TORONTO - It's always news when an acclaimed actor decides to direct their first feature, but it's hard to believe it took Dustin Hoffman 45 years to step behind the camera. The two-time Oscar winner has gone in an unexpectedly sweet direction for his first directing gig with the slight romantic comedy "Quartet” that debuted Sunday night at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
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"The Book of Mormon," having won nine Tony Awards in New York, is now spawning a national tour, making its official West Coast premiere at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles on Sept. 12. In previews, the show is as polished and fine-tuned as you might expect a Broadway show to be -- though even jaded Los Angeles audiences are likely to be at least a little surprised by exactly how many times they hear not only the F-bomb, but jokes about sex with babies, sex with frogs, genital mutilation and dysentery (complete with enthusiastic pantomimes of all of the above).
So, do you think Dan is an evil genius, just evil, easily manipulating gullible and possibly stupid fellow players, or all of the above? Discuss. Anyway, we rewind a little bit in this episode so that viewers can watch all the crazy strategy and backstabbing that took place during this week's double elimination of Frank and Joe. And yes, there was a lot of crazy strategy and backstabbing, most of it on Dan's part. But surely, the dark underbelly of his game play will finally be exposed, won't it?
Ever since I first heard word of Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" back in the early summer, and certainly since the trailer dropped some time later, it's been at the top of my list of anticipations for the year. It's exciting to me that a mid-budget, adult, character-driven drama from a major director with a movie star at its center has been made. They seem all too rare.
It was doubly exciting to see the New York Film Festival tap the film as its closing night gala, part of a defining 50th anniversary slate that really announces the fest as a significant stop for awards season contenders. I'm counting the days until that premiere and my fingers are crossed that all the positive word I've heard on the film bears out.
Meanwhile, though, there's a foundation being laid. We've had Denzel Washington tapped for potential Best Actor consideration every since we first launched the Contenders section for the 2012-2013 Oscar season, but you can finally see the gears turning on the upcoming campaign.
Joss Whedon is having one of those years that most filmmakers only dream of having, and the real winner is the audience.
First, the film that he co-wrote and produced, "Cabin In The Woods," was finally released after it sat on a shelf for two years because of financial problems at MGM, and it would have been easy for that film to have gotten permanently lost. instead, it was met with open arms by genre fans, and it seems like it is well on its way to its rightful place as a cult classic. Then "The Avengers" conquered the summer and finally gave him a monster box-office hit he can call his own, an important step if he's going to have an sort of career longevity working on the bigscreen. And now, finally, we've got "Much Ado About Nothing," a micro-budget personal take on Shakespeare's play, cast largely with actors who will seem very familiar to people already fans of Whedon's work.
Seeing the reactions to Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" land on Twitter yesterday, I still couldn't quite get a handle on what to expect when I finally see the film. I was a huge fan of the director's 2010 indie "Blue Valentine," and particularly Ryan Gosling's performance therein. Gosling was robbed of an Oscar nomination for one of the year's best performances, but at least co-star Michelle Williams was noticed.
But reactions to Cianfrance and Gosling's latest collaboration, which also stars Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, seemed a bit split. Some found it impeccable and another step up. Others, like HitFix's Greg Ellwood, found it to be lacking.
Calling the film "uneven" from the start, Greg wrote that "the script feels like a worked over mash-up of too many familiar ideas and movie cliches." I hope I beg to differ. But in the meantime, "Pines" has found a nice home for not-so-easily-defined indie dramas. Focus Features has announced its acquisition of the title, with plans for a 2013 release.
There are few filmmakers working whose output has been as consistently exciting and rewarding as Paul Thomas Anderson, and there are few films I have anticipated with as much confidence this year as "The Master."
So you'll understand if it unnerves me a bit to find that I don't love it.
I respect it and even admire it, but for the first time, I find myself struggling to connect on that extra level that we reserve for the films that matter most to us. "The Master" is, as was rumored, a fictionalized look at the dynamics that existed in the early days of Scientology, but simply viewing it through that prism, looking for the parallels and trying to parse Anderson's stance on the house that Hubbard built, would be a simplistic way to approach it. Instead, I think the film is really trying to grapple with the way broken or damaged people reach for salvation and balance and the extremes they will suffer in the futile hope that someone else will give them the answers, which is certainly fertile ground for drama.
TORONTO – To say the Toronto International Film Festival's 2012 slate has been dominated by literary adaptations is something of an understatement. On Saturday alone, “Cloud Atlas,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Much Ado About Nothing” (granted, a stage adaptation) all had their world or North American premieres at the fest. Oh, and add one more prominent title to that list, David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.”
I can tell you this: we'll definitely be running a Second Look piece about this film after it's in theaters, because it is a remarkable movie experience, one that cannot be digested easily, and any attempt to dig in fully would rob you of the sense of discovery that washed over me as I sat in the theater.
No matter what the subject matter, the combination of Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer would be reason enough to be excited. The novel they adapted, though, is something very special, and a huge challenge for anybody looking to turn it into a film. Walking into the film, I was hoping for something ambitious and different. What I got was one of my two favorite films of the year so far, a movie I'll be returning to again and again, a unique and beautiful work of film art that dares to dream big in a way we rarely see from either studios or independent sources.
A review of tonight's "Doctor Who" coming up just as soon as I have balls in my trousers...
Martin McDonagh's film "In Bruges" was one of those tiny movies that many audiences simply didn't notice when it was released, but the people who did see it ended up devoted to it. The film's reputation has grown in the last few years, helped in large part by McDonagh's work on stage, and now he's once again working with Colin Farrell. The result, "Seven Psychopaths," is perhaps the most interesting implosion of narrative convention since "Adaptation," and it works as a comedy first and a commentary on the entire idea of violence as entertainment.
Marty (Farrell) is a screenwriter who is struggling to figure out his new script, a piece called "Seven Psychopaths," and as the film opens, pretty much all he has is the title and one of the psychopaths. His best friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell), wants to help him with the script. He's convinced that Marty is a great writer and that "Seven Psychopaths" could be a great film. The problem is that Marty wants to write a movie about lunatics, but he wants to find a way to do it without violence, sending a message of peace that will be uplifting, and Billy's pretty sure that's going to be impossible.
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show:"The Following" (FOX)
The Pitch:"You know that awful movie 'The Raven' about the killer who was obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe?" "Not really." "Excellent. Because this is a script about a killer who's obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe." "Hmmm..." "Did I mention that you can use the show to boost your score in Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Excellent."
Quick Response: Some people love "The Following." Most people I know, in fact, love "The Following." You're probably going to love "The Following." That's fine. I can deal with differences of opinion. I *strongly* disliked "The Following." To me, Kevin Williamson's script for "The Following" plays out as The Most Pretentious "Criminal Minds" Episode Ever, with a liberal post-modern splash of "Scream" at the very, very end. I don't know how many of the things I disliked most about Williamson's pilot script are going to continue to be an ongoing problem. The predictability of the character archetypes -- Grizzled alcoholic FBI veteran and wily, brilliant serial killer -- are now established and won't need to be introduced again. The serial killer cult aspect of things is, unfortunately, not going anywhere. Sigh. However, the series could progress without needing to return to the tediously superficial Lazy English Major skimming of Edgar Allan Poe. In fact, PLEASE progress without this aspect, because every time any character engaged in rudimentary literary analysis, I wanted to jab them repeatedly with a red grading pen. The characters in "The Following" who are convinced they're saying smart things -- "Nevermore! The Raven! Poe is symbolizing the finality of death!" -- aren't nearly as smart as they think they are and the pilot isn't nearly smart enough to sell this level of affectation, either earnestly or self-reflexively. [I still love the first two "Scream" movies, plus the first season of "Dawson's Creek" and y'all know my feelings on "Vampire Diaries," so my general tendency is to be strongly pro-Kevin Williamson. It just happens that I think this particular script is a mixture of cliches and pomposity.] Pilot director Marcos Siega has somewhat improved on Williamson's prose by making "The Following" moodily atmospheric and cinematic, but he's also possibly amplified the semi-exploitative violence and sadism that left me rolling my eyes and left some of my colleagues terrified. Shrug. Your results may vary. One thing I think we can all agree on is that Kevin Bacon is really terrific here. The obvious comparison is to Kiefer Sutherland's TV transition with "24," but Bacon is already getting to play the frenzied-and-frayed Jack Bauer of Season 4 or Season 5 and he's doing it well. Damn well. As Bacon's adversary, James Purefoy has a role seemingly designed to push him to make only the least subtle choices available, which is already his unfortunate tendency. That worries me. The rest of the pilot's supporting cast is very solid and I really hope they give Natalie Zea something good to do, since people often cast Natalie Zea and don't remember to write for her. One last thing: Enough already with Marilyn Manson's cover of "Sweet Dreams." It's moved into "Hallelujah" territory of overuse. We get it. It's a moody and ironic piece. Enough.
Desire To Watch Again: For Bacon? My desire to watch again is high. To see how the plot unfolds without the cumbersome responsibilities of pilot-dom? Also high. I didn't like "The Following" very much at all, but it's still the network pilot that left me most curious to see a second episode. Weird stuff like that happens sometimes.
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Family Tools'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Infamous'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's '1600 Penn'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Zero Hour'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Do No Harm'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'The Carrie Diaries'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries