Jack Black returns to theaters this weekend as one of the unwilling adventurers in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and in anticipation of his latest foray into big-budget slapstick comedy, we decided to take a loving look back at some of his many memorable film roles. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just looking to get acquainted, there’s something here for everyone’s queue, so let’s get started — it’s time for Total Recall!


Use the arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!

Jack Black returns to theaters this weekend as kidlit legend R.L. Stine in Goosebumps, and in anticipation of his first foray into family-friendly comedy-horror, we decided to take a loving look back at some of his many memorable film and television roles. Whether you’re a longtime fan or just looking to get acquainted, there’s something here for everyone’s queue, so let’s get started — it’s time for Total Recall!


High Fidelity (2000) 91%

01HighFidelity

They’ve always been popular, but book-to-film adaptations are always an iffy proposition, too; no matter how successful they might be with movie audiences, film versions of beloved books often can’t help but suffer in comparison to their invariably more fleshed-out counterparts. Still, every once in awhile, an adaptation works so well that almost no one complains about the changes that were made — and 2000’s High Fidelity, about the emotional travails of a music-obsessed sensitive soul with a checkered romantic past (John Cusack), is a perfect example. Aside from catering gracefully to its leading man’s cinematic strengths, the script (which Cusack co-wrote) made plenty of room for scene-stealing supporting players, led by Black as a cranky record store employee whose stereotypical snobbery is leavened by the hyperactive, wide-eyed overconfidence Black would soon be asked to bring to bear on a long list of comedies. He’d been in plenty of TV shows and films prior to this, but after High Fidelity, Jack Black was finally on his way to becoming a star — and an unforgettable ingredient in a movie that the A.V. Club’s Nathan Rabin lauded as “A film pragmatic enough to concede that almost every relationship is doomed, but romantic enough to realize that it’s worth it to carry on in spite of that fact … one of the smartest and funniest romantic comedies of the past few years.”

Watch Trailer


Shallow Hal (2001) 50%

02ShallowHal2

A Farrelly brothers movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit? Filmgoers definitely could have been forgiven for assuming Shallow Hal would be a repository for the writer-directors’ grossest and most insensitive gags, but this 2001 comedy — about an appearance-obsessed cretin (Black) who’s hypnotized into seeing only inner beauty after a chance encounter with self-help guru Tony Robbins — is actually rather sweet, and with a talented cast that also included Jason Alexander, it even managed to add a new spin or two to cinema’s long obsession with the battle between the sexes. “A big part of what makes the movie successful is the combination of Black and Paltrow,” wrote Aisle Seat’s Mike McGranahan. “He gives the movie its humor, while she gives it some heart.”

Watch Trailer


The School of Rock (2003) 92%

03SchoolOfRock

Jack Black has starred in a number of fine films over the course of his career, but no matter how long he continues making movies, it’s unlikely a project will ever fit his unique combination of talents as snugly as School of Rock. Inspired by a series of recordings culled from a Canadian elementary school project during the 1970s, screenwriter Mike White concocted the story of Dewey Finn (Black), a singer and guitarist whose delusions of grandeur get him kicked out of his band — thus beginning a chain of events that soon sees him jump-starting a local school’s music program while impersonating a substitute teacher. A fat box-office hit whose tangy blend of comedy, drama, and rock ‘n’ roll turned it into a consistent favorite that’s gone on to inspire a stage musical and TV adaptation (as well as persistent rumors of a sequel), it is also — as Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post — “A movie for almost everyone, from boomer parents (who remember their teens and twenties) to their teenage kids (who can’t wait to get started with same).”

Watch Trailer


Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny (2006) 52%

04TenaciousD

Years before he reached his cinematic breakthrough, Black caught the eye of discerning HBO subscribers through Tenacious D, a series based around the fake musical exploits of the real-life “mock rock” duo he’d co-founded with fellow actor-musician Kyle Gass. The pair filmed a trio of episodes with Mr. Show’s David Cross and Bob Odenkirk, and although the first episode didn’t set the world on fire when it aired in 1997 — HBO neglected to broadcast the other two until 2000 — Tenacious D’s act contributed to the steadily growing cult around the “band’s” brash frontman, and when they finally got around to releasing their debut LP in 2001, it cracked the Top 40 and paved the way for their big-screen debut, 2003’s Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, co-starring Ronnie James Dio as himself and Dave Grohl as Satan. “Black thrives in these grubby environs,” argued the Boston Globe’s Wesley Morris. “His full-throttle bodily chaos makes more sense in movies done on the cheap than in blockbusters and polished comedies.”

Watch Trailer


King Kong (2005) 84%

05KingKong

Black’s obviously quite adept at getting laughs, but his gift for playing creeps also lends itself to drama — as director Peter Jackson obviously recognized while casting his big-budget remake of King Kong, tapping Black to play Carl Denham, the financially tenuous (and morally bankrupt) filmmaker whose quest for a hit sets in motion the chain of events that brings a certain giant gorilla to New York and unleashes a hail of CG-assisted destruction. The original Kong remains a towering classic, and Jackson’s version was destined to remain in its shadow long before cameras rolled, but it still acquitted itself fairly admirably; in fact, as far as some critics were concerned, it might even deserve to be considered a classic in its own right. “Monstrous. Monumental. Magnificent,” wrote an impressed Tom Long for the Detroit News. “Use any term you want, there’s no denying the power, genius and spectacle of King Kong, which is certainly the biggest movie of the year and possibly the biggest movie ever made.”

Watch Trailer


Margot at the Wedding (2007) 52%

06MargotAtTheWedding

Making a movie about sisters whose tortured relationship is thrown into stark relief by one sister’s impending nuptials to a schlubby layabout? You could definitely do worse than casting Jack Black as the schlub in question, as writer-director Noah Baumbach correctly identified when assembling the stars of his 2007 dramedy Margot at the Wedding. Unfolding over a fraught weekend in Long Island, during which Margot (Nicole Kidman) ends up sharing uncomfortably close quarters with her sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Pauline’s underachieving fiancé (Black), Margot might have been merely a comedy of manners in other hands — but as Baumbach fans know, there’s no sense merely tickling the funny bone when you can go for the jugular while you’re at it. Saying it “counts as a bracing, even disturbing experience,” the A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias observed, “Baumbach doesn’t seem to care whether people like his characters; he merely wants them to be seen for who they are, warts and all.”

Watch Trailer


Be Kind Rewind (2008) 65%

07BeKindRewind

For film fans of a certain age, the phrase “be kind rewind” will forever conjure memories of the stickers affixed to VHS rentals begging customers not to return their tapes without rewinding them first — but by 2008, VHS had been all but consigned to the format graveyard, making Be Kind Rewind the perfect title for a movie about a hapless video store clerk (Yasiin Bey) whose knuckleheaded friend (Black) accidentally erases every single tape in stock right after the owner (Danny Glover) leaves town. Forced to act fast, the duo set about remaking (“swedeing”) movies on the fly, inadvertently sparking a neighborhood craze for their unintentionally hilarious low-budget attempts to recreate films like Ghostbusters and Rush Hour 2 — and single-handedly reviving the financial fortunes of the store just as it’s set to meet the wrecking ball at the hand of a heartless building owner intent on gentrifying his property. Be Kind Rewind might look like a goofy comedy on the surface, but writer-director Michel Gondry had much more in mind; as Richard Corliss pointed out for TIME, the movie “declares that the riches of cinema history touch each of us personally. Films become so deep a part of us that we own them, that our memories of them, whether faithful or fanciful, become their meanings.”

Watch Trailer


The Kung Fu Panda Franchise

08KungFuPanda

The humor potential inherent in casting a husky funnyman as an unlikely martial arts enthusiast is as obvious as it is deceptively tricky to unlock — witness Chris Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja — so DreamWorks Animation casting Jack Black to voice a rotund panda who becomes a kung fu master might have seemed a little on the nose when Kung Fu Panda was announced. Sometimes the obvious choice is the best one, however, and that’s clearly been the case for Black in the role of Po, the panda whose journey from noodle shop to prophecy-fulfilling glory has expanded to fill three theatrical features, a TV series, animated shorts, a video game, and even a planned live show — not to mention critical acclaim and more than a billion in box-office receipts. “Just about all animated movies teach you to Believe in Yourself,” admitted Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman. “But the image of a face-stuffing panda-turned-yowling Bruce Lee dervish is as unlikely, and touching, an advertisement for that message as we’ve seen in quite some time.”

Watch Trailer


Tropic Thunder (2008) 82%

09TropicThunder

Ben Stiller’s experiences as a bit player on Empire of the Sun inspired him to write this barbed Hollywood satire about a group of pampered actors (led by Stiller, Jack Black, and Robert Downey, Jr. in blackface) whose entitled behavior leads their exasperated director (Steve Coogan) to try using a little cinéma vérité on their war movie, with decidedly unintended results. Each of the stars embodies a particular type of stereotypical Hollywood excess; for Black, portraying the drug-addled comedian Jeff Portnoy offered an opportunity to lampoon the self-serious efforts of lowbrow (and filthy rich) comics who try to prove their depth by “going serious.” Loaded with inside jokes, a marvelously insane Tom Cruise cameo, and thinly veiled insults directed at other actors, Thunder earned a healthy critical buzz to go with its $188 million box office draw. Calling it “Stiller’s Hellzapoppin’ Apocalypse Now,” Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum praised it as “a smart and agile dissection of art, fame, and the chutzpah of big-budget productions.”

Watch Trailer


Bernie (2011) 88%

10Bernie

Under the right conditions and parceled out in the proper doses, Black’s stereotypical on-screen persona can be irresistible, which is probably why he’s so rarely been asked to step outside that box over the years — but when he does, the results can be extremely gratifying, as he proved with his starring turn in Bernie. A uniquely twisted, fact-based drama that reunited Black with his School of Rock director Richard Linklater, Bernie led viewers through the incredibly odd story of a Texas mortician whose surprising friendship with a cantankerous widow (Shirley MacLaine) comes to a very bad end — and opens one of the odder chapters in modern small-town American jurisprudence. “I had to forget what I knew about Black,” applauded Roger Ebert. “He creates this character out of thin air, it’s like nothing he’s done before, and it proves that an actor can be a miraculous thing in the right role.”

Watch Trailer

Ready those Oscar ballots! With the Academy Awards around the corner, it’s time to start catching up on what you missed in theaters. Snap up this week’s offerings for award-nominated performances (George Clooney and Co. in Michael Clayton, Tommy Lee Jones in In the Valley of Elah) and a handful more notable titles of 2007 (American Gangster, Lust, Caution, Margot at the Wedding, Redacted).


Michael Clayton

Tomatometer: 90%

There are seven reasons to pick up Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton on DVD this week: Academy Awards nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Directing, Score, Screenplay, and Best Picture. The taut corporate thriller, about a legal “fixer” (George Clooney) who uncovers sinister goings-on in a case he’s working, is marked by excellent contributions all around. With the exception of deleted scenes and a commentary by director Gilroy and his brother/editor John Gilroy, the bonus menu is sparse, but the real value in picking Michael Clayton up on DVD is the film itself — and the chance to watch two of the best supporting performances in recent memory (by Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton, both Oscar-nominated).

 

American Gangster

Tomatometer: 79%

Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe face off in Ridley Scott’s tale of real-life Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas (Washington) and detective Richie Roberts (Crowe), from a Steven Zaillian script. Critics praised the pic for capturing a gritty sense of place and time — New York City’s seedy underbelly, circa 1970 — and for dazzling performances from its two leading men. Rapper Jay-Z, after an early screening, penned an entire album of songs inspired by the film. And while conspicuously omitted from Oscar honors, American Gangster made numerous Top Ten lists last year. In turn, Universal Studios is releasing the film in not one, but two substantial releases: a 2-disc Unrated edition with 18 additional minutes of footage, and a 3-disc version containing a 32-page collector’s production booklet, music videos by Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah, and a digital copy of the film.

