April 1, 2011
THERE SEEMS to be an assumption in Hollywood that girls don't like basketball. All of the major DVDs released this March Madness finals weekend tilt toward women - "Black Swan," "Tangled," "Fair Game. " "Black Swan" earned a best-actress Oscar for Natalie Portman, playing the tormented ballerina with the svengali director (Vincent Cassel) and ambitious rival/sex-crush Mila Kunis. I found the movie demented and unintentionally funny, but never dull. "Fair Game," on the other hand, was frequently dull, despite its contentious story of CIA operative Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts)
March 31, 2011
SOME 30 years ago, you could have gotten Duncan Jones' attention by using his childhood name - Zowie Bowie. Jones is singer David Bowie's son, and while he loves his dad, he's worked hard to distance himself professionally from the family name, to make it on his own as a movie director. (David Bowie's real last name is Jones; he changed it to avoid confusion with Davy Jones of The Monkees.) So Duncan is justly proud that his gig directing Jake Gyllenhaal in "Source Code" has nothing to do with Spiders from Mars, and everything to do with "Moon.
March 25, 2011
THANK HEAVEN for March Madness - you're going to want to bypass the DVD bin this week. There's "Skyline," a worse version of "Battle: Los Angeles," about aliens using a blue ray (available on Blu-ray?) to suck Angelenos into their spaceships for inspection and torture. That's how the aliens get you, they bore you to death. Also "How Do You Know?," a James L. Brooks movie every bit as bland as its title. Reese Witherspoon is a confused young woman torn between a shallow baseball star (Owen Wilson)
March 24, 2011
OF ALL the marvelous objects - real or manufactured - that cinema has provided us, I don't know that any surpass the violet eyes of Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor died yesterday at age 79, and while she left behind an insanely large and varied legacy as both an actress and storm-tossed celebrity, it was her made-for-technicolor, midcentury visage that comes to mind when you think of her. "Without question one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the screen," wrote Leonard Maltin, adding, perhaps as an afterthought, that the two-time Oscar winner was a better actress than acknowledged.
March 18, 2011
"THE FIGHTER" earned Oscars for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, but don't be surprised if you see better performances on the DVD. "The Fighter" is the fact-based story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a talented boxer poorly served by his crack-addict trainer-brother Dicky (Bale) and his manager mother (Leo), who won't admit to Dicky's problem or its effect on Micky's career. Enter Amy Adams as Micky's new girl, who sees that Micky isn't going anywhere until his family situation gets straightened out. Bale and Leo give us the fireworks, but Mark Wahlberg as Micky is subtle and generous, the kind of performance that makes movies work, but rarely wins awards.
March 11, 2011
A FEW WEEKS back, JP Morgan admitted foreclosing, illegally, on the homes of soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. JP Morgan contended that it didn't know its actions violated federal law. The bank believed, I guess, that tossing military families out of their homes was merely indecent, and morally grotesque. In other words, business as usual. To understand how a bank that has been rescued, backstopped and subsidized by your tax dollars might come by this arrogance, check out the Oscar-winning documentary "Inside Job," a two-hour primer on the recent financial meltdown.
March 4, 2011
OSCAR CO-HOSTS James Franco and Anne Hathaway also co-host this week's DVD releases. Franco stars in the unfortunately notorious "127 Hours," playing hiker Aron Ralston, who cut off his arm to survive a fall in an isolated desert canyon. It's another inspiring endorsement of human connection from director Danny Boyle - two hours of inspiration, two minutes of amputation. Hathaway co-stars with Jake Gyllenhaal in "Love and Other Drugs," an ambitious story from Ed Zwick about a shallow Viagra salesman who falls for a woman with Parkinson's.
March 3, 2011
IF YOU'RE ONE of the folks who fainted during "127 Hours" last year, you can thank a guy named Tony Gardner. He's the Hollywood effects artist (you can see his latest work in "Beastly") who built the fake muscle and bone for the arm that James Franco self-amputates during the movie's most notorious scene. "Yeah, we just put a little carbon fiber in the silicone muscle to make it look like a real muscle," he said, with a dude-like California drawl that belies his formative years in Cleveland.
February 28, 2011
IN THE EYES of Oscar, it's good to be "The King's Speech. " It's also good to be Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and wife Christina, the executive producers of "Inside Job. " Both movies won Oscars last night - "King's Speech" for Best Picture (and Best Director), and "Inside Job," the movie financed and executive produced by the Luries, won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Colin Firth won Best Actor for his work as the lead in "The King's Speech," as a wartime monarch struggling with a speech impediment.
February 25, 2011
THIS WEEK'S DVD roster includes the kiddie hit "Megamind," the Todd Phillips comedy "Due Date" and one overlooked goody - "Get Low," starring Robert Duvall. First "Megamind," a B-game DreamWorks animated comedy about an evil genius (Will Ferrell) who vanquishes a superhero (Brad Pitt), then finds he doesn't know what to do with the spoils (including Tina Fey). Fast, jokey in the DreamWorks style, but overstuffed with characters, some of whom are unintentionally creepy. It's also unfortunately similar to "Despicable Me," a better movie.