Be Blood hits shelves this week, so if you missed Daniel Day-Lewis’ astounding turn as the prospector with a heart as black as crude in theaters, now’s the time to play catch up. Also new to DVD are the musical spoof Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Leonardo di Caprio’s environmental doc The 11th Hour, the parking lot thriller P2, and more.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most consistent young auteurs around (his films in order: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love) so it was no surprise when his latest, There Will Be Blood, proved predictably exceptional. The epic character study of oilman Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in an Oscar-winning role) striking it rich in turn-of-the-century California captivated the hearts of critics with Robert Elswit’s handsome Oscar-winning photography; Plainview’s greed-fueled descent into bitter loneliness — and his rivalry with evangelist Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) — mesmerized their minds. All of which makes There Will Be Blood, released this week in both single- and double-disc versions, a must-own for any true cinephile. We recommend the 2-disc release, of course, which includes deleted scenes and a government-produced vintage silent film about the oil industry scored anew by Radiohead guitarist (and TWBB composer) Jonny Greenwood.
While Walk Hard suffered the ignominious label of “box office bomb” following a dismal and surprising theatrical run last December, the Judd Apatow-produced musical comedy deserved a better fate, according to critics. Perhaps the time for glory is now. Co-writer and director Jake Kasdan, whose sharp industry satire The TV Set also opened quietly earlier in 2007, skewers the musical biopic genre (Walk the Line, Ray) with the rollercoaster rock ‘n roll life of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, who does his own rocking and rolling), a doughy musical prodigy with a tragic past who goes from rockabilly to psychedelia to Dylanism and everything in between as fame, fortune, groupies, and drugs facilitate his rise and fall. The best part of this DVD release — besides the inclusion of American Cox: The Unbearably Long, Self-Indulgent Director’s Cut — is the better-than-average bonus menu stuffed full of backstage and specially-produced extras.
Hollywood’s attempts to address the Iraq war have thus far fallen flat with ticket buyers, a trend that Lions for Lambs didn’t help reverse. Robert Redford directs and co-stars in this talky anti-war drama, penned by Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother to Joe and writer of The Kingdom) and also starring Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise. In three intertwined stories, a professor, his student, two soldiers, a journalist, and a politician hash out ideas about war, democracy, the media, and terrorism; the question is, do you care? While it’s a noble attempt at provoking discourse, critics say Lambs is not the stuff of great cinema. A director commentary on the DVD might be the film’s most useful feature.
Unless cleavage and gore rank higher than plot and realism on your movie checklist, P2 is likely to disappoint. In any case, it can’t be a good thing to be unfavorably compared to Saw and Hostel (“[P2] at least does its predecessors the service of making them look masterful by comparison,” wrote the Toronto Star‘s Geoff Pevere). The yuletide tale of a career woman (Alias‘ Rachel Nichols, whose eleventh hour addition to that cast couldn’t save the series) trapped by an obsessive parking garage attendant (Wes Bentley, who really deserves better roles than this) on Christmas Eve garnered the scorn of most critics, though powerhouses like Roger Ebert gave it their thumbs up. Watch P2 to scope out first time director Franck Khalfoun, who appeared in producers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur’s High Tension, and will next co-script a remake of the 1984 slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night.
Two families are ripped asunder when one fatal hit-and-run drives two fathers toward a final conflict in Terry George’s adaptation of the novel of the same name. George (In the Name of the Father) previously directed the South African drama Hotel Rwanda to multiple Academy Awards nominations; his follow-up here, starring Rwanda actor Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo (and Jennifer Connelly and Mira Sorvino as their respective wives) might have been going for awards season gold but fell far short of the mark. Critics called this dramatic thriller insufferably dark and dull, and worse — predictable.
Leonardo di Caprio hosts a gaggle of experts in this alarming documentary about the Earth’s depleting resources. Unfortunately for producer di Caprio, who doubtless took on the project to lend his celebrity power to the cause, the film is a bit of a bore. That said, wearied scribes appreciated the thought behind the effort, if not so much the final product; for actionable reasons to go green, you might be better off watching a PowerPoint presentation by Al Gore. Over an hour of additional featurettes on how to do your part to help Mother Earth accompany the disc.
New York filmmaker Jason Kohn crafts a lurid, sobering peek into wealth and corruption in Brazil in this festival favorite, which nabbed the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year. Stylized camera work exposes the country’s surreal reality by focusing on, among other subjects, a politician-owned frog farm that serves as a money-laundering front; a plastic surgeon who specializes in reconstructing the cut-off ears of kidnap victims; and a businessman who opts to bullet-proof his car. A filmmaker commentary accompanies the release; find out why Kohn calls Brazil’s cycle of street violence and political corruption akin to “a non-fiction RoboCop.”
‘Til next week, Qvod cibvs est aliis, aliis est wenenum.
Nearly 15 years after his death, the life story of Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar is a hot Hollywood property — hot enough, in fact, to inspire dueling biopics.
Last week, we reported on the Yari Group’s fast-tracking of Killing Pablo, the Escobar film based on Mark Bowden‘s book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw — and on a blog post from Killing Pablo‘s director, Joe Carnahan, who had some unkind words about the script for a competing film, titled simply Escobar.
The IMDB lists Andrzej Bartkowiak as Escobar‘s director, but this is inaccurate; according to a report published by Variety yesterday, the film is being directed by Antoine Fuqua and produced by Oliver Stone, Justin Berfield, and Jason Felts. (Variety describes the script as being rewritten by David McKenna.)
Escobar is based on Mi Hermano Pablo, the memoir written by Pablo’s brother/accountant, Roberto Escobar Gaviria — which might explain why Carnahan described the script as “hagiographic.” Berfield dismissed Carnahan’s outburst, telling Variety:
“Joe Carnahan’s notion of us poaching his territory and rushing for a pre-strike start is false. We’ve been working with Robert and a half-dozen consultants for a year and a half to tell an accurate story.”
Escobar Gaviria drew a further distinction between the two films, saying:
“My brother will be portrayed as a ruthless head of the Medellin cartel…this is just 10% of the story. The other 90% is the story others trying to portray him simply don’t have.”
As the Variety article goes on to point out, when biopics go head-to-head, timing tends to be everything — and with Carnahan tied up directing a George Clooney-led adaptation of James Ellroy‘s White Jazz, it looks like Killing Pablo could very well reach screens after Escobar. Start placing your bets now.
Teenagers flocked to the multiplexes for stimulation
this weekend as the raunchy new sex comedy
Superbad powered its way to number
one while the frame’s other new releases, the sci-fi thriller The Invasion and
the adventure tale The Last Legion, were met with yawns. The overall North
American box office continued its red hot pace significantly beating out
year-ago levels yet again on its way to possibly ending the summer season with a
Sony captured the top spot for the first time since early May with
which powered ahead of expectations to bow to an estimated $31.2M. The R-rated
tale of three nerdy high school pals on a wild search to get booze to impress
their lady friends averaged a potent $10,583 from 2,948 locations. The opening
even beat out the $30.7M debut of June’s
Knocked Up from director
and actor Seth Rogen. Apatow produced Superbad which co-starred and was
co-written by Rogen. Critics were quite impressed with McLovin and friends and
gave the film high marks. (Click
our interview with the stars of Superbad.)
Starpower from Nicole Kidman and
Daniel Craig meant nothing at the box office
for their new sci-fi thriller
The Invasion which bombed with an opening of just
$6M, according to estimates. Playing wide in 2,776 theaters, the PG-13 remake of
Invasion of the Body Snatchers averaged a measly $2,161 per site. The
Warner Bros. release earned mostly negative reviews.
Falling to ninth place was
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which took
in an estimated $3.5M, off just 35%, giving Warner Bros. $278.6M from North
America. Overseas, the fifth wizard tale collected an estimated $16.2M from 61
territories boosting the international cume to $594M and the global gross to a stunning $873M. Rounding out the top ten was
Adam Sandler and
Kevin James in
the Universal comedy
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry which made
an estimated $3.5M, down 41%, for a total of $110.4M thus far.
Opening with weak results outside of the top ten was the historical epic
The Last Legion starring
Colin Firth, and
Aishwarya Rai which launched
with an estimated $2.6M from 2,002 playdates for a dismal $1,297 average.
Author: Gitesh Pandya,
This week at the movies, we’ve got some McLovin
Cera and Jonah
Hill), pod people (The
and Daniel Craig),
and swordplay (The
Last Legion, starring
and Colin Firth).
What do the critics have to say?
It’s been a very good year for
After directing Knocked
Up, he’s the producer on another gross-out comedy with heart,
Superbad, and both are big hits with critics. Superbad tells the
story of two geeks (Michael Cera and Jonah Hill) on the cusp of graduation who
really, really want to change their luck with the ladies. The pundits say
Superbad is as raunchy and cheerfully vulgar as any comedy you’re likely to
see this summer, but it’s also remarkably wise and poignant regarding the
awkwardness of the high school years. At 92 percent, Superbad surpasses
Knocked Up‘s Tomatometer score, which means that it’s one of the best
reviewed films of the year. (Check out our interview with the Superbad
Recent Nicole Kidman Movies:
81% — I
Have Never Forgotten You (2007)
90% — God Grew
Tired of Us (2007)
30% — Fur: An Imaginary Portrait
of Diane Arbus (2006)
74% — Happy Feet
25% — Bewitched (2005)
Michael Moore‘s latest doc, "Sicko," has stirred up more controversy for the Michigan muckraker. Is he onto something with his evisceration of the US healthcare system? Plus, "The 11th Hour," a climate change doc featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, and "Boarding Gate," an unconvincing, sleazy thriller starring Asia Argento and Michael Madsen — all here at Cannes!
"Sicko," Michael Moore‘s latest polemic, contains many of the same problems as his previous works: it’s a manipulative oversimplification of a complex issue. And like Moore’s other films, it also contains more than a kernel of truth and not a little entertainment as well. Screening out of competition at Cannes, "Sicko" is a screed against health care insurers in the United States. Utilizing the same style as his previous docs (onscreen interviews, stock footage, a bemused voiceover), Moore contends that the health of Americans has been compromised because of the greed and insensitivity of an industry focused on profit. This argument has plenty of weight when he points out that Americans put themselves in the hands of the government for such services as schools and police; what’s wrong with health care? And Moore dredges up a number of horror stories, including poor people ejected from hospitals because they were unable to pay, to others denied lifesaving procedures while being mired in bureaucratic red tape.
Moore is on shakier ground when he travels to Canada, Great Britain, and France, each of which provides universal health care to its citizens. He posits that citizens in these nations are perfectly satisfied with their level of care. Unfortunately, some of Moore’s utopian extrapolations in this regard don’t hold water; it was reported that at a press conference after the screening, some Canadian journalists challenged Moore’s rosy assumptions, and Moore admitted that national health care in Canada, while free, is still under-funded.
"Sicko"’s biggest (and most controversial) stunt involves bringing a group of 9/11 rescue workers, who contracted various unrelenting ailments while working at Ground Zero, to Guantanamo, where the U.S. government claims detainees are receiving health care that’s equivalent to or better than the average American. After being ignored, Moore heads for Cuba, where the relief workers are able to purchase the drugs for which they’ve been paying hundreds of dollars for pennies. This segment is troubling on several levels. Regardless of one’s thoughts on the U.S. embargo on Cuba, Moore cannot seriously believe its healthcare system is ideal. On the other hand, what does it say about the U.S. that it cannot care for its heroes?
For those who have tired of Moore’s confrontational onscreen persona, he’s largely in the background in "Sicko." This may be Moore’s most quietly angry film to date. I won’t deny I was entertained while watching "Sicko," and I don’t disagree with Moore’s central premise. However, as with "Roger & Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," Moore may get the forest right, but the trees are a bit out of place.
Moore remains a darling of Cannes (he won the Palme d’Or for "Fahrenheit 9/11" in 2004), and "Sicko" received a long ovation at the screening I attended. It’s also received fresh reviews in Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, and Salon.
Leonardo DiCaprio talks global warming in "11th Hour."
"The 11th Hour" is the latest in the growing sub-genre of global warming documentaries. Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, the film features a number of talking heads, including Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, Andrew Weil, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Each makes a similar argument in different ways: The temperature of earth is increasing because of human behavior, and we don’t have much time to rectify the situation. But the film leavens its doomsday prophesies with optimism, advancing the notion that green-friendly business could maintain economic growth while diminishing the impact to the environment. "The 11th Hour" is reasonably well done, but it often feels like a film more suited to a science class than the big screen. It also lacks the focus and wit of "An Inconvenient Truth"; that film greatly benefited from Al Gore‘s straight-ahead argument, whereas "The 11th Hour" seems a bit disjointed by comparison. Still, even if this isn’t the most cinematically compelling take on the subject of global warming, "The 11th Hour" makes a timely and important argument that should be heeded.
There’s a lot going on here at Cannes; check out our blog here.
A necessary element of a successful thriller is the ability to empathize with characters in peril; on this, and many other levels, "Boarding Gate" fails. This exercise in sleazy globetrotting stars Asia Argento as ex-hooker Sandra and Michael Madsen as Miles, her washed-up businessman ex. The pair has a twisted relationship, which involves a lot of verbal challenges and lurid mind games. Sandra is also involved with Lester (Carl Ng), with whom she conspires to take down Miles. After completing her task, Sandra goes on the run, ending up in Hong Kong where she’s pursued by… well, somebody. Do we care about her? Not really. Argento and Madsen, who have been compelling elsewhere, are so fundamentally unlikable here that it’s hard to shake the feeling that these two deserve each other; though Sandra’s nominally the protagonist, she seems as amoral as Miles. "Boarding Gate" isn’t without visual interest, but it’s also confusing and lacks any real human element. "Boarding Gate" prompted more than a few walkouts and incredulous laughs at the press screening I attended, and it also received outright pans in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety.
In addition, here are some other notable films that have screened at Cannes in the past few days: "L’Avocat de la Terreur," Barbet Schroeder‘s doc about a French attorney famous for representing accused war criminals and terrorists, has received strong reviews from Variety and the Hollywood Reporter; on the other hand, "Les Chansons d’Amour," Christophe Honore‘s musical, has gotten mixed notices.
Tomorrow, we’ll be catching screenings of Quentin Tarantino‘s "Death Proof," "A Mighty Heart," starring Angelina Jolie, and Gus Van Sant‘s "Paranoid Park." Check back for more of RT’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival.