Videodrone's take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist home video releases of the week
Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" (Fox), starring Paul Giamatti as small-town lawyer and family man, is a small film from with a big heart. Which sounds like a promotional cliché but it's true in the case of this low-key family comedy, a compassionate portrait of fallible people trying to do their best under pressure. This film's idea of winning skips the feel-good fantasy and delivers an story that feels honest and earned. Videodrone's pick of the week.
Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" (Summit), starring Mel Gibson as a suicidally depressed man who finds strength through a hand puppet, had the bad luck to be a hard-sell drama with black comedy and a leading man with a rocky reputation. And "Henry's Crime" (Fox), an indie caper comedy with Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga and James Caan, never quite comes to life (MSN film critic James Rocchi complains that it "dawdles when you want it to jump, skips when you want it to sizzle").
"Road to Nowhere" (Monterey) is Monte Hellman's first feature in 21 years and it's as dense, enigmatic and challenging as his early masterpieces, "The Shooting" and "Two-Lane Blacktop," a film about the making of a film where the layers of reality blur and merge in the most fascinating ways. The 79-year-old rebel brings a whole new beauty to digital photography. Videodrone's review is here.
The films of South Korean director Lee Chang-dong have won acclaim and awards all over the world for their intelligence, compassion and emotional power. This week his two most celebrated films arrive on DVD and Blu-ray: "Secret Sunshine" (Criterion), a devastating drama of anger and grace that won the Best Actress award at Cannes 2007, and the sublime "Poetry" (Kino), which earned Lee the Best Screenplay award at Cannes 2010. Videodrone reviews both here.
Plus Morgan Spurlock has fun with product placement in "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" (Sony), Jackie Chan is the hapless "Little Big Soldier" (Well Go USA), Jason Statham goes on an action "Blitz" (Millennium) and Norway reveals its greatest secret in "Troll Hunter" (Magnolia).
TV on DVD:
"The Event: The Complete Series" (Universal), the latest attempt to replicate the cosmic mystery and labyrinthine plotting of "Lost," did not quite turn out to be the event that NBC had hoped, and even after a mid-season adjustment, the epic alien invasion conspiracy thriller with the breakneck plotting momentum was cancelled after a single season (thus the subtitle "The Complete Series"). Videodrone explores the conspiracy here.
The best and the brightest are back to fight crime in the military-centered crime shows "NCIS: The Eighth Season" (Paramount), with Mark Harmon leading the a colorful team of naval investigators on the East Coast, and "NCIS Los Angeles: The Second Season" (Paramount), with Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J chasing bad guys in the California sun. Videodrone enlists here.
It's the inevitable teaser of a teaser we've all been waiting for
With the "Twilight Saga" nearing the end of its cinematic adaptation run (with the final two films hitting theaters later this year and then in 2012), there's unquestionably room in the market for another teen-friendly series. At least, that's what Lionsgate is banking on with their adaptations of Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" book series. For those unfamiliar with the series, it imagines a dystopian future where the Earth has been ravaged, and all that remains of the United States are twelve "districts" that live under the iron-fisted rule of the Capitol. Already at the absolute mercy of the Capitol, the districts much each send two "tributes" to the Hunger Games every year - children who must fight to the death in a televised battle royale.
Collins' books focus on Katniss Everdeen, the female tribute from District 12, as she fights in one of those Games. The books mix all manner of elements - romance, political intrigue, governmental theory, bloody violence - to elevate the YA series to something close to required pop culture consumption. In short - it's good, and we can only hope the film adaptations live up to their literary counterparts. The films have the opportunity to be real hits - not just with fans, but even with those who have not read the books and check them out purely out of curiosity (and who end up unexpectedly loving the characters and story).
Lionsgate has earned some wrath from fans based on a number of their choices regarding the first film, directed by Gary Ross. Not everyone has been happy with casting picks (including Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as her dueling suitors). Even after the three main characters were announced, there was an extended period of time before the film's unofficial fourth main character, Katniss' mentor Haymitch Abernathy, was cast (Woody Harrelson ultimately won the role, another pick that didn't sit well with fans, many of whom pulled for Robert Downey Jr. or Hugh Laurie for the role). And that's not all - Lionsgate strung along fans even longer by rolling out the rest of the tributes (that's twenty-four in all) over a number of weeks, with no rhyme or reason seemingly applied to the announcements, just that they would be issued in District-appropriate pairs. Considering that the majority of those characters don't even have proper names, it seemed like just another way to drum up buzz for the film.