 

In the Valley of Elah

Tomatometer: 71%

Tommy Lee Jones has twice before been nominated for an Oscar (earning the honor in 1992 for JFK and winning 1994’s award for The Fugitive), but his latest nomination, for his role as the father of a missing soldier in In the Valley of Elah, is his first as a leading man. Elah is written and directed by Paul Haggis and, like Haggis’ Oscar-winning Crash, unapologetically tackles the ground of social commentary: namely, the adverse psychological toll the Iraq war is exacting on soldiers and their loved ones. Two bonus featurettes add texture with a peek at the film’s production and interviews with filmmakers, actors, and the real-life parents of the man whose story inspired the film.


 

Lust, Caution


Tomatometer: 69%

Ang Lee’s WWII thriller is, as expected, a lush and steamy affair. In 1942 Shanghai, wealthy housewife Mrs. Mak (Tang Wei) partakes in gossip and mah-jongg with other well-to-do ladies while seducing a married man; but Mak is not what she seems — her identity and the affair are staged, part of an elaborate plan by radical students to assassinate a traitorous official. Sexy, NC-17 love scenes mark Lee’s erotic follow-up to Brokeback Mountain in this powerful, beautiful, and tragic love story.

Margot at the Wedding


Tomatometer: 53%

Noah Baumbach caught Hollywood’s attention with 2005’s semi-autobiographical The Squid and the Whale (after making an acclaimed debut ten years earlier with Kicking & Screaming and co-scripting Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), so the heat was on to see if his next film, Margot at the Wedding, would measure up. The verdict? Mixed. Critics note Baumbach’s spot-on, incisive observations of well-heeled East Coasters, but found his characters — including Nicole Kidman and Baumbach’s wife Jennifer Jason Leigh as frictional sisters — overwhelmingly unlikeable.

Rendition


Tomatometer: 47%

Culling its title from the controversial CIA practice of transporting detainees to areas of borderline-torturous interrogation facilities, Rendition is a muddled, if well-intention, entry into the current subgenre of politically-relevant think pieces. Director Gavin Hood, coming off of his Oscar win for the South African drama Tsotsi, submits a rather disappointing Hollywood debut. Rendition stars Reese Witherspoon as a pregnant American woman struggling to learn why her Egyptian-born husband has disappeared, and her off-screen S.O. Jake Gyllenhaal as a conflicted government suit who is witness to the acts of torture.

Redacted


Tomatometer: 45%

Arguably the most divisive of 2007’s Iraq-themed films, Brian de Palma’s Redacted is not only an anti-war missive but is also an experiment in mixed media filmmaking — double the chance to alienate movie goers simply looking to be entertained, but a thought-provoking experience for those up for a challenge. De Palma uses a variety of faux-documentary formats to paint a picture of U.S.-occupied Iraq (soldiers’ home videos, European documentary crews, local news reports) and the precarious balance of clashing cultures and violence that threatens to explode with deadly consequences.

‘Til next week, happy renting!



This week at the movies, we’ve got epic poems come to life (Beowulf,
starring Ray Winstone and
Angelina Jolie), a magical toy shop (Mr. Magorium’s Wonder
Emporium
, starring
Dustin Hoffman and
Natalie Portman), and romance in the
midst of infectious disease (Love in the Time of Cholera, starring
Javier Bardem). What do the critics have to say?

First, the bad news: critics say
Beowulf
will inspire English teachers
and literary scholars to tear out their hair. The good news? The scribes also
say it’s a flick that fans of bombastic action and phantasmagoria will want give
their right arms for. If you didn’t read the epic poem in school, get thee to a
library; suffice to say the story involves a dude named Beowulf (Ray Winstone)
tangling with mead hall-crashing beast Grendel (Crispin Glover) and
his vengeful, seductive mom (Angelina Jolie, much more attractive than her fictional
progeny would indicate). The pundits say Beowulf‘s amazing visuals are
the biggest draw here, as director
Robert Zemeckis uses dazzling CGI to bring
the classic tale to vivid life. (They also note it’s not for the kiddies,
despite its PG-13 rating.) At 79 percent, Beowulf is Certified Fresh, and
it’s well above Zemeckis’ previous animation/live-action hybrid,
The Polar
Express
(57 percent). (And
check out
our Total Recall feature on Beowulf and animation.)



Grendel waiting until somebody invents Jergens.

Everyone can use a dose of magic and whimsy from time to time, right? But
frippery requires a light touch, something critics say
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder
Emporium
lacks. Emporium stars
Dustin Hoffman in the title role as
the proprietor of a magic toy store, a place where baubles can come to life,
fueled by imagination;
Natalie Portman plays his protégé. The pundits say the
big problem with Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is that it ODs on
zaniness in an effort to make up for a bland storyline. At 24 percent on the
Tomatometer, business isn’t all that brisk at this Emporium.




“Does Mr. Magorium sell cornballers?”

Nobel Prize-winner
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s great men of letters.
Javier Bardem, hot from his performance in
No
Country for Old Men
, stars in the adaptation of one of Marquez’ most
celebrated works,
Love in the Time of Cholera
. Unfortunately, critics say
it’s more like Love in the Time of Narcolepsy. Bardem stars as a man who
is so enraptured by a woman he waits 50 years for her, despite her shifting
affections. The pundits say Love misses the spirit and passion of
Marquez’ magical realist tale by miles, with fine actors in miscast roles and a
too-literal approach, bogging down material that has a sense of sweep and
romanticism on the page. At 17 percent on the Tomatometer, Cholera is
under critical quarantine.



Chaplin, post-‘stache.

Also opening this week in limited release: the documentary
I for India
,
the story of an expat corresponding to his family, is at 100 percent;
What
Would Jesus Buy?
, a doc that explores the commercialization of Christmas, is
at 94 percent; Gregg Araki‘s
Smiley Face, a stoner comedy starring
Anna
Faris
, is at 67 percent;
Redacted
,
Brian De Palma‘s mixed-media look at the horrors of the Iraq war, is at 52 percent (read
our interview with De Palma
here); the Icelandic import
Eleven Men Out
,
about a soccer star who comes out of the closet, is at 50 percent;
Noah Baumbach‘s
Margot at the Wedding, starring Nicole Kidman in a tale of
familial strife, is at 47 percent (check out our take from Toronto
here); and
Southland
Tales
, a wildly ambitious sci-fi/political satire starring
Dwayne "The
Rock" Johnson
and
Seann
William Scott
, is at 42 percent (see our interview
with director Richard Kelly
here).



"Boy, these Dean Martin celebrity roasts are hilarious!"

Recent Angelina Jolie Movies:
————————————-
77% — A Mighty Heart (2007)
55% — The Good Shepard (2006)
59% — Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005)
16% — Alexander (2004)
34% — Shark Tale (2004)

Recent Natalie Portman Movies:
—————————————
84% — Paris, Je T’Aime (2007)
29% — Goya’s Ghosts (2007)
24% — Free Zone (2006)
72% — V for Vendetta (2006)
80% — Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The folks at Paramount Vantage are wearing their Oscar contender hopes on their sleeves, posting the scripts for four of their strongest 2007 films online for public consumption.

If you want to read screenplays for A Mighty Heart, Into the Wild, Margot at the Wedding, and The Kite Runner, you can download the pdf files here, direct from the studio. A fifth film, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s highly anticipated opus There Will Be Blood, is also offered up “for consideration,” although the studio has apparently since taken down the film’s script after web-savvy readers like Movie City News‘ Ray Pride figured out how to access it.


Patience, friends. There Will Be Blood is coming soon!

