Sunday, November 26, 2006

Anatomy Of An Adaptation

Perfume: Story of a Murderer, Karoline Herfurth, Ben Wishaw, Patrick SuskindOkay, it's not so much an 'anatomy' but NYT does have rundown of the adaptation of "Perfume: Story of a Murderer", the upcoming movie based on the novel by Patrick Suskind. Story is about a man who has an extraordinary sense of smell who seeks recognition by creating a perfume -- problem is he wants to make this perfume from a person -- literally. He plans on rendering the body of a virgin in order to make a perfume from her. NYT reports:

The book tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a young 18th-century Parisian born to lowly means but blessed with a preternatural sense of smell. He emits no body odor, a condition that he believes has made others ignore or dismiss him. Seeking to create a scent that will compel the world to esteem him, Grenouille, by then a journeyman perfumer, decides to kill virgins to obtain its components.

Oh, come on. That's a great premise for movie. The novel, first published in 1985 will be re-released this Tuesday. There is an excellent hi-def clip. I may actually go to the theater to see this one.

Complete NYT story

Friday, November 24, 2006

Letters From Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood directing Ken Watanabe in Letters From Iwo Jima
LAT covers "Letters From Iwo Jima" the companion to "Flags of Our Fathers" which tells the story of the Japanese defense of Iwo Jima during the U.S. invasion of that island.

Directed by a 76 year old Clint Eastwood, the pair of films are unique in that they compete against each other for an Oscar, and are distributed by different studios -- and are in two different languages. "I'm now a Japanese director who does not speak Japanese," Mr. Eastwood says.

This picture recreates the conditions the Japanese fought under -- living and dying in underground tunnels -- and the heroic effort of Lt. General Tadamichi Kuribayashi to hold the island against an overwhelming invasion. Eastwood says, "The great futility of war is explored in this picture." And, he goes on to say, "I just think you can say to a younger generation, here or anywhere, that there must be a better way to live than to send 18-year-olds to go die somewhere."

Eastwood doesn't hide his anger about war, calling the Bush administration 'naive' for 'traipsing' into Iraq thinking they could hand-deliver democracy to a country that may not have been ready to live with that system of government. He doesn't stop there; In regard to how the audience will react to 'Letters' he says, "And if they don't like it, what can they do to me? Call me an idiot? I just made it the way I thought. All I can do is put it on the screen. And if they don't like it, they can walk out and go across the hall to see 'Borat 2' or whatever."

"Flags of Our Fathers" won critical praise but did not do well at the box office. I believe this is because it was perceived as a 40s- or 50s-style Hollywood cheerleading exercise -- and some critics felt it was a bit melodramatic. "Letters From Iwo Jima" will probably not have that misinterpretation to deal with and should do better business. No matter what though, the importance of these films can't be denied. Eastwood's objectivity, especially coming so late in his career and considering his feelings about war in general, should make these two movies, taken together, one of best examinations of combat produced by Hollywood. Eastwood is just not the kind of director that utilizes cutesy dialogue or sanitized character arcs like those found in most movies, especially war movies from decades past.

When seeking permission to film on Iwo Jima, now a closed military base, Eastwood told Japanese officials and veterans what kind of movie he wanted to make. LAT reports:

"He told us he would not make a simple war movie," says Yoshitaka Shindo, Kuribayashi's grandson, who met with Eastwood to hear what Hollywood had in mind. "He said he would make a human drama about those who fought to protect their loved ones."

These two movies may be overdue. After the war the Japanese did not linger on their defeat, or review it for their children in school. The result is a blind spot in their history and a generation of Japanese who know little of their country's experience at Iwo Jima. According to LAT there has never been a Japanese movie about this battle. Of this Eastwood says, "None of my Japanese actors knew anything about Iwo Jima. You lose 21,000 people! To just ignore them. What would happen if we did that?"

"Letters From Iwo Jima" is doing great business in Japan in limited release and critics are praising this companion to "Flags of Our Fathers".

"I felt I had met my grandfather for the first time," Shindo said after watching the movie.

Complete story at LAT

Easy Listening

Will Smith in The Pursuit of HappynessHere is some easy listening for Turkey Day.
Bob Mondello runs down the yearend high-profile movies including "The Painted Veil", "The Good German", "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer", "Children of Men", Clint Eastwood's war duo "Flags or Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima", "Dreamgirls", "Apocalypto", "The Pursuit of Happyness", and gobs more.

Bee Movie

Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld
Here's a chance to see what Jerry Seinfeld has been up to.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Children Of Men

Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael CaineAnne Thompson feels that Universal execs have 'already written off' "Children of Men", directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine.

Thompson gives us the scoop from the premiere after-party, saying the movie "is a brilliant exercise in style, but it's another grim dystopian look at our future", and industry types in attendance were hinting that the movie is "a downer film that was going to lose money".

Hard to argue. The clips I've seen promise an intellectually engaging story, but one that's way out of place as a Christmas release, and way too expensive at a reported $70-90 million. Remember Spielberg's "Munich" from last year? It was a very heavy story, opened at X-mas and totally tanked at the box office -- and Cuaron and "Children of Men" are certainly lower profile than Spielberg and "Munich".

I don't know where all that money went (it's not apparent how they could have spent that much), and think the release date needs to be bumped -- but will buy this one on disc ASAP. The P.D. James book goes on my list, too (something tells me this story is better read than watched, anyway).

Here is an excerpt of Anne's rundown:

But what made the movie so frigging expensive? Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine don't cost so much. It's shot with amazing hand-held cameras and boasts some astonishing long action takes that took days to set up. The filmmakers shut down sections of London to shoot some of the street scenes. There are extras and tanks and pyrotechnics and enormous sets. It's still hard to imagine how the studio could justify spending so much on this movie. But in the long run, they could eke out some coin if this movie lasts in the culture the way Blade Runner or The Road Warrior did.

Well, if she says 'frigging', you know she's upset. I don't blame her. This movie could have been made for, say, 25% of the money they spent. Adjust the budget, release in February, and you might have a successful outing. If "Children of Men" gets the shit kicked out of it at the box office it certainly won't do smart/risky films any good. Now, I'm cussing... Oh, well. At least it'll be a fun disc to watch. Did I say fun? I meant...intellectually engaging.

Anne Thompson's complete rundown

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Capturing Time On Film

Jude Law and Nora Jones in Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry NightsWong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love) is well-known for his propensity for making movies about The Moment. NYT covers the making of Kar-wai's new film "My Blueberry Nights" with Jude Law, Norah Jones, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, and David Strathairn.

Of the scene that has become known as 'The Kiss', NYT reports:

On a SoHo film set last August, Jude Law and Norah Jones were getting intimate. Repeatedly intimate. To be precise, they had kissed upwards of 150 times in the past three days.

The occasion for this outbreak of passion was "My Blueberry Nights," the first English-language film by Wong Kar-wai, the maverick Hong Kong director turned avatar of cosmopolitan cool. This particular night was stifling as the crew spilled out of Palacinka, a small cafe on Grand Street that was the principal New York location, preparing for yet another take of the scene known as "the Kiss."

It's closing time, and Ms. Jones, the only remaining customer, is slumped on the counter, her eyes shut. A smudge of cream rests on her upper lip, the telltale sign of a dessert binge. Mr. Law, cleaning up behind the bar, gazes at her, slowly leans in and steals a lingering kiss. When he surfaces, the cream on her lip is gone.

On working with a director so obsessed with a single scene.

"I've never worked with someone who's put so much emphasis on a single moment," Mr. Law said between takes one night. "It's extraordinary how he'll take a moment and replay it and slice it up."

Kar-wai works in an improvisational way -- often starting production without a completed script. Of working in this manner Law says:

"I wish we had endless time and endless money," Mr. Law said. "It's not often you get to be part of something like this -- a living story that's still being decided."

On completing "My Blueberry Nights" Kar-wai says:

Over tea shortly before he left New York, Mr. Wong said he was exhausted from the grueling shoot. But far from being fazed by the sense of incompletion, he seemed invigorated: the door remained open, no alternatives had been lost, the story was still alive.

And how might "My Blueberry Nights" end? "I think there will be a second kiss," he said. "But I don't know where."

Complete story at NYT

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Clips From The Host

The Host, Korean horror movie, Bong Joon-hoBloody-Disgusting has 5 clips from "The Host", the Korean horror flick that's breaking box office records, and will be seen in this country soon.

Plans for a Hollywood remake are in the works -- although, I can't imagine Hollywood can match the quality of this film.

Director Bong Joon-ho crafts sequences that remind me of a young Spielberg -- except with more confidence and subtlety. These clips are some of the best I've seen.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fred Claus Is Coming To Town

Fred Claus with Vince Vaughn Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, Ludacris, Kathy Bates, and Rachel Weisz
/film has a teaser for "Fred Claus"
. Vince Vaughn is Santa Claus' black sheep brother. Santa is played by Paul Giamatti. Also stars Kevin Spacey, Ludacris, Kathy Bates, and Rachel Weisz. Scheduled for release November 2007 (dang, a whole year). Clip is a hoot.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Estevez On Writing "Bobby"

Emilio Estevez, Christian Slater, Heather Graham, BobbyTalk of the Nation has a compelling interview with Emilio Estevez, writer and director of "Bobby":

Emilio Estevez was 6 years old when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, just old enough for the shattering tragedy to leave a lastingimpression.

His father, the actor Martin Sheen was a Kennedy supporter.He brought his young son to the Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was shot.

Now Estevez has made a movie based on the Kennedy assassination. Through a series of vignettes, set at the Ambassador,the film recreates the day leading up to the assassination.

Thecharacters live out their lives and personal dramas unaware of the terrible history that is about to be made. Emilio Estevez wrote and directed the film which features an ensemble cast of some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Estevez talks about his new film Bobby.

This interview starts rather typically but becomes something special as Estevez describes his fateful meeting with one of the people who was at the Ambassador Hotel the night Kennedy was shot. It's almost an unbelievable story -- and very nicely told. Worth a listen.

Complete audio

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic, DVD Review by Alan Green

Sarah Silverman in Jesus is Magic
Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
DVD review by Alan Green

I first noticed Sarah Silverman when she appeared in "There's Something About Mary", and it was clear even from the few minutes she was on screen she would be a star. She had done a lot of work before TSAM but I had never noticed her in anything except that appearance in "Seinfeld", I think, but it didn't really register at the time.

I don't like comedy. I never have. It's just not funny. "Jesus is Magic", however, is a hybrid of live stage show cut with music videos and short films which is funny in an outrageous way that is impossible to describe, even though her style seems like a tangible thing and makes a writer feel as if they should be able to describe it with words. I'm at a loss. I can say, though, that I couldn't watch "Jesus is Magic" in one sitting because it's too funny. I was laughing too much and had to take a break. I don't think I've ever read anybody say that about a comedy DVD before. This could be the first time. So, even though I can't find the words to describe Silverman's tangible-like comedy, I did need to take a break halfway through her DVD and that says a lot.

Most comedians are afraid. To compensate, they use coarse language for simple gags, but it only comes off embarrassing and superficial. Silverman is crude and endearing, honest and self-deprecating, all the while pointing out society's ridiculous shortcomings. She is razor-sharp and cuddly-cute, and unafraid of any subject matter. She is a cheerleader guiding the audience through a minefield of touchy subjects, and we have two choices; squirm in our seats and sweat, or laugh like fools while we get blown to bits.

She delivers her material as if off the top of her head, and never telegraphs a joke, or tightens up during the delivery, or braces herself in case the joke flops (which never happens, except maybe once, but only for a few seconds). This woman knows she's funny, knows she's good, and doesn't have to try even a little. Silverman wins us over from her very first sentence and doesn't let up for a moment (except maybe once about 45 minutes in, but only for a few seconds).

Like most comedians, Silverman's work is fueled by anger, but in her case the anger is so refined that it imitates intellect, and is somehow transformed into a joyous derision, so that we laugh with her at the most heinous crimes the world has to offer, and love every minute of it, and love her for her brilliant smooth delivery, as in her joke: If God gives you AIDS, make lemonAIDS.

This she sells with fluid smoothness, along with an examination of a bevy of sensitive topics: Rape of children. Religion (including killing Christ again should the opportunity present itself). 9/11. Killing (Ethiopian) babies for jewelry. Sex with children. Being retarded. The rape and murder of grandparents. Childhood drunkenness. Jews (as separate from religion). Anal sex. The Holocaust. Drug use. Blacks, Asians, gays, Nazis, men with small penises. All things hokey. She hits us from all sides with multi-layered jokes with punch lines within zingers within twists, delivered in sections and parts building laugh upon laugh until the audience is helpless.

Silverman's comedy works from the inside out, and will only appeal to people honest enough to admit they're not perfect (but certain the next guy is a schmuck). One doesn't feel distanced watching her act--it's as if she were telling you her innermost secrets over a beer in a bar.

Sara Silverman in Jesus is Magic

Silverman represents an evolution in comedy. Eddie Murphy is to Don Rickles (or Shecky Green, Buddy Hacket, et al) as Sarah Silverman is to everyone else working today. She is more modern, more relaxed, more offensive, and somehow, charming.

If anything in this review offended you even the slightest bit, do not watch "Jesus is Magic". Sarah Silverman, you've got balls and you're better than any three twats combined. (I'm just all).

More DVD reviews at

The Good German

The Good German, Cate Blanchett, George Clooney, Steven SoderberghSo. That's what a fedora looks like.

Anne Thompson screened "The Good German" in her class at UCLA. Here are some of her impressions:

As Attanasio labored over the script for five years, Soderbergh threw things at him: like, make the female lead a prostitute, and, try telling the movie from multiple points-of-view. Tobey Maguire, who had turned down everything in sight until he read this script, was eager to play a foul-mouthed lout of a soldier who slaps around his hooker girlfriend. Early on, The Good German shocks us with a sex scene between Maguire and Blanchett that signals: hold on, this is not your ordinary movie.

And Clooney, while he's as handsome as ever, continues to resist playing a conventionally active hero. His lovelorn journalist keeps getting beat up and doesn't know what's going on. The actors had to figure out how to perform in a 40s pre-Method declarative style while fighting their instincts on how to be natural and believable, Attanasio said. Soderbergh is challenging audiences to question their expectations. Will they get a white knight hero who saves the day? A fallen woman who finds redemption? A little romance? Check it out.

Complete story

Monday, November 13, 2006

Simpsons Clip (But, Wait! There's More!)

Simpsons MovieRopeofsilicon has "The Simpsons Movie" clip.

But, wait! There's more! Yes! More! They also have 10 clips from "Casino Royale"! That's right! 10 clips!

Daniel Craig, Casino Royale, James BondHey, I've watched these and they're all good. People are saying this is the best Bond pic ever and I have to agree -- the pithy quips actually move the plot along and have a natural feel (as natural as dialogue gets in a Bond movie), thanks to writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. The editing and camera are top drawer material -- nod to director Martin Campbell. The action sequences have a lot of pop while maintaining plausibility (unlike previous Bond fantasies), and the babes are the hottest ever in a Bond film -- bar none. Don't believe me? See for yourself.

Nicole Kidman, Diane Arbus, FurThe Reeler has a podcast interview with "Fur" director Steven Shainberg. Here is their intro:

As reported last week on The Reeler, there's been a lot of weirdness surrounding director Steven Shainberg's latest film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, which opens today in New York. There's lead actress Nicole Kidman absent at her own premiere, Robert Downey Jr. covered in hair, a combustible exchange or 10 between Shainberg and his critics, and God knows what else I'm missing. But set all of that aside for a second and just consider the film, which is actually a well-made little fairy tale about Arbus' transition from loyal housewife and her husband's photography assistant to being a internationally acclaimed photographer in her own right. It has its narrative flaws, agreed, but it also wields its titular imagination in wildly revealing and magnanimous ways, and should be considered on its own terms rather than those demanding a Behind-the-Musicesque concession to bloodless melodrama.

But enough of me: I asked Shainberg about where Fur came from, where he tried to take it and what he makes of the reaction it has received since its festival roll-out late last summer. It's an intriguing listen.


November 13, 2006

Apocalypto, Mel GibsonWill Mel's recent PR blip vitiate the box office of his Mayan opus "Apocalypto"? How strong will the Latino audience be? From NPR's Morning Edition:

Mel Gibson's new movie, Apocalypto, opens on December 8.

The film is performed entirely in a Mayan dialect and has not stars. So its distributor, Walt Disney Company, faces quite a marketing challenge.

Gibson is hoping to generate support for his project through a grass-roots movement among Latino audiences.

Report by Kim Masters

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Three Types Of Bond Theme Song

Weekend Edition Sunday talks with Andy Trudeau about theme songs for Bond movies.

What is the difference between the 'Story Song', the 'James Bond' song, and the 'Nonsense Song'? What is the only Bond theme song in which the name James Bond is sung?

Learn the answers to these and other burning James-Bond-theme-song-related questions at NPR.

Open With A Bang

Deja Vu
John Frazier, a long-time Hollywood 'powder guy', is the pyrotechnics specialist that is responsible for the above ball of flame from "Deja Vu" which punctuates the opening sequence of the film. Frazier shared an Oscar for best visual effects in "Spiderman 2" and worked on "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor". He was asked by the producer and director (Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott) to create a spectacular and horrifying explosion to represent a terrorist bombing in order to lock the audience into the story.

As for the anatomy of the explosion, Frazier says:

"Each gasoline bomb we rigged would burn off in three seconds if it went off by itself," he explained. "But when you set off 50 gasoline bombs like we did within five seconds, there's a cumulative heat effect that feeds on itself, and which just sucks this huge fireball into the hot air that keeps rising above the ferry. We added a little diesel fuel to give the fireball a red color, and a lot of black dirt, which gives the fireball its dark entrails."

Okay, I know what you're thinking -- nice, but so what? With a little practice I could blow stuff up for the movies, too. But, herein lies the rub -- this ferry, the Alvin T. Stumpf, was returned to service four days after the explosion was shot. Could you do that? Hats off Mr. Frazier. Here's more:

At the end of the "Deja Vu" ferry explosion, 1,000 gallons of the gasoline-diesel fuel mixture burned long enough for the movie pros to simulate what only looks to be a catastrophe. Mr. Frazier and his special effects crew were inside the ferry with fire hoses and extinguishers as the special effects were detonated. New Orleans firefighters stood by but remained out of action.

"The code of a powder guy is that we put out our own fires," Mr. Frazier said. (Another of Mr. Frazier's credos is: Don't hire military veterans trained in explosives -- "All they want to do is rip and tear," he said -- or anyone who claims he loved blowing things up as a child. "They're a little too spooky.")

About the story element, screenwriter Bill Marsilii was brought to tears when he saw the explosion -- but he has good reason:

"I saw these incredible flames, and I just burst into tears," said Bill Marsilii, one of the film's writers, who was standing 300 yards away when the explosion took place last April. "My first thought was 'My God, what have I done?' "

As an aspiring screenwriter in September 2001, Mr. Marsilii stood on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fourth Street, near his Greenwich Village apartment, and watched in horror as the World Trade Center towers fell.

And: "One of the unique virtues of a time-travel story like 'Deja Vu' is that it allows you to have your disaster and stop it too," he said.

But he acknowledged that five years after he witnessed the events of Sept. 11, he was treading on dangerous ground by giving today's attention-deficit film audiences such a bang in the first few minutes.

"If anyone sees that explosion and applauds," he said, "then we've totally failed as filmmakers."

Complete story at NYT

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth Isn't Just For Kids

Pan's Labyrinth
If you haven't seen a trailer for "Pan's Labyrinth" yet, you may want to have a look. This is a disturbing movie from a director who had a disturbing childhood (see Anne Thompson's piece on Guillermo del Toro). PL is not just pretty pictures (in fact I'm not even sure children should watch this one) -- this movie has strong social commentary and some very graphic sequences. has a beautiful hi-def trailer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

They Don't Call Him Bond For Nothing

James Bond, Eva Green, Daniel Craig, Casino RoyaleHere's a very British look at Bond:

As far as Bond's erotic life goes, the movie retains one important element from Fleming's 1953 novel: Bond gets tortured - in the nude! - by Le Chiffre, who whips his scrotum with knotted rope after commenting that he has "looked after his body". It's a gamey scene that has caused generations of Bond readers to nurse and then uneasily suppress certain wonderings about the nature of 007's fanbase. These wonderings will not, I have to say, be quashed by Daniel Craig's pert swimming costume. But Craig strikes some very erotic sparks from Vesper Lynd, with some loaded bantering over dinner in a first-class railway compartment, and finally, from him, a dead-straight passionate declaration of love. Sweetly, Bond doesn't have sex with anyone else in the film. Vesper is to break his heart, though, and the movie cleverly shows that all Bond's mannerisms and steely reserve grow from this prehistory of doomed romance.

It is all ridiculously enjoyable, because the smirking and the quips and the gadgets have been cut back - and the emotion and wholesome sado-masochism have been pumped up.

Complete euro review

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What Makes del Toro Tick?

Anne Thompson recently hosted Guillermo del Toro, director of "Pan's Labyrinth", at her Sneak Previews class. In her report we get a clue as to the nature of what is becoming known as the 'violent scenes' of Labyrinth, as well as insight into del Toro's make up:

During his violent childhood in Mexico, he was beaten with a chain while a friend was beaten with a bottle in the back of a car. "Unlike the movies, the bottle never broke," he said. He spent time during his high school years "volunteering" at an insane asylum, where he used to walk through the morgue, where illegally aborted dead fetuses were piled up, on his way to have lunch in the cemetary. Hmmm.

When del Toro was 33, his father was kidnapped and held for 72 days as everyone waited. A cop told him that if they found the kidnappers, he knew how to get them to talk. "Break the nose," he told del Toro. "Then move it back and forth."

That's quite the background. Complete piece at Risky Biz

Early Word From London Re: Bond

Daniel Craig in Casino Royale
Ambrose Heron has seen "Casino Royale" and likes it:

I was one of those at the London screening of Casino Royale last Friday and can confirm that Daniel Craig does indeed prove the sceptics wrong. Credit to the filmmakers for going back to basics with the Bond character whilst crafting an entertaining action thriller.

Complete blurb at

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Flightplan DVD Review

DVD Review by Alan Green

When I first heard the pitch for 'Flightplan', I was impressed: a woman's daughter goes missing during a trans-oceanic airline flight. I had to admit I looked forward to seeing how this premise would play out, and for the most part this movie lives up to the potential of this idea--at least for the first two acts. But then it gives over to a queer mix of realistic human drama and Hollywood contrivance. The resulting third act is a mish-mash that might be described as 'flighty-earnest', whose plot devices are a bit unfinished around the edges. On the other hand, Jodie Foster is so committed to a sincere performance you could almost call the result fierce--and it is this sizzle which one focuses on, not the loose threads of plot. In general 'Flightplan' is a smooth-running, old-fashioned psych-thriller--a crafted homage to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

Ms. Foster portrays Kyle Pratt. After a European-style prelude by German born director, Robert Schwente, we find Kyle sitting alone in a subway station watching trains go by and looking quite haunted. Her husband meets her and they walk home in the silence of a snowy night. When they get home Kyle looks around and finds her husband is not there, and only one set of footprints in the snow. She is still traumatized by her husband's death days earlier after he fell off a rooftop, and to comfort herself, imagines he is still alive. It is this emotionally frail character that must, along with her six-year-old daughter Julia, transport her husband's body from Germany to the United States to bury him and start over.

This is the set-up for a classic Hitchcock story design: a protagonist is thrown into a stressful situation, then is wrongly accused, and left to question their sanity. Kyle falls into this role head first as, three hours into the flight, her daughter disappears. After a routine tour of the plane turns up nothing, she asks for help from the flight attendants. They dismiss her as an over-worried mom, and she demands to see the captain. When she pounds on the cockpit door she is restrained by the flight marshal, Gene Carson (played by a sleepy-eyed Peter Skarsgaard).

Here is where Ms. Foster turns on her trademark intensity and there isn't a frame of the remaining movie in which she lets up. Her performance is the most appealing part of 'Flightplan'--she employs such preternatural focus and channels so much personal pain that it makes one sit up and pay attention for fear she will reach through the screen and dope-slap you. The result is that Kyle Pratt seems so real and her circumstance so compelling it's both exhilarating and exhausting to watch as events unfold.

As Act II plays out the script avoids whiz-bang Hollywood devices in favor of focusing on Kyle's emotional trials and how she deals with each new challenge. However, this approach is no more believable than common tricks used in so many psych-thrillers. For instance, when the pilot, captain Rich (Sean Bean) informs Kyle that, as it turns out, it is impossible for her daughter to ever have been on the plane at all, Kyle protests, but in the end, accepts this. In fact, she even accepts the kind counsel of a therapist (played beautifully by Greta Scacchi), who convinces Kyle that she has been imagining her daughter was with her as a way of dealing with the pain of her husband's death. While well crafted in the writing and convincingly executed in the acting, this turn of events is not believable. This holds true for all the plot events remaining in the movie. It just makes you squirm in your seat.

Events from this point on alternate from fatiguing to exasperating. Mere moments after accepting her daughter is not on the plane, Kyle reverses herself and becomes convinced she is. Then, she begins a frantic search. Well as it turns out, Kyle is a propulsion engineer. Not just any engineer--she is the one that designed the engines of the plane she is flying in. She uses her detailed knowledge of the plane's design to access various sections of the craft, including electronic controls and guidance systems. After causing a panic and endangering the lives of everyone on board, Carson is instructed to arrest Kyle.

This sets the stage for a preposterous plan by the bad guys to convince captain Rich that Kyle is in fact a terrorist who will blow up the plane unless millions of dollars are deposited in a Swiss account. Well, captain Rich buys this at face value and has the airline deposit said cash (which takes a few minutes) then has Carson placate Kyle until the plane can land. And, we haven't even gotten to Act III yet. Suffice it to say the contrivances keep coming, we keep squirming in our seats, and Kyle keeps beating the odds.

On the technical side, the music cues, editing, and lighting all seem haphazard. Camera framing especially seemed always just a bit off. Even the sound effects were metallic and too loud. Mr. Schwentke quotes camera shots directly from two of Ms. Foster's previous movies--'Contact' (directed by Robert Zemeckis) and 'Panic Room' (directed by David Fincher). Unfortunately, neither of these are as good the originals, and one wonders what Mr. Schwentke's plan was. Zemeckis and Fincher display greater technical acumen, and Schwentke would have been better off coming up with something that wouldn't invite comparison to their work. As for the script, there are problems with motivation. The antagonist(s) never explain themselves. Except for wanting money we never know who they are or why they subject poor Kyle to this torment. In the end the desire for money is just not enough to support their actions.

It's Jodie Foster's resolute sincerity that sees us through. She convinces us, sometimes with blunt force, that Kyle is real and somehow, some way, this might just happen to us on our next flight. It's hard to imagine that Kyle Pratt's character could have been portrayed nearly as well by any other actor. 'Flightplan' is as suspenseful as Hitchcock's work, just not as believable. Ms. Foster's performance makes 'Flightplan' a cool, emotionally compelling diversion.

If you liked this review there are others at

Directed by Robert Schwentke; written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray; director of photography, Florian Ballhaus; edited by Thom Noble; music by
James Horner; production designer, Alexander Hammond; produced by Brian Grazer; released by Touchstone Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

With: Jodie Foster (Kyle), Peter Sarsgaard (Carson), Sean Bean (Captain Rich), Kate Beahan (Stephanie), Michael Irby (Obaid), Assaf Cohen (Ahmed), Erika Christensen (Fiona) and Marlene Lawston (Julia).

Paramount Scores Martin's Take On The Stones

The Rolling StonesAnne Thompson reports that Paramount has secured the North American rights to Martin Scorsese's feature documentary on The Rolling Stones U.S. tour:

The camera team expects to film more than half a million feet of film at the Beacon, using additional Hi Def, DV Cam, 16mm and 8mm cameras to shoot behind-the-scenes footage. Veteran docu filmmaker Albert Maysles also will provide backstage coverage, while the A-list cinematographers operating cameras in the auditorium will include Mitch Amundsen (2nd unit, "Mission: Impossible III"), Stuart Dryburgh ("The Piano"), Robert Elswit ("Good Night, and Good Luck"), Ellen Kuras ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), Andrew Lesnie ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy), Emmanuel Chivo Lubezki ("The New World"), Anastas Michos ("Mona Lisa Smile"), Declan Quinn ("In America") and John Toll ("Braveheart").

Full story at THR (via Goingtothepictures)

Christmas Nightmare Every Year?

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Disney is so happy with the numbers for the 3D release of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" they are thinking of making it a yearly event.


Monday, November 06, 2006


Jim Carrey has a psych-thriller coming out called "The Number 23". The trailer is one of the most intriguing I've ever seen.

Official site -- one of the best I've ever seen.

Bored? Start a website

A.V. Club has a roundup of movie star websites, on which they promote their hobbies and various stuff for sale. For Leonard Nimoy it's photography -- mostly nudes and pretty good. Michael Madsen has poetry which is literal-minded, self-pitying, and holier-than-thou (all at the same time) -- plus some pictures (which are also literal). Chubby Checker hawks a truckload of his snacks. Uri Geller sells bicycles which, I believe, are made from old bent spoons. Tony Danza peddles his songs, while David Lynch has some freaky shit (what did you expect?).

Go to A.V. Club for the links

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Best Actor (Female)

Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Ashly Judd, Renee ZellwegerThis year is looking unusually strong for women in film (I'm betting this will be a continuing trend). I think audiences today are looking for more substance from the movies, and that usually means a female lead or a (strong) female protagonist. Corina Chocano takes a look at the crop of Oscar frontrunners with female leads this year:

Already, the year has yielded a wide variety of noteworthy performances by actresses in leading or ensemble roles, some of them in surprisingly womanly milieus. There was Kate Winslet as a depressed suburban mom in "Little Children," Meryl Streep as the intimidating powerhouse boss in "The Devil Wears Prada," Helen Mirren as a beleaguered Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" and Kirsten Dunst as the teen queen of France in"Marie Antoinette," among others.

And: It could be a blip, it could be a trend, but it beats rapping hookers onstage at the Kodak any day.

I couldn't agree more. To me, it looks like Kate Winslet is the front runner for best actor (female) for her work in "Little Children". Whatever happens this year's race will be much more interesting than usual (and probably more interesting than the race for best actor [male]). Carina's complete story

NPR's Movie Roundup

Flushed AwayNPR covers "Flushed Away", "Borat", and "Hard Candy". If you're thinking the rats in "Flushed Away" look a bit like Wallace and Gromit, you're right. The movie is made by the same producers that gave us the claymation favorites, although for 'Flushed' they digitized the characters. Bob Mondello likes "Flushed Away", asking "How could you not be flushed with joy"? (He said it, not me). For complete audio click one of the above links.

Borat Burns Box Office

Borat"Borat" will take the top spot at the box office this weekend with a take of...ready?...$26 million. NYT (along with everyone else) has a piece on this guy:

With the release of "Borat" this weekend, Hollywood is head over heels over its latest foreign celebrity -- and the feeling, Borat says, is entirely mutual. "I very much love L.A. and Hollywood moviefilm industry, which have given us so many wonderful moviefilm entertainments," Borat tells us. "I very much like a movie call 'ET,' which is about a child with nuclear retardation who live in a cupboard."

The guy oozes funny. Complete profile

Black Rose: The Vampire

This is an early draft. I've restarted the novel.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Garbage Cookie

Here is a short story. If you like this one there are more at

Garbage Cookie
Alan Green

Today at work I went to the cafeteria and bought two cookies. The chef in our cafeteria makes some really good cookies. Most are standard issue, like chocolate chip, ginger, and oatmeal raisin. But, this one kind is really really good. It's got pecans or walnuts and, I think, coconut or something like that. I call them Mystery Yum Yum cookies. Anyway, when you mash all the ingredients up in your mouth it tastes pretty good.

So, I got these two Mystery Yum Yum cookies and one of them is fresh and one of them is a day old. I think the price for both is the same, though. Why that would be I can't figure out. It seems like the day old cookie would be cheaper but that's another subject. Since the price is the same and they look the same the only way you can tell them apart is the fact that the day old Mystery Yum Yum cookie is in a plastic bag sealed with a twisty-tie and the fresh cookie is not. Otherwise, they're identical--or so I thought.

I get back to my desk and work while I eat the first Yum Yum cookie, and I'm feeling pretty good cause the day is half over and a good cookie will raise your spirits at any time of day but especially so when the day is half over. So, I finish the first cookie (the fresh one), and I'm still hungry so I untie the twisty-tie that's holding the plastic bag that the day old Yum Yum cookie is in and I open the bag up. The first thing I do is take a whiff of the cookie. I don't know why. Perhaps the next time you open a bag of cookies you might monitor your behavior and see if you don't take a whiff of the cookies before you eat one. I think it's natural. I think we want to smell what we're about to eat. I think everybody does that.

So, anyway, I take a whiff of the day old Yum Yum cookie and what I smell is garbage. No, I don't mean that the cookie was of inferior quality, I mean I smell something that reminds me of the inside of an aluminum garbage can on a hot summer day. Garbage. I know my personal name for these cookies includes the word 'mystery' but I never thought it was anything other than a neato sort of dumb name. This Mystery Yum Yum cookie, however, smelled like garbage. If there was a secret ingredient in this cookie it was no mystery to me. It was garbage.

Let me try to describe what it smelled like. The first and most prominent odor was that of old coffee grounds. You know? After you make a pot of drip coffee--you pull that thingy out from over the pot and gingerly remove the cold wet filter and drop it into the garbage can where it stays for several days until you get around to taking the garbage out. The first odor I smelled was the same as those coffee grounds--like coffee, only mixed with a potpourri of other smells that have nothing to do with coffee. Baked beans, orange peel, burnt toast, stuff like that. But, mostly it was like old wet stale coffee grounds.

Perhaps it was the fact that the day old cookie was in a bag tied with a twisty-tie that reminded me of garbage and triggered a delusion, I don't know, but I was going to get to the bottom of the issue one way or the other. So, here I am holding this day old Mystery cookie and thinking there's no damn way I just smelled garbage, and I take another whiff. Yep. Sure enough it smells the same, only this time I'm better prepared--I have my olfactory senses tuned to 'garbage'. The second time I smell the cookie (I know. I've dropped the Yum Yum from the name) I notice an eggshell sort of smell. Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm talking about rotten eggshells. That sort of gooey sulfur smell that clings to the inside of your nose and won't go away even after you've turned your head away and cleared your nostrils with a couple sharp exhalations. Boogers might come flying out but the smell of rotten eggs clings to the inside of your nose.

So, now I'm smelling both old coffee grounds and rotten eggshells, and I'm thinking this is definitely garbage. I was hoping it would turn out to be some quaint combination of oatmeal and cinnamon that, for just a second, had tricked me into thinking I was smelling garbage, but it didn't. In fact, it was even more garbagey than before. I couldn't believe it. A couple theories immediately ran through my mind. 1) I'm going crazy. What other explanation could there be? I had to be crazy to think my Mystery Yum Yum cookie smelled like garbage. Besides, the implication was even worse than the reality: someone had made these cookies using the contents of a garbage can as one of the ingredients. If that's not crazy I don't know what is.

The other theory was unavoidable and stemmed from the logic of the first theory; 2) this fucking cookie was actually made with garbage. Either on purpose or by mistake some dumbass had put garbage in the batter, whipped it up, and baked it into this horrible fucking cookie. And, not just any garbage, but slimy goo. The stuff that was layered at the bottom of the trash can and offered garbage geologists a clue to the history of that particular receptacle and the cooking habits of the Chef de Cuisine. Dig down an inch and you find evidence that the chef at one time must have experimented with banana lasagna. Drill another inch and you find telltale signs of dozens of failed tira misu. If theory #2 was correct, this motherfucking cookie had the most vile ingredients imaginable. There was only one way to find out for sure.

After taking the first bite of the Mystery cookie I could not come to any certain conclusions. It tasted stale but that's to be expected from day old baked goods. I could detect oatmeal, but that's a standard ingredient in cookies. I had suspected that this new hybrid cookie would have at least one traditional ingredient, and it looked like that ingredient was oatmeal. But, that was as far as I got. I could not, with any confidence, identify any other ingredient, no matter how many bites I took. On my second bite I was sure I tasted rotted vegetable matter, but couldn't tell which one. It didn't really have the zing of rotten bell pepper or the pungent tangy quality of a rotten tomato. It was actually somewhat subtle--like a rotten carrot, or some spoiled spinach, and as such was not entirely unpleasant.

I kept eating. After the third bite I had become dedicated to compiling a list of ingredients. Something in me just had to know. It was like this cookie was taunting me. Teasing me. Challenging me to decipher its recipe. I felt as if I was on a personal mission and studied the taste carefully. I knew I was dealing with old coffee grounds and eggshell, but the type of vegetable still eluded me. I concentrated like I was trying an expensive bottle of wine in a restaurant. What rotten vegetable could it be? No matter how I swirled the cookie around the inside of my mouth with my tongue I couldn't place the elusive flavor. Could it be pumpkin? Squash? Perturbed, I chewed on a couple more bites, but to no avail. I was no closer to unraveling this mystery and now the cookie was half gone. As I considered the possibility that I would not be able to figure out what the last ingredient was, something like panic set in. I knew I needed help so I enlisted the help of my friends. "Smell this cookie," I would say to them. "No!" they would respond. "Oh, come on!" I would say. "Smell this cookie and tell me what kind of rotten vegetable is in it." "You're a freak," they would say. Sometimes your friends are so holier than thou. Was it really beneath them to help me identify the fetid material in the cookie? A few people smelled the cookie but they thought it smelled normal. This made me think perhaps theory #1 was correct after all. Maybe I was crazy. I refused to believe this. I'm one of the most sane people I know. I'm level headed and objective. If my senses tell me there is something foul in my cookie then there damn well is! My friends were no help so I continued my quest for the Mystery cookie recipe on my own. Who needs them anyway?

I went back to my desk and reevaluated the situation. I only had one or two bites of the garbage cookie left and I still had no clue what the mystery veg was. I cleared my palate with some water and focused my mind to a zenlike pinpoint. Instead of taking two small bites I would pop the rest of the cookie in my mouth and ascertain the identity of the rotted vegetable with the sureness of a monk deciphering a koan--only I didn't have a lifetime to do it. If I could not determine what it was that made this cookie reek, I would never be able to duplicate it. That's when it struck me. I had grown to like the garbage flavor of the Mystery cookie and wanted to bake some for myself for another time, possibly again and again for the rest of my life. I figured I could bake a few dozen at a time and just keep them in the fridge indefinitely, as their flavor would not suffer too much if they went stale. That way I'd always have a supply on hand without worrying about baking fresh rotten cookies every week or so. However, without the name of that damned stinking vegetable I could never match the quality of this cookie. My cookies would be merely bad tasting, not exquisitely fetid as this one was. That did not sit well with me. I needed to know exactly what the missing ingredient was. Whatever the implications of liking to eat garbage were, I would have to deal with them later. I'm sure there are mental health professionals who are familiar with this particular dietary peculiarity. Right now, though, I needed that recipe. So, I ate the last big bite of the cookie and concentrated while I chewed. I searched my memory, sifting through all my experiences with rotten vegetables and tried to match the flavor of the cookie with some item of produce I had encountered which had been left too long in the back of some refrigerator someplace at some time.

Would black slimy mushrooms do? Was it mushy zucchini I was searching for? If I couldn't identify the mystery veg, I might have to conduct an experiment involving putting common vegetables in my refrigerator and allowing them all to rot. I didn't like that idea either. Eating an unusual cookie was one thing but filling your fridge with rotten vegetables is another. Besides, I'm too lazy to carry out a scientific process like that and I know it. There's too much involved. You have to label each bag with the name of the vegetable because, once it's fully rotted, you won't be able to identify it. Then, there's the whole testing thing--you have to bake a batch of cookies with each rotted vegetable, try it, make notes, et cetera. I'd never finish and the anguish might prove too much. I might go crazy like the mad scientists in old black and white British horror movies. It was too Frankensteinish to consider. I needed to get that recipe now or I'd never have it.

As I chewed the cookie it melted in my mouth forming a viscous batter. But no matter how I probed with my tongue I couldn't do it. I simply did not know what vegetable was responsible for this cookie's subtle rancid flavor. Knowing I had been defeated, I swallowed the last bit of the cookie and washed it down with a gulp of water. When would I ever know such an exquisite blend of enjoyment and revulsion again? Perhaps never. I knew in that moment as the Mystery cookie made its way to my stomach, that I would never be able to precisely re-create the Garbage Yum Yum cookie ever again and the experience would have to be a once in a lifetime thing. That's okay I guess. The memory of eating this cookie is something I'll always have and cherish--and you can't take that away from a person.

I had never imagined I could like garbage flavor in a cookie, but it just goes to show that you have to keep an open mind and allow your horizons to expand as they may. It's wrong to think you know it all or that you truly know yourself. Now that I'm open to new things I find myself wondering what other culinary oddities I might find appealing down the road. I once heard a story of a restaurant that sold carrion. The chef would go out in the desert and find recently dead animals. Some had been hit by cars on the road while others had succumbed to some natural malady. Sometimes vultures would be eating the carcass and the chef would have to shoo them away, but he would always leave some fresh hamburger for them in exchange; although I'm not sure a vulture would consider that a fair trade. The chef would throw the carcass in his pickup truck and take it back to his kitchen where he would prepare the rotted meat in the usual manner. Pot roast of roadkill armadillo with potatoes and carrots; grilled sun-dried buffalo with a cream sauce--the only difference was the meat was so rancid you couldn't get near it without getting queasy. Nonetheless, after it was properly cooked, the story has it, the carrion was delicious in a way that, although vaguely queer, was unique and few people could resist. As a result the restaurant was usually booked months in advance. Waiters would use terms like 'runny', 'ripe', and 'fresh out of the sun' to describe the nightly specials, and people paid top dollar for their dinner. I always thought that was a joke, but now I'm not sure. Perhaps there is such a restaurant someplace. Who can say what people will like if they just give it a chance? At any rate, I feel as if I have grown as a person and that this is the first day of the rest of my life.

MoovyBoovy goes live

Bartlett Experimental Forest Fall Leaves. Photo by
Ken Dudzik


November 4, 2006
Sony BRAVIA Paint Commercial

SONY Bravia paint commercial
has a link to video of the making of a Sony BRAVIA paint commercial.

November 3, 2006
3D Is Here

Engadget reports on some very cool new imagery:

Forget what you know about lenticular-based 3D displays, holograms, and even those "real" 3D image projectors being toyed around with in Japan. That 3D image you're looking at above was generated within the Cheotpics360, a four-sided transparent pyramid develop by a Danish team of engineers and designers from viZoo and Romboll. The Cheoptics360 can display both computer and film content when used either indoors or out and scale from 1.5-meters on up to 30-meters. The video images generated by the four projectors are re-assembled within the prism-like pyramid through a process of mirroring and reflection making them appear to float in mid-air. Hear that gamers, how 'bout setting this rig up at your next frag fest! Check the video after the break... you will believe.

Via /film

If you like that you'll love this: a picture projected onto a screen of compressed air.

November 2, 2006
Tina Fey

Tina FeyTina Fey, the former top dog at SNL, is now showrunner at "30 Rock". A.V. Club has an interview:

AVC: You graduated college in 1992 and were writing for SNL five years later. Is it common for someone to rise through the comedy ranks so fast?

TF: It sounds fast when you say it like that. I graduated in '92, and then I went to Chicago and started doing Second City. I took a class there for a couple of years, then I toured for a little less than a year, and then I was on the main stage there for about a year and half before moving to SNL in '97.

AVC: And then head writer two years later?

TF: Yes.

AVC: So is that common?

TF: I don't know that it is. It's funny, because when I'd hire staff writers at SNL, sometimes we'd hire Harvard kids where this was their first job, next to working at some golf course during the summer. They come right out of school. My friend Mike Schur, who's at The Office now, he and I interviewed for a job the same day. That's when we met. I was 27, and he was 21. I remember thinking, "Man, I'm an old lady around here." It's a young person's gig.

AVC: When you come out of college with the intention of becoming a comedy writer, is there a network of people who all know each other and know what jobs are available out there?

TF: I just knew I wanted to get to Chicago to study with Second City. The Chicago improv-comedy world is one big outlet. In L.A. it's the Groundlings, and Upright Citizen's Brigade in L.A. and New York. There's a bunch of different roads. You might be a stand-up, or a Harvard grad, or a Northwestern grad, or an improviser… those are the most common roads.

AVC: Did you ever do stand-up?

TF: At a very amateurish level in Chicago. Very safe open-mic nights. More like coffeehouses than actual comedy clubs. But I really admire stand-up, and I think I would have loved to learn how to do it. I think it's terrifying and thrilling. A really cool thing to do. It's a dying art, in a way.

AVC: It's sort of a distinct art form from being a comic actor. There's a great Mitch Hedberg joke about how when you get really good at comedy, they want you to be an actor. "You're a really good chef. Can you farm?"

TF: Right. It's a separate, special skill. And so many people get into it just to get opportunities as an actor. That's why, when you look at people like Colin Quinn… that's their art form. The art form they want to master and are so brilliant at. That's what I think is cool.

AVC: What is the difference, from a craft perspective, between writing a screenplay, writing a sitcom, and writing a sketch?

TF: Of the three, sketches are the most different, because you're not dealing with story at all, and it will kill you if you try. With the other two, you have to tell a story in a long form or a super-short form. When I wrote Mean Girls, I went into it knowing, "Okay, I don't know anything about story; I really have to try to learn." I did what everyone does: I read books. Same thing here with 30 Rock. Luckily, I'm surrounded with a writing staff that has more experience in the sitcom form. It's a good mix, because they know how to break a story into a half-hour, but at the same time, we're avoiding bad habits or getting into a rut, because a few of us have less experience and aren't locked into any specific way of doing things.

Complete interview

November 1, 2006
Buzz On Borat

Here is Kim Masters on the buzz Borat is enjoying:

For months, the Internet has been full of buzz about Borat, a new movie that opens Friday. But on the eve of its release, entertainment-industry research reveals that many potential moviegoers have never heard of the film. How could a picture generate so much chat and still fly below the radar?

Is this going to be another SoaP? Complete story

October 31, 2006
The Future Of Horror

The Descent (Revised 10/30/06. Originally posted 10/28/06). Scott Tobias and Noel Murray discuss what lies ahead for horror movies at A.V. Club. Scott points out the underlying theme of most horror movies today:

But you can always look to genre films to capture the tenor of the times, and I would argue that these two franchises exploit a deeper fear among young people, post-9/11: Namely, that they have no control over their own destinies. Death could come at any time, and even if they can see the gears at work, they can't do anything to stop it.

I agree with this. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956), coming just after the height of McCarthyism and in the middle of the Cold War, is about having freedom of thought taken away (or censored) and identity usurped by a malevolent force which turns friends against each other. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) echoes these themes, but is more direct and much simpler -- something is out to get us. 'Snatchers' is very 'You may not be able to trust your neighbors', while 'Night' is just 'Don't trust anyone'.

Today's horror movie is far less politically oriented. Read the rest

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