Posts Tagged ‘film’

The Fighter Shaping Up

June 22, 2009

It’s been a long road for the Mickey Ward biopic – The Fighter. Matt Damon was initially attached and then pulled out. Brad Pitt was then attached and also pulled out. The Wrestler Director Aronofsky was replaced, the story got a re-write…for a long time there it seemed like this one wouldn’t be made.

Mickey Ward

But it now looks like things are starting to fall into place. When Christian Bale signed up alongside long time attached Mark Wahlberg last month to star in the film, the movie took a giant leap toward getting made. Since then it has been announced that David O. Russell is taking on the Directing role, and recently Oscar nominated Actress Melissa Leo began negotiations to play the role of Mother to Wahlberg and Bale’s characters. All in all, it looks like The Fighter is finally shaping up, with filming set to begin in July.

As a fan of both boxing and the movies, I say let’s get it on.

For those not familiar with Mickey Ward’s work, he is a recently retired (2003) blue collar boxer from Massachusetts who was known for his enormous heart and refusal to quit. His hard nosed determination and deference towards defence made for thrilling fights, and amongst the boxing fraternity he became something of a cult figure.

Even so, Ward toiled in relative obscurity for much of his career, and did not achieve mainstream success until his three fight series with Arturo Gatti. (For those who have never seen this guy fight, it doesn’t get any better than Round 9 of his first fight with Gatti – a staggeringly good round in one of the greatest fights in boxing history).

The movie will focus on the relationship between Ward (played by Wahlberg) and his half brother Dicky Eklund (Bale), a mid-level professional fighter (who once went the distance against Sugar Ray Leonard) who had to overcome his own battles with drugs and alcohol to help train Mickey to in-ring success.

The questions I really want answered though – how well will Wahlberg be able to handle the fight scenes? And who is going to play the part of Ward’s arch-nemesis, Arturo Gatti?

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The Round-Up

June 19, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. A famous hat pops back up on the radar, the remakes keep on coming, the Rounders boys take a seat back at the table (sort of) and Tom Cruise may be mending fences with Paramount in order to take another Mission Impossible.

Indiana Jones and the Next Big Hit

Shia Le Beouf announced in a recent interview with the BBC that Steven Spielberg had just finished a first draft for the next movie in the Indiana Jones franchise – big news for Indy fans, whether you liked the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls movie or not. Check out the full interview here.

Rounders Writer’s Cash In Some More Chips

Looks like the writing team that brought us Rounders is set to bring another poker story to the big screen, with their story about online casino’s in Costa Rica being picked up by Paramount, and with Leonardo Di Caprio (and his production company) attached. Ain’t it Cool have the details.

The Remakes Are Getting Stranger…

Bride of Frankenstein is this week’s favorite unlikely rumored remake, with Director Neil Burger being the man tagged to get the project rolling. Turns out this is only one of several Monster flicks Universal are pushing at the moment, with the Wolf Man set for release soon, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon also set to go into development. Hokey 1950’s style horror…here we come!

Mission Impossible Now Very Probable

In a move that surprised many, considering the nature of his departure from the studio after a 14 year relationship, Tom Cruise looks to have made amends with Paramount, and is getting set for another addition to the Mission Impossible franchise, under the guidance of JJ Abrams.

Red Dawn Moving Forward

Red Dawn is starting to shape up, and Comingsoon.net has the latest on some key announcements. Writer Tony Gilroy (the guy who did the Bourne series) has been hired to pen the re-make of the 1980’s classic (Go Wolverines!).

Some key casting announcements as well – Josh Peck has been hired to play the role of Matt Eckert (the role oringinally played by Charlie Sheen), whilst Adriann Palicki will play Toni (the role first played by Jennifer Grey). Don Bradley is still set to direct what should be a very, very interesting update.

Top Three Denzel Washington Performances

June 17, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 123 is due to hit the big screens soon, and we’re getting you ready by dedicating a podium to Denzel Washington.

Honourable mentions for this list include; Inside Man, Crimson Tide and American Gangster. And it was very, very tough for me to leave He Got Game off this list as well. Great character, great performance, great flick.  

Denzel Devil in a blue dress

 3. Devil in a Blue Dress – Easy Rawlins

Based on the novel by Walter Mosley (if you haven’t read this book then do yourselves a favor and hit the book store ASAP), Denzel Washington plays the lead character, Easy Rawlins – an out of work  WWII veteran who accepts a job from a shady underworld figure to find a missing woman. The story twists and turns from there, and features undertones of race and class politics, but it is the outstanding performance from Washington that lifts moves this film from within the confines of the well established private eye genre and into one of the best movies of 1995. Don Cheadle is perfect as Easy’s accomplice Mouse, a cold blooded killer with a gift for violence, and the interactions between the two capture to mood of the book perfectly. Easy Rawlins is heroic, flawed, noble and untrustworthy all at the same time – a complex, layered character with a great deal of depth, and Denzel nails the brief perfectly. Not his biggest hit at the box office, but an outstanding performance from Denzel nonetheless.

2. The Hurricane – Rubin Carter

The Hurricane is the story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a professional boxer and middleweight contender, who was wrongly imprisoned for murder in the 1960’s. The heart of the movie however lies in Washington’s enthralling portrayal of one man’s unrelenting courage in the face of oppression, and the fight against injustice that eventually became known to the rest of the world. The movie focuses mainly on the emotional and mental anguish Carter undergoes in jail, and it’s a journey which Washington guides us through with heartfelt aplomb. He is raw and gritty in this, at times bordering on desperate as he tries to keep hope alive in a place completely devoid of the concept. The movie itself may have had its problems with some one dimensional supporting characters and at times comes across as a little corny – but it is a tour de force performance from Washington that keeps it firmly on track, and makes for an engaging film. The look on Washington’s face as his character is sentenced to life in prison was worth the price of admission alone.

1. Malcolm X – Malcolm X

The stand out effort of Washington’s career thus far, in which he plays the title character, Malcolm X, who’s life we follow from his troubled childhood, to small time hustler, to inmate, to religious convert, to spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, to outcast, to figure for change and finally, to victim of assassination. Director Spike Lee operates on a grand scale here in terms of both chronology (the film spans several decades) and length (at an intimidating 200minutes). Washington meanwhile runs the full gamut of character emotions, reckless in his early life; persuasive and confrontational during his period as a political orator, and wizened, deliberate and thoughtful toward the end. In this one film he shows the sort of range most actors don’t manage throughout an entire career, and he is absolutely convincing and believable throughout. An amazing performance – and he was straight up robbed for the best Actor award in the Oscars as well (it went to Al Pacino for Scent of A Woman…right man, wrong time).

Previous Podium – Top Three Cameos By Sports Stars

Movie Review – Sunshine Cleaning

June 15, 2009

sunshine cleaningSunshine Cleaning is the story of Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams), a cash strapped single mother who comes up with a plan to start her own crime scene bio-hazard removal business in order to pay for her troubled son’s private tuition. It’s another tale of modern family dysfunction from Christine Jeffs  (the woman who brought us Little Miss Sunshine) and whilst this movie may not quite have the charm that movie did, it does feature some outstanding performances by a relatable and likeable cast.

Amy Adams is brilliant in the lead role, playing Rose with the right mix of sweetness and positivity, yet always with a hint of melancholy just beneath the surface. The single mum who is having an affair with a married man, and is doing her best to keep faith in herself despite the growing realization that all the hopes and dreams she had as a successful and popular high school cheerleader will never come to fruition. Firmly entrenched in the mundane doldrums of low paid, pride humbling work and yet still with a flicker of hope that things can turn around.

Emily Blunt also turns in a solid effort as Norah, Rose’s depressed, screw up sister – the irresponsible yin to Rose’s duty bound yang, and Alan Arkin adds some much needed comic relief as the family patriarch who is always working on the next big idea to find a way to pay the bills. Each of these characters have their own problems to face. They are filled with flaws, self doubt and loathing – and yet, just like in life, it is those qualities that make them believable and likeable.

I quite liked the understated sub-plot of the growing attraction between Rose and Winston, the one armed cleaning supplies merchant, but I thought the quasi romance between Norah and Lynn was a bit forced and ill-defined. They also never took advantage of a real opportunity to deliver some great insight via the nature of their work – the crime scene clean up angle is a fantastic hook, and whilst they touched on their capacity to interact with people at profound and important times of their lives, it’s not a subject matter they ever really explored (outside of some hand holding of some poor old woman who’s husband had just committed suicide).

The pacing can be a bit slow at times – I know I had to bite back the urge to shout out “hurry the fuck up!!” at the screen at one point (the kind of behavior which would have been frowned upon by the majority of cinema attendees on this particular evening I think), and at other times they seemed to be trying way too hard to come off as quirky (look – now the grandfather is trying to sell shrimp to restaurants! Haha!).

Sunshine Cleaning attempts to blend so many different elements together (this is a kind of character study with elements of comedy, drama and romance) that it ends with the movie lacking a cohesive identity. As a drama it falls a bit short. As a comedy, well, it just isn’t that funny. And whilst the film probably doesn’t quite live up to its intriguing premise, it is redeemed by some great performances from its lead actresses.

Rating – 6/10

Random Quote – (How did she die?) It was a sorta do-it-yourself thing.

Random Actor You’ll Recognise From Somewhere Else; Clifton Collins Jr (Tigerland, Traffic, Capote) plays Winston, the cleaning supplies merchant who guides Amy Adams through her first faltering steps in the industry.

Previous Movie Review – Terminator Salvation

The Round Up

June 11, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. More remakes and reboots, no Arnie for Predator, Johnny Depp may have signed up to play Tonto, and are the wheels completely falling off the GI Joe movie?

Comingsoon.net has an interview with Harold Ramis detailing all the latest on the Ghostbuster 3 movie. Looks like writing is underway, and a first draft might be complete soon. Nothing concrete, but plenty of optimism.

The Arnie casting rumor for the Predator reboot looks like it was a red herring, with Aint It Cool News pouring water on it with the direct word from Robert Rodriguez.

Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are both rumored to be starters in the upcoming A-Team remake. Both are coming off big box office hits (Taken and The Hangover) and would be big pick ups for a film that still has a long way to go before proving to many fans that the whole idea isn’t a complete fiasco.

Comingsoon.net has an interview with Jerry Bruckheimer regarding some upcoming projects – the long hyped Pirates of the Carribean 4 of course, but first there is going to be a Lone Ranger film with Johnny Depp attached to play Tonto

GI Joe – Rise of the Cobra hasn’t even got out of post production yet, and already it may be coming apart at the seams. Slashfilm has the lowdown on a disastrous test screening, and the latest on the rumor that the films director Stephen Sommers may have been let go.

Nikki Finke continues to track Transformers 2’s attempt at breaking box office records, with news that with two weeks still to go before release, 21% of all online tickets have already been sold. Unsurprisingly, the film looks to be huge with the under 25 crowd. And what about the story that Michael Bay could pull in over $75million for the effort?

Finally, for those who aren’t looking for a film based on action figures – a name and release date for Clint Eastwood’s Nelson Mandela biopic, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The film is titled Invictus and is adapted from the novel Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, by John Carlin.

Top Three Movie Cameos By Sports Stars

June 11, 2009

The Mike Tyson cameo in The Hangover has inspired this weeks Podium – Top Three Sports Star Cameo’s, and we’ve got plenty of options to choose from.

Honorable mentions include; Dan Marino in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Joe Frazier in Rocky, Lawrence Taylor in The Waterboy (mostly for the irony – at the end of a long unintelligible rant from Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher, LT nods and delivers the line “Gentlemen, which brings me to my next point – don’t smoke crack.” Funny stuff at the time, funnier still when you heard that two weeks before the films release he was arrested for buying $100 of fake crack from an undercover cop).

Cam Neely – Dumb and Dumber

Cam Neely had a reputation as a violent goon during his days as a right wing in the NHL, so the Farrelly Brothers cast well when they were looking around for somebody to play Sea Bass – the truck stop enforcer who takes a dislike to Harry Dunne, enjoys classy tastes in baseball caps and has a penchant for the occasional public toilet rendezvous.

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Not the man you want bursting through your toilet stall

Lance Armstrong – Dodgeball

The famous cyclist appears as himself, and meets Vince Vaughan’s character at an airport bar just as he is about to run out on his team before the finals. Lance hits him with the following; “Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I’m sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that’s keeping you from the finals?”

Enough said.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar – Airplane (Flying High)

Kareem Abdul Jabbar turns in a solid 6th man of the year effort here, appearing as pilot Roger Murdock. It is a secret identity that does little to fool young Timmy, who unfortunately relates his father’s belief that Kareem doesn’t play defence (a well documented complaint from critics throughout his career). “Roger Murdock” responds by getting on the offensive; “The hell I don’t. LISTEN KID. I’ve been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I’m out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” Later, when they are dragging him out of his seat, we see that he is in LA Lakers basketball shorts. Great comedy all around.

Previous Podium – Top Three Will Ferrell Movies

The Round-Up

June 5, 2009

The pick of this week’s internet rumors, rumblings and total fabrications. Transformers 2 is looking at box office records, Bryan Singer may be trying to hook up with the X, Michael Douglas assures us sequels aren’t for wimps and the terrible movie ideas just keep on coming.

Transformers 2 tracking for record breaking opening

Nikki Finke is reporting that rival studios expect Paramount’s Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen to clear a staggering $175m over its June 24-28 five day opening weekend.  Nice money if you can get it.

Bryan Singer looking to return to the X Men franchise?

The legion of X-Men fans who lamented Bryan Singer’s decision not to direct the third film of the franchise may be pleased to hear that Singer himself probably feels the same. Even better, in an interview with Total Film magazine, Singer expressed an interest in returning to the franchise, possibly to take the helm of the in-development Origins story of Magneto.

Greed is good again.

Michael Douglas is putting on the Armani again to reprise his role as Gordon Gekko in the sequel to Wall Street, and Nikki Finke has the scoop on what’s happening with the plot, and all the latest from the casting couch.

From the department of unnecessary reboots and remakes…

It appears Robot Chicken writer Dan Milano has become has signed on for the remake of the 1980’s robot with a heart movie, Short Circuit. So, number five is alive…again.

Robert Rodriguez is rumoured to have approached Arnold Schwarzenegger to be involved in his reboot of the Predator movie franchise. With both Arnie and Jesse Ventura going from the Predator movie to Government, you have to figure political wannabe’s everywhere are scrambling to get in on the act as well.

And it also looks like Tony Scott’s rumored remake of the cult classic “The Warriors” may be back on the cards – the story is to be set in LA (instead of NY), but will feature the same basic premise as the original, with a gang stuck in one location, trying to get home to another. Can you dig it, sucka?

And from the department of bad ideas…

The first picture to come from the deal between Universal and game company Hasbro looks like being Stretch Armstrong. Stretch, for those who don’t know, is a stretchable doll for kids. The other games currently in development are Monopoly, Candy Land, Clue (I never liked that Professor Plum – he always seemed smug to me), and of course, Battleship.

The picture book Where’s Wally? (Or Waldo depending on what part of the world you are from) is also now set to be turned into a film. No word yet on who will play Wally, Wilma, Woof or Wizard Whitebeard. Or, you know, what happened to the credibility to the film industry.

Movie Review – What Just Happened

June 3, 2009

what just happenedThe long tradition of Hollywood poking fun at itself continues with What Just Happened, a movie that deals with a hectic week in the life of movie Producer, Ben (Robert De Niro), in Barry Levinson’s long awaited return to the big screen.

Ben is introduced to us as one of the 30 most powerful men in the business – a mover and shaker in the industry with respect, influence and power. That veneer is then quickly stripped away to reveal a man hopelessly compromised by the conflicting interests he has to juggle – charged with the management of almost impossible situations and yet in reality having little or no control over any of them.

He hides this ineffectiveness with activity. He is constantly in motion – always on the phone, taking meetings, or driving back and forth from one or another of the many disasters that are taking place around him. As a father he is more of a chauffeur – an interested bystander in the lives of his children and ex-wives. As a Producer he plays moderator between the ball breaking studio executives, and the childlike, tantrum throwing talent as they try to defend the artistic purity of their work.

Michael Wincott embodies that side of the business perfectly, playing the precocious, drug addled and temperamental Director Jeremy Blundell. Tip of the hat to Bruce Willis as well, who plays himself but is channeling Joaquin Phoenix as the star of an upcoming film with a determined vision of how his character should appear. Also keep an eye out for Stanley Tucci, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener and John Turturro who help round out a great supporting cast.

I loved the soundtrack – including the work of  Ennio Mariccone  is always a good idea in my opinion, and I thought the melodramatic strains of Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers in Arms’ juxtaposed the absurdity of the scene it was playing in brilliantly.

As a satire, this doesn’t always hit the mark and at times looks a little stale around the edges. I’d be surprised if too many Hollywood types found this particularly biting – we have seen other films take a sharper scalpel to the gelatinous underbelly of the industry before. Having said that, this movie is accessible to folks who may not be thoroughly versed in Hollywood insider culture, and features some genuine comedic highlights.

There’s also a kind of sadness here as well. You feel for De Niro’s character by the time the credits roll. He is a man who is subjected to the whims and inclinations of some pretty unpredictable forces; agents who don’t like breaking bad news to their clients, Directors who refuse to let outsiders sully their work, actors whose creative sensitivity often places them at odds with the real world, and studio bosses who would happily cook and eat their own young if the bottom line could be improved by doing so.

Add to that the liberal use of both recreational and medicinal drugs, the regular therapy sessions and the complexity of his convoluted personal life, and what you get is a man forever torn between the competing pulls of art, finance, love and practicality.

Which is probably as a good a metaphor for Hollywood as any.

Rating – 6/10

Random Quote – “Hunter S. Thompson once said to me, ‘the movie business is a cruel and shallow money trench where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. And then he added, ‘there’s also a negative side’.”

Random Actor You’ll Recognize From Somewhere Else – Kristin Stewart from Twilight and Adventureland plays Ben’s daughter Zoe here.

Previous Movie Review – State of Play

Iron Man 2 Update

June 2, 2009

Lots of hype around Iron Man 2 recently, with the shoot half way through completion and a number of key sequences already in the bag. Comingsoon.net has a bunch of photos from the set available here, and Jon Favreau has been keeping fans up to date with his daily twitters – a great source of information on the progress of the shoot itself.

The man in the iron suit.

Downey gearing up for round 2 of the man in the iron suit.

The star of the show, Robert Downey Jr has described the sequel as being “incredibly risky and artistic for a big genre movie”. Sounds to me like that might be code for them trying to go for some of that, you know, “story” stuff that can sometimes get in the way of a big budget picture. You can read the full interview here.

Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Terrance Howard was not signed for the sequel, amidst reports of cost cutting and dissatisfaction over his performance. That move had fans up in arms, but nobody was more upset than Howard himself, especially if you consider the fact that they always seemed to be hinting that the second movie was going to feature an increase in screen time for the character (“next time baby”). In choosing Don Cheadle to replace Howard though, they took an actor with an impressive pedigree, and the early reports from the set suggest he is filling Howard’s shoes admirably.

Sam Rockwell has pretty much been in from the start, and the addition of Scarlett Johannson in the role of Black Widow has been well publicised – but the secrecy surrounding Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo in the sequel has also come to an end, with the news that he has signed an incredible nine picture deal with Marvel Studios to play the role of Nick Fury.

Mickey Rourke is also in the mix, donning his own 23lbs suit to play super-villain Whiplash in between his time on the set of The Expendables. Good to see that the star of The Wrestler is a busy man nowadays. Amazing what a successful movie can do for an actors schedule.

Movie Reviews – State of Play

June 1, 2009

State of Play

This story deals with the death of the assistant to a US Congressman on the verge of a major inquiry into the corporate dealings of a private military contractor. Thanks to the efforts of investigative journalist, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe), and online blogger Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), it becomes clear that the circumstances surrounding the death are more than mysterious, and pretty soon forces are aligning to ensure that the true story never comes to light.

It’s not easy for the modern journo, and this movie gives us an inside look at the many problems they face bringing a successful story to completion – the age old tensions between journalist and source, the competing interests of journalist and editor, the moral ambiguity of journalists who withhold information from police, the often parasitic symbiosis between the media and politics and the contemptuous divide between old school investigative reporters and the growing legion of their blogging counterparts. Sure, Woodward and Bernstein had it tough bringing the Watergate scandal to light, but how would they handle the pressures from a sales driven media conglomerate ownership team who demand hourly updates of their stories online?

Crowe is great as the inquisitive, veteran journalist – gruff and disordered in his personal and professional life. An aging rock star of the newspaper industry’s once proud investigative circuit. McAdams brings the right mix of intelligence and enthusiasm to her role as the star of an online blog who is on her first foray into “real” journalism, and Ben Affleck more than holds his own as the conflicted Congressman at the heart of the whole affair. After some of the performances he has mailed in over the years, it’s easy to forget that Affleck can actually deliver when given the right opportunity.

Solid performances from an all-star supporting cast as well; Jeff Daniels, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright-Penn and Harry Lennix all produce noteworthy efforts, but it’s Jason Bateman who enters the story in the final 30 minutes and absolutely steals the show. Director Kevin McDonald shows the great eye for casting that he did in The Last King Of Scotland here, matching character personality to acting talent like a man who understands every nuance of his screenplay.

The pacing is perfect over the first three quarters of the film, building tension with twist after surprising twist as details behind the incident come to light. But I wonder if they didn’t go for one twist too many – one final, bet you didn’t see this coming effort that seemed a little forced to me.

This story was adapted from a UK TV series that was spread over six hours, so perhaps it was an issue of timing. Streamlining a mini-series into a 2 hour feature film, all whilst refreshing the tale with a modern take on military privatization and corporate skullduggery may have forced their hand slightly. The ending left me feeling like I was just coming to grips with the full implications of the previous plot twist when I was suddenly engaged with a new one. Of course, we can’t rule out that I might just be a little bit slow.

Don’t let that stop you from seeing this film though – because it is smart, often funny, and completely entertaining. A political thriller like they used to do it in the old days, featuring a great script, intriguing subject matter and a cast and crew who genuinely know their business.

Rating – 8/10

Random Quote – She had access to everything we were doing, and I believe they killed her for it.

Random Actor You Will Recognize From Somewhere Else – Michael Jace, who plays Julien in the TV series The Shield, pops up as a police officer again here.

Previous Movie Review – Angels & Demons