Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trailer for Pixar's Brave

The teaser and poster for Pixar's much-anticipated 2012 release, Brave, just came out recently, seen first by audiences treated to 3D viewings of Cars 2.  Needless to say, this new film should act as a credible rebound from their latest effort.  The film alone seems to be a major departure for the animation studio, which made its success in showing that animated films don't have to be about princesses.  According to IMDb, the synopsis goes a little something like this:
Scottish princess, Merida, defies her parents by persuing an interest in archery, but inadvertently jeopardizes her father's kingdom in the process.
Directed by Oscar-nominee and short film director Mark Andrews (One Man Band) and penned by the film's erstwhile director Brenda Chapman (scribe of Cars and Beauty and the Beast) and Irene Mecchi.  Featuring voice acting by very-Irish Kelly Macdonald as Princess Merida alongside Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Craig Ferguson, and Billy Connolly.  Trailer below.

Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

A few month ago, I formulated a small, crazy theory that, should Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy be good and released, that Gary Oldman would handedly be the man to beat this year in Best Actor at the Oscars.  Then the buzz waned slightly, people like Michael Fassbender, George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, and Leonardo DiCaprio became popular names when predicting, and by and large, Oldman was left off most pre-season predictions.

But I'm still banking on him. A veteran actor who's never been nominated and is beyond overdue and looks utterly remarkable in the trailer...what more could you ask for? I love me a good well-written espionage thriller with a Cold War backdrop. Also featuring a stellar supporting cast of Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch. How do you think it looks? Trailer below.

Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol trailer

When Pixar's resident genius (as far as this blogger is concerned) decided to depart momentarily from animation and segue into action films, I was nervous.  When it turned out said action film was going to be the fourth installment of the somehow popular Mission: Impossible franchise, I was still nervous.  With story by Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams, the film becomes ever more curious.  Each film since the first one has seemed sort of...useless, even with the addition of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  However, in this we have both Tom Cruise and the heir apparent Jeremy Renner, who curiously doesn't get his name mentioned in the trailer, which is below.  Don't expect much Oscar love from this film though, not even in the technical categories.

Also co-starring Precious's Paula Patton, Lost's Josh Holloway, and Hot Fuzz's Simon Pegg.

Trailer for Steven Spielberg's War Horse hits

A few days late, sorry about that.  The master is back to work, after a series of popcorn fair and an ill-received fourquel, he's back in presumably prestigious ground.  This drama, adapted from the Tony-winning stage show, looks to pretty good from what I can tell.  Said adaptation is done so by the Oscar-nominated duo Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Lee Hall (Billy Elliot), and stars newcomer Jeremy Irvine and vets Emily Watson and David Thewlis. Those few I know who have seen the stage show say it's thrilling, if only a little melodramatic. How do you guys think it looks?  Could this spell Oscar for Spielberg? Trailer below.

It's set for a Christmas release.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Addicted To: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Or, rather I should say, Lisbeth Salander.  I stormed through Stieg Larsson's Swedish novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in about a week, unable to put it down.  Now, I'm 100 pages into the follow-up The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Don't love it as much as the first one yet, but it's certainly still good.  More focus on Lisbeth and less on Mikeal.  In the first one, I was actually screaming.  Like, seriously shouting out loud.  If you've been underneath a rock as much as I have the last two years in regards to these books, pick them up and read them now.  You won't regret it!

In preparation for David Fincher's "The Feel Bad Movie of Christmas," I wanted to read the books before I saw his vision and adaptation.  The trailer is magnificent, (seen here) and, having now read the novel, looks to capture the sense of it pretty well.

I also watched the Swedish version, and though I'm not usually a stickler for film adaptations that change details from the book, this one did so so foolishly that it was distracting, and in many ways made the film less entertaining.  The pacing left something to be desired, and the film's final act dragged painfully.  Made me all the more nervous and excited for Fincher's adaptation (with newly-married Daniel Craig and The Social Network's Rooney Mara).
Above, you can already tell the stylistic differences between the Swedish version (left) and Fincher's version in terms of their depiction of Lisbeth.

New Apollo 18 trailer

The newest film in the Cloverfield, Open Water, and Paranormal Activity trend.  Well, I guess it's been a trend since The Blair Witch Project, so it's more of a sub-genre.  Nevertheless, looks interesting and scary. Looks a little bit like Moon, but without celebrities.  Apparently space often makes people go crazy.

How do you guys think this astronomical thriller looks?

REVIEW: Cars 2 (C)

(dir. John Lasseter and Brad Lewis, 2011)

Regardless of what you hear, there is a lot to enjoy about Disney and Pixar's newest film, Cars 2.  But, in line with what you've heard, there's also a lot to not enjoy.  Much ado has been whispered and shouted in regards to the reason this film was made.  It's well documented (including in an hour-long documentary) that the original Cars was a passion project for director and Pixar creative master John Lasseter, and the film just happened to become a hit with children (if not the critical masses) and a merchandise Goliath.  So is the sequel to Pixar's least-favorably-reviewed film a project of passion or dollar signs?

Answer: It doesn't matter.

As with all Pixar films, we start with the adorable protagonists, erstwhile upstart and now reformed race-car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and stupid is as stupid does best pal Mater (Larry the Cable Guy).  In the original, McQueen was the star, and in a curious and ultimately successful move, Mater has become the chief hero of the sequel.  Long story short, in the throes of a worldwide World Grand Prix race sponsored by alternative fuel icon Sir Miles Axlerod (Eddie Izzard), Mater is mistaken as a high-class spy and hilarity ensues; well, it almost ensues.

There are some funny parts.  A rather clever scene wherein Mater eats pistachio ice cream, only to find out he had really eaten a scoop of wasabi (you know, the things adults get and kids don't).  There are fun parts even; the races are visually stunning and the battle sequences are awe-inspiring.  A particularly strong opening sequence (seemingly borrowed right from the storyboards of a James Bond flick) gave me hope for the rest of the picture.  But it's the overarching aspects where the film falters.  There's no real emotional core, you struggle to really care about anyone aside from Mater, and there's no cohesively strong theme to the piece.  In the end, it's just a "see, your stupid friend can do stuff, if only by accident" story.  All new and old characters are bland and mostly forgettable, from the barely-there McQueen to the new Mater love interest Holley Shiftwell (voiced, presumably while napping, by Emily Mortimer).  New driving rival Francesco Bernoulli (a Formula-1 car voiced by John Turturro) is a recycling of Turturro's character from The Big Lebowski and Sasha Baron Cohen's foreign racing rival from Talladega Nights.  It was just...fluff.  Devoid of the heart and soul we've come to expect not only from Pixar, but from all good animated films.

Cars 2 feels so empty, even if it is full of color.  For all the disdain most give the original, I respect it for what it was.  It had heart, and that heart belonged in the characters of Radiator Springs, and the town itself.  Cars 2 takes half the lovable characters out of the equation and transplants McQueen and Mater to Italy, Japan, and London.  There's no love or connection with these cities; visually, they're amazing, but the characters have zero connection to them. And in a wanderlust sequel to a film that was originally all about the importance of a small town, this feels like a misguided ripoff.

I saw this movie with five children, four of which literally worship the ground all things Cars walk drive on.  They laughed a lot, and when we left they said it was the "best movie ever," and that they "loved Lightning."  And, in the end, I guess that's the point isn't it?  For animated films at least, to entertain children and take them to another world that's fun and where cars can fly.  So what if their parents, siblings, or film critics thinks the movie is stupid, they get a kick out of it.  For so long now, animated films have surprised us by not being just animated films, but something greater.  So when they're not, we're disappointed, and we miss the point of them to begin with.  GRADE: C

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Freud, Jung, and sex = A Dangerous Method

See the newly dropped trailer here, at A Dangerous Method's website, since I'm sure the YouTube video below will be removed eventually.

Directed by longtime cult director and often Viggo Mortenson co-worker, David Cronenberg is helming this adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play A Dangerous Method.  Hampton also writes the screenplay.  The film looks more vibrant, positive, and less dark than the typical Cronenberg piece.  Viggo looks remarkable and unrecognizable in his role as Freud, seemingly to be playing the confidant role.  Keira Knightley, slowly but surely easing her way into being important again, looks to be a pure fireball in this film, complete with sex and a very accurate Russian accent.  Recently seen as Magneto, Michael Fassbender looks well on his way to a Best Actor nomination for his role as Carl Jung.

It looks a little too romantic for me, but something tells me the flowery score and trailer editing has something to do with that, since I rest assured Cronenberg wouldn't stoop to a star-crossed lovers/European romance sub-genre.  Right?
If I had predictions yet (which I will soon, rest assured!) I'd have this film in just abut every category, based on topic and pedigree.  I expect, coupled with X-Men: First Class for this to be a big year visibility-wise for Fassbender, which is always helpful come awards time.


REVIEW: X-Men: First Class (B+)

(dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2011)

I've always thought adapting the X-Men mythos was a particularly hard undertaking, as proven in spades in the previous four attempts.  Unlike other superhero or comic books heroes, the X-Men aren't just one character and a bunch of villains, but rather a bunch of heroes and a bunch of villains, all of which need to be fleshed out well.  And that hasn't really been done, despite a whole four films trying to do that with Wolverine.

But nevertheless apt director Matthew Vaughn (of Kick-Ass fame) has managed to do it.  And quite successfully I might add.  Aided by a veritable pantheon of screenwriters (Vaughn himself, Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Jane Goldman, Sheldon Turner, and Bryan Singer), a rich and complex tale has emerged.  It's slowly becoming a trend to start the movies much the ways the comic themselves have started, with an origin story.  See: Batman Begins, Iron Man, Thor, etc.  And now the marvelous X-Men: First Class.

We first meet Erik Lehnsherr (played as an adult by best-in-show winner Michael Fassbender) in a Nazi concentration camp (the exact way the original franchise began), where when he's separated from his mother, exhibits his mutant ability.  Eventually his mother is murdered and he tortured by Nazi doc Kevin Bacon (who is simply wonderful as the film's primary villain), and thus Erik is turned into a human-hating mutant hellbent on revenge.  But in a nice way.  Just take my word on that.

Around the same time a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) meets a blue shape-shifter (Jennifer Lawrence) in his kitchen, and the two become good friends.  As the film unfolds, the actual plot (mutants are trying to start the Cuban Missile Crisis, causing a nuclear war, where the mutants will take over!) takes a backseat to a very carefully and astutely crafted story about acceptance and love, forgiveness and being true to yourself.  Ultimately some mutants accept who they are, boldly becoming what will known as the evil Brotherhood of Mutants and the others regroup and become the heroic X-Men.  It's so finely crafted that you feel for the supposed-villains by the end of it all, and we have one of the very first comic book films where the ends to justify the means as far as villains so.

For all the things that needs to click in this movie, the action, the acting, the mythos, the checkmarks, shoveling through backstory, etc. Vaughn makes it all smooth and entertaining.  When Professor X becomes the Professor X we know today, it's a shock even though we know just what we're expecting, but the film has so separated itself from the demands of the comics that when it does happen you forget it was supposed to happen.  It should be said, Lawrence was very good as Mystique, and throughout the entire franchise, that character's arch has been the most engrossing.  I'm pleased to see this film has reinvented and continued her path.

All in all, X-Men: First Class smashes all it's objectives: establishing backstory, developing characters, entertaining, and setting up the X-Men we know and love today.  But most importantly, it has laid the ground work for the central theme that was more or less devoid from the other franchise and was forever omnipresent in the comics and TV series: acceptance.  How is society accepting these freaks?  Am I a freak? Is it easy being blue?  There's even the division between those mutant who can hide their ability and those who are stuck with it out in the open.  Themes of race, gender, and sexuality are all applicable to this film and it's handling it just beautiful.  From an X-Men, this film get a mighty bravo.  GRADE: B+


Warren Beatty Making Heaven Wait

Name that bad pun, readers only!

Okay, so one of Hollywood's most identifiable icons is returning from a quasi- self-imposed retirement.  Warren Beatty, or Mr. Annette Bening, began his career opposite a sexually curious Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass, and, 14 Oscar nominations later his last film was Town & Country.  Beatty is one of a very small group of people to have twice earned four Oscar nominations for the same film.  As Producer, Leading Actor, Director, and screenwriter he was nominated for Heaven Can Wait and Reds, pulling in his only win for directing the latter.  His most famous performances include Dick Tracy, Bonnie and Clyde, Reds, Heaven Can Wait, Bugsy, Bulworth, and notable flops such as Town & Country and Ishtar.

But he's back.  And, staying true to form, Beatty is on board to star, write, produce, and yes, direct the new untitled comedy.  Though I personally have never gone gaga over Beatty, it's nevertheless thrilling to see a legend return to his craft.  Paramount chairman Brad Grey talks it up below:
"Warren's script is quintessential Beatty, elegantly written and wonderfully entertaining," enthused Paramount chairman Brad Grey. "It is our privilege to have one of the great artists in the history of cinema come home to Paramount."


Monday, June 20, 2011

The Muppets Official Trailer hits

After a fake trailer hit a few weeks ago, I'm glad now we finally get a sense of what the movie is going the be like.  Well, sort of.  We're getting the gang back together and hilarity, tenderness, sentimental speeches, and song and dance ensue.  Can Thanksgiving come any sooner?

I love the pun of The Dark Knight in the first few frames.  As the trailer unfolds, we see more and more reasons to look forward to this movie.  Adams looks in top form, and so does Segal actually (not to mention early Oscar Buzz for Kermit's performance...kidding).


Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Boy From Les Miz

"Who am I? Wolverine or 24601?"
Some hit Broadway musicals are adapted to film right away, some wait a couple years, and if you're a Cameron Mackintosh show, you take over two decades to hit the silver screen.

In the aftermath of this years Oscars, where Tom Hooper was crowned best Director for his helming of The King's Speech, news came that he was the favorite to direct the (finally!) adaptation of one of the world's biggest musical: Les Misérables.

News came yesterday that song and dance man Hugh Jackman (who's never graced film with his talents) was in talks to play one of the musical's famous two leading roles: hero Jean Valjean and antagonistic (not villain, but I'll get to that another day) Inspector Javert.  When word broke that  Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World's Paul Bettany had read and sung for Javert, all eyes turned towards Jackman as the cursed tragic hero Valjean.  Initially, I was more on the side of Jackman as Javert...but it seems Hollywood won't allow their leading man to be a bad guy.  Yet, oddly, they want him in what is a brooding man role but also a very paternal one.  Jackman's done the paternal thing before, over a decade ago with X-Men, but his relationship with rogue was just weird if you ask me.

So there we have it.  Our two leading men.  Jackman as Valjean and Bettany as Javert.  I'm thrilled to see how the rest of the cast materializes.  I've always thought Geoffrey Rush would be brilliant as Thénardier, but with him having already played Javert in a film adaptation of Les Miz (not the musical), I doubt to see him back on the streets of Paris.  Who's in your dream cast?


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oscars tweak Best Picture race...again

Well here we go again.  This quiets the haters, and keeps the quality.  Two years ago, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), extended their decades-old Field of Five nominating system.  In lieu of five nominees, we got ten.  Many people (not yours truly) weren't fans of this system, claiming that many were scrapping the bottom of the barrel to nominate 5 more films and that the prestigious nature and exclusivity of the "Five" was all but gone.  I, however, found nothing but merit from it, and because of it Up, Toy Story 3, An Education, The Kids Are All Right, District 9, Winter's Bone, and A Serious Man are Best Picture nominees, many of which, in my opinion, were far superior than the Assumed Five, or the Five that would have made it in with five nominees.

BUT, those days are behind us.  Not totally, but in a big way.  There's no longer 10 nominees.  Sometimes.  And we're back to 5 nominees.  Sometimes.  Basically, based on the percentage of Number One votes from the nominating ballots, we can be looking at anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees depending on how many films snag the coveted percentage.  Many Oscar followers complained that The Ten made precicting the Best Picture nominees devoid of excitement, and now we don't even know how many nominees there are going to be.

I fear, however, that should this year or even the next year bear 5 or even 6 nominees, that that could persuade the AMPAS to go back to their old Just Five ways.  We'll have to see though.  Time shall tell.

The thrilling press release is after the cut.

Monday, June 13, 2011

REVIEW: Midnight in Paris (A-)

(dir. Woody Allen, 2011)

There are many kinds of Woody Allen movies.  There are the good ones and the bad ones.  There are the tough-nosed Manhattan tales and his whimsical fantasies.  His dramas and his comedies.  For a man with such a specific style, he seems to blur such nuanced genres in line with his signature storytelling.  Unfortunately, he hasn't been doing much of that late.

Midnight in Paris is Woody's third European film, following London and Barcelona-based Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.  When Woody experiments with style, sometimes it can be thrilling (Interiors, Manhattan Murder Mystery) and sometimes it can be awful (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Melinda and Melinda) but this fantasy tale so evoked the purity of the Allen form that it was a homerun from the beginning.

Set, obviously, in Paris, this is the story of a successful beat screenwriter (Owen Wilson) trying to fulfill his true potential as a novelist while vacationing with his snotty fiancee (Rachel McAdams, playing the role so well you hate her) and her equally snotty parents.  While there, Wilson falls head over heels for the City of Lights, finding that the purest pleasure from the city isn't material consumption, but rather just seeing the city.  Over and over he states how much wonderful Paris would have been in the 1920s.  It becomes very clear quickly that what McAdams and Wilson have isn't very meaty, which actually prompts Wilson's quest for fulfillment very believable.  One night, while walking the streets of Paris, the midnight clock rings, a 1920s car pulls up and transports him to the world of Paris in the 1920s where he meets artistic icons and one sultry muse.