Adding to those issues, Lionsgate has attempted to placate fans with "first looks" at some of the main characters (likely to assuage fears on the look of some of the leads), first looks that were not met with universal goodwill. And, in a surprising turn of events, "The Hunger Games" didn't show up for this year's Comic-Con. While the Lionsgate booth handed out tons of Mockingjay pins (Katniss' symbol), the studio didn't even bother to show off any other looks at the film - even something basic, like pre-production costume sketches. While the film had only recently started shooting, other productions made sure to capitalize on genre-heavy buzz with at least something, but "Hunger Games" fans weren't given even a taste.
He can't keep you toasty at night
With the release of his next film looming at the end of next month (that would be the thoroughly wonderful “50/50”), director Jonathan Levine is lining up his next, somewhat offbeat, film. Whereas the Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen-starring “50/50” straddles the line between life and death in a charmingly funny way, Levine’s next, “Warm Bodies,” will toe that same line – but with romance.
Based on Isaac Marion’s book of the same name, “Warm Bodies” chronicles a young zombie (to be played by Nicholas Hoult) who, after eating the brain of a teen boy, begins to feel the emotions of his latest prey. Those emotions include some of the squishy-hearted variety for the victim’s girlfriend, who will be played be Teresa Palmer. The love story between “R” and “Julie” has unexpected results for not just a boy zombie and his lady love, but all of the world’s brain-eaters. Now, Levine has cast funnyman Rob Corddry as another offbeat zombie in the film.
Variety reports that Corddry’s character is that of “M,” a zombie who, like R, is different than the rest of their brethren “…at first.” I smell a nemesis.
Marion’s book has only been out since the end of April, but it’s already gathered a bevy of, pardon me, warm responses from critics and readers alike. Unlike many of the other genre-bending YA novels that hit shelves after the massive success of the “Twilight” books, “Warm Bodies” has been lauded for the strangely sweet and sensitive romance at its center.
The film starts shooting next month. Levine is directing from his own script adaptation.
'Fireflies in the Garden' to finally get a Stateside release this October
2012 film focuses on an appropriately brave princess
Pixar’s next film has gone over more than few speed bumps on its road to the screen. “Brave” marks the studio’s first foray into fairy tales, and with a leading lady as the film’s central character (another first for the studio), it seemed a no-brainer that the project’s creator would also serve as its director. That would be Brenda Chapman, adding to the film’s trailblazing way of doing things by also being Pixar’s first female director. But with troubles like star Reese Witherspoon dropping out of the film (she would have voiced the lead, a princess named Merida) and Chapman being replaced by Mark Andrews due to creative differences (she will remain credited as a co-director), the path of “Brave” has not fit into Pixar’s usually smooth-running production machine.
The film focuses on Merida (now to be voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald), a headstrong princess in 10th Century Scotland who bucks tradition via personal choices that have very unexpected (and dangerous) repercussions for everyone in her kingdom. Merida must then discover what it means to be, you guessed it, truly brave. The look and feel of “Brave” is quite different than previous Pixar films, as it darker in both tone and actual look. The film will open on June 22, 2012. It will be available in 3D.
A new, more complex, synopsis has been released for the film (thanks to
The 'Ghost Writer' novelist will adapt his own book for the screen
From 'Blair Witch' and 'Humpday' to questions of the spirit
In actress Vera Farmiga's directorial debut "Higher Ground," Joshua Leonard plays Farmiga's husband Ethan, a man of God challenged by his marriage, his faith and his family -- while never descending into cartoon villainy or cardboard piety. It's an unexpected performance from Leonard, whose initial work in "The Blair Witch Project" wound up being an albatross around his neck; with his performance opposite Mark Duplass in Lynn Shelton's "Humpday," he proved himself a real talent in a sly, shaggy-dog story of an indie comedy; here, he gives a real dramatic performance. We spoke with Leonard in Los Angeles about faith, working perhaps too closely with your director and the important acting work done by hair extensions.
When you looked at this film, it in that Heisenbergian moment when the film comes across your mindscape and you have to make the decision to do or not ... was it the material? What was the ratio of the decision being made on the strength of the material and what percentage of it was just having the trust in Ms. Farmiga to take -- literally -- a leap of faith?
Leonard: I wouldn't even say it was as pure and altruistic as having the trust in Ms. Farmiga. I would say that when the folks that I worked with called and said, 'Vera Farmiga wants to sit down and talk to you about playing her husband in this movie,' I said yes. I blushed and then I wiped the drool off my mouth, and then I said yes. Then I said, 'What's it about?' It absolutely started with her. I esteem her tremendously; always have. Exactly the kind of creative force that I've always wanted to work with, and I think it could have been the role of a one-armed seven-year-old Asian boy, and if she wanted me to do it, I would have figured out a way.