Of course, the site is ostensibly for voting members of Hollywood’s professional guilds, so don’t think it’ll be a breeze to RSVP for any of the special screenings listed. But even us non-Guild folks should enjoy thumbing through the assorted goodies posted for our viewing/listening pleasure. Hear snippets of the Kite Runner score, listen to all of Eddie Vedder’s Into the Wild songs, and read Noah Baumbach‘s Margot at the Wedding script. (We were delighted to notice on the Mighty Heart page that Paramount Vantage is pushing Archie Panjabi for Best Supporting Actress.)

The one “Huh?” hesitation we have with these campaigns is with that for Margot at the Wedding. Didn’t this film completely bomb with the festival crowd? At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, it’s got abysmally low reviews for an awards contender — then again, so did last year’s Running With Scissors (28 percent), for which Annette Bening nabbed an Golden Globe nomination. Baumbach raised expectations with his Oscar-nominated script for The Squid and the Whale two years ago, but by most indications few critics could get past Margot‘s wholly unlikeable characters long enough to even think about any other awards-worthy elements.

Meanwhile, neither The Kite Runner nor There Will Be Blood have even opened yet (both will start limited Oscar runs this December) so even small tidbits are enticing for those eagerly anticipating these films. We’re staying tuned for updates, especially when Paramount Vantage posts Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s score to There Will Be Blood!

Click here to head over to the Paramount Vantage “For Your Consideration” site.


Margot at the
Wedding
(in theaters November 16): Like how Life
Aquatic
paraded the worst habits of
Wes Anderson,
Margot at
the Wedding
brings out writer/director
Noah Baumbach‘s
misanthropy at its most unsalvageable.
Nicole Kidman
stars as Margot, who journeys from Manhattan to rural suburbia for her sister Pauline’s wedding.  A breakdown in
virtually every relationship involved ensues.  Baumbach’s a master at writing
small, poignant scenes, but edit them all together and the Margot struggles to be more than an ugly volley of self-analysis, emotional violence, and neurosis.  Watching the
movie has a sum negative effect: Baumbach got me invested in his characters but
since he doesn’t even bother directing them towards any resolution, one can feel
energy and effort dissipate from the body, wasted.


Nothing is Private:

Now here’s how you make a misanthropic movie.

Six Feet Under
and
American Beauty
writer
Alan Ball makes
his directorial debut with Nothing is Private, whose reputation as
Toronto’s most subversive film is well-deserved.  Adapted from the novel
Towelhead
, it focuses on the growing pains of 13 year old Jasira, who is
groped, raped, and routinely abused, emotionally and physically, throughout the
course of the movie. And, yes, this is a comedy. Ball shows much of its subject
matter in graphic, wincing detail, though the jokes don’t come cheaply and you
never feel too
bad for laughing. Nothing is Private, unfortunately, crumbles a bit at the end
when it starts vilifying characters, something Ball had expertly avoided up to that point. But I guess a movie about racism, pedophilia, and child
abuse can’t be all fun and games.

Warner Independent Pictures picked this up during the festival, and will release
it next year.

This week at RTIndie, we check out the early buzz from Telluride and Venice, where some of the fall’s most anticipated indies have premiered. And our DVD Pick of the Week is a doc that takes a closer look at the Lost Boys of Sudan.

Anticipated Indies Get Early Notices At Venice, Telluride

From the Venice and Telluride film festivals come word on some of the fall’s most buzzworthy flicks, helmed by a few of the biggest names in the indie world — Sean Penn, Wes Anderson, Todd Haynes, and Noah Baumbach, just to name a few.

Premeiring at Telluride, Penn’s Into the Wild has gotten strong reviews at the fest. The film stars Emile Hirsch in the based-on-a-true-story of a young man who abandoned his possessions for a life in the wilderness. “A story of youthful narcissism that never neglects the poignant humanity at its core, Into the Wild speaks to the yearnings and frailties in all of us,” writes Kevin Lally of Film Journal International. “Into the Wild could easily whet its audience’s wanderlust,” writes Harvey S. Karten of Compuserve.