It's been said that Wilson is the best Allen stand-in since Allen himself, and I tend to agree with that (after having to suffer the indignation of Josh Brolin and the atrocious Larry David), for Wilson understood and exacted the typical nebbish nature of the character Allen has penned.  Though, oddly, this successful Woody Allen film doesn't exactly have a standout performance.  In his career, Allen has been so prolific with writing great roles for actors and specifically actresses.  But in Midnight in Paris, a few bit characters really steal the show.  It's not the apt Wilson, the painfully truthful McAdams, or the perfect Parisian Marion Cottilard.  But rather, it's Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dalí.

I dare anyone not to sit through Brody's sole scene without splitting a side; his ridiculous commitment to the absurdity of Dalí and his obsession with rhinoceroses is just magnificent.  Pill as the country-bumpkin turned booze maven is a delight, chewing her words and making Zelda just as we'd always imagined her.  Stoll, too, deserves some credit for not exactly having as a comedic a role as the aforementioned two, but still delivering a blisteringly true performance as Hemingway.

Overall, Allen's message in the film is a fine, clear one.  It's nice to see an Allen film not as focused on infidelity or sex as his previous films have been, and he's allowed his truly great story to shine.  It's a small, quiet tale told in fantastic measure, yet with such a profound and grounded conclusion.  I can say without hesitation, that this is Allen's best film in nearly 20 years.  Surely come Oscar time, this film will get at least attention for Allen's superb screenplay.  GRADE: A-


Friday, June 10, 2011

2011 Tony Predictions

I'm sorry, what?  This is Sam Watches Movies, not Sam Doesn't Watch Plays But Writes About Them.  But either way, I'm here to predict the Tony Awards for this upcoming Sunday evening.  Granted, while you read, I have not seen any of the shows and only heard the soundtrack to about half the musicals.  But you want to know the funny thing about predicting entertainment awards?  Seeing the performances doesn't even matter.

Overall this is a great year for Broadway.  A strong, and much-needed rebound after the horrid slate of nominees and qualifying shows that opened on the Great White Way.  So many original shows that's aren't jutebox musicals :-)

Here we go.  Comments on the ones which need commentary.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play
Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem ***

(My gut is telling me two-time Directing winner Mantello, but I'm hearing that Rylance is remarkable.  In the end, I think how many awards the AIDS drama takes home will be contingent on whether the love it or respect it.  Mantello is ridiculously close.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play
Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
Frances McDormand, Good People ***
Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice
Vanessa Redgrave, Driving Miss Daisy
Hannah Yelland, Brief Encounter

(My gut, again, is telling me newcomer Arianda is going to win for the Oscar-winning role of Billy Holiday, but I'm not seeing it actually happening.  McDormand is an Oscar champ, she's a working actress that people like, and the star of what is arguably the #2 in the Best Play race.  They may want to throw her a bone here.  Born Yesterday isn't even nominated in Best Revival.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical
Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me If You Can
Josh Gad, The Book of Mormon ***
Joshua Henry, The Scottsboro Boys
Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert

(Bar none, hands down this is hardest race to predict.  When Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe was snubbed, this race became a horse race.  All but Henry have a chance.  Some are staying away from the Mormon men because of a vote-splitting theory, and are claiming it's down to past-winner (and from a show with two Best Actor nominees) Butz and Aussie newcomer Sheldon.  Both, however, are in shows that proved to have a lukewarm reception at the Tonys.  Butz's show is a Best Musical nominee, but curiously without a Book, Director, or Score representation.  Sheldon is in a flashy part, but he and the Costumes are the show's only nominations (in addition, there might be a Didn't We Do This Last Year sentiment with rewarding another drag portrayal.  I'm betting on Gad here, with his scene-stealing just barely besting Rannells' vocal chops.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical
Sutton Foster, Anything Goes ***
Beth Leavel, Baby It's You!
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture

(Some people say Miller, but I'm thinking Foster has it here.  Classic role, good reviews, dancing to drive you wild, and to boot she's one of the most consistent actors on Broadway.  She's due for a second one, I'd imagine.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play
Mackenzie Crook, Jerusalem
Billy Crudup, Arcadia
John Benjamin Hickey, The Normal Heart ***
Arian Moayed, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Yul Vázquez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play
Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart ***
Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves
Judith Light, Lombardi
Joanna Lumley, La Bête
Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat

(Here is where I--and most pundits--think The Normal Heart will show up with a vengeance. Hickey is the last remaining principle actor for the iconic 1998 revival of Cabaret to be Tony-less (aside from the show's half-Oscar-winning directing duo Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall).  Barkin got glowing reviews, and with Falco's show getting mostly and backhandedly panned, I think that'll be enough to make Barkin a