Into The Wild

Another Telluride film with positive early buzz is Jason Reitman‘s comedy Juno, starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera in the story of a young couple who must make some tough decisions in the wake of an unplanned pregnancy. The critics are calling it a smart film that plays some difficult situations for laughs, thanks to a sharp script from Diablo Cody. “This might seem like odd material for a comedy, but trust me, Cody’s script is pure gold — expect big things in the future from this first-time screenwriter,” wrote Cinematical‘s Kim Voynar. “The way the torrents of archly amusing, vocabulary-bending dialogue trip off the tongues of the characters, you know you’re in the hands of some manner of distinctive writer,” said Variety‘s Todd McCarthy.

On the other hand, Wes Anderson’s latest, The Darjeeling Limited, has received mixed-to-negative reviews after its premiere in Venice. The film, starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman, tells the story of three estranged brothers on a chaotic trip across India in search of spiritual enlightenment. It received a middling thumbs-down from Alissa Simon in Variety (“Breaking no new ground thematically, pic comes closer to The Royal Tenenbaums than The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, but without achieving the poignance of Rushmore“) and an outright pan by Ray Bennett in the Hollywood Reporter (“A third-rate Hope and Crosby picture with no big laughs and nothing to say as the completely self-involved threesome ride the rails in a circle back to their dull and uninteresting lives”).


The Darjeeling Limited

Also getting mixed notices from scribes is Anderson buddy Noah Baumbach’s latest, Margot at the Wedding, starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Jack Black. Margot tells the story of a pair of sisters whose relationship is tested over one’s marriage plans. “Baumbach has followed up his acclaimed 2005 breakthrough The Squid and the Whale with another wryly observed, giddily cringe-inducing, bracingly original winner,” writes Michael Rechtshaffen of the Hollywood Reporter. But, says Eugene Novikov of Film Blather, “these people are so intensely unlikable, and the film so unwilling to help them toward any sort of redemption, that Margot becomes a sour and unrewarding experience.”


Margot at the Wedding

One of Venice’s odder — and most anticipated — entries is Todd Haynes’ impressionistic, unconventional Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There. The film stars Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett (as Dylan!), and Richard Gere in a series of loosely-connected vignettes anchored upon Dylan’s life, music, and influence. And the scribes say it’s weird. “It’s a curiosity that could delight or turn off loyal Dylan fans and may prove too oddball to draw in younger and mainstream audiences,” the Hollywood Reporter‘s Bennett writes in a largely positive review).

Telluride ran from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1; Venice runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8. Wild, Margot, I’m Not There, and Juno will all be playing at the Toroto International Film Festival, which starts Thursday; check back for RT’s reports from the fest.

RTIndie DVD Pick of the Week: God Grew Tired of Us

Recently, documentary filmmakers increasingly find themselves making films to fill in the gaps left by the networks. Like Darfur, the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan was one such under-publicized atrocity that went on to inspire multiple theatrical and televised docs between 2003 and today. The first major release, Meghan Mylan and John Shenk‘s Lost Boys of Sudan went theatrical in 2004 and the second release, the star supported God Grew Tired of Us came out in the winter of 2007 and will hit DVD this month. Narrated by Nicole Kidman and produced by Brad Pitt, Dermot Mulroney, and Catherine Keener, God Grew Tired of Us follows three South Sudanese men (no longer boys) from their UN sponsored huts in Sudan’s neighboring Chad to church sponsored homes in Pittsburg and Syracuse. You don’t have to be a star to see the appeal these men wield. Directors Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker show these men endure the culture shock of planes, prepared foods and indoor lighting with sweetness and not a bit of placation. Ultimately, the men’s homesickness and ardor to save the nation that fathered them is a foray into their stories that’s accessible no matter what country you hail from. At 91 percent on the Tomatometer, God Grew Tired of Us is certified fresh; James Greenberg of the Hollywood Reporter called it “an incredibly powerful story of renewal, commitment and the resiliency of the human spirit.”


God Grew Tired of Us

Sara Schieron contributed to this article.


Passport? Check. Pants? Check. Camera, laptop, and voice recorder? Check, check,
and check. The Toronto International Film Festival (September 6 – 15)
may still be a few weeks away, but we’re already planning out our itinerary.
Below are a few films we’ll be lining up for in Canada.

With the minor controversy
surrounding
Across the
Universe
(director
Julie Taymor
reportedly had final cut taken away from her), we’re curious to see how the
Beatles-inspired epic turned out.  Universe is among numerous major films
world premiering at Toronto, including
Eastern Promises

(which reunites
History of Violence
‘s
David
Cronenberg
and
Viggo
Mortensen
) and
Lars
and the Real Girl
, whose trailer suggests a delicately twisted time
with Ryan
Gosling
and a blow-up doll. 





While this only recently
registered on our radars, we’re already intrigued with the comedy-drama,
Juno
.  It stars
Ellen Page and
Michael Cera,
as two soon-to-be teenage parents reassessing their lives, and
Jason Bateman

Arrested Development
fans, rejoice!

After squandering his
Match Point
cred
on Scoop, can
Woody Allen
make another late-career recovery?  We’ll see with his new drama,
Cassandra’s Dream
,
about two warring brothers (Ewan
McGregor
,
Colin Ferrel
).  In addition, both rising heavyweights — like
Noah Baumbach
(Margot
at the Wedding
) and
Garth Jennings
(Son of Rambow) — and contemporary masters — such as the
Coen Brothers (No
Country For Old Men
) and
Ang Lee (Lust,
Caution
) — will be hosting their North American premieres.





While we enjoy the festival
night parties as much as anyone else, we may have to cut the nocturnal
revelries short: this year’s Midnight Madness program looks impossibly
awesome.  It’s going to be a marathon of premiering cult cinema, like
Sukiyaki Western Django
(directed by
Takashi Miike),
Stuck (Stuart
Gordon
), The Mother of Tears (Dario
Argento
), and
George A.
Romero’s

The Diary of
the Dead
.  Toronto Film Fest: come for the art, stay for the gore!

Click here for the full TIFF program list. And remember to keep an eye out for our
coverage once the festival starts September 6!

If you’re jonesing for a Jack Black fix — but not so badly that you’re willing to shell out ten bucks to see him in this fall’s Margot at the Wedding — we’ve got good news: The trailer for December’s Be Kind Rewind, starring Black with Mos Def, has hit the Web.

Be Kind Rewind, opening in New York and Los Angeles December 21, comes from the twisted and fertile mind of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry. As the synopsis reveals:

A man (Black) whose brain becomes magnetized unintentionally destroys every tape in his friend’s video store. In order to satisfy the store’s most loyal renter, an aging woman with signs of dementia, the two men set out to remake the lost films, which include Back to the Future, The Lion King, and Robocop.

A project tailor-made for Black’s comedic sensibilities, in other words, and the trailer does not disappoint. If you don’t find Black’s shtick funny, you’ll be allergic to this clip, but otherwise, click on through and check it out.

Source: Yahoo

We know he’s already got adaptations like Frost/Nixon and Angels & Demons on the way, but what’s another directorial assignment for the always-busy Ron Howard?

According to Variety, the prolific Ron Howard will direct The Emperor’s Children for Universal and his own Imagine Entertainment. The screenplay, which is about well-to-do New Yorkers dealing with the arrival of age 30, comes from Noah Baumbach, whom you might remember from The Squid and the Whale, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Kicking and Screaming — NOT the one with Will Ferrell. Baumbach also has Margot at the Wedding and The Fantastic Mr. Fox on the way.

The film will be based on the 2006 novel by Claire Messud. Mr. Howard probably won’t get started on this one any time real soon, but it’ll probably be an Oscar-hungry sort of drama.

Source: Variety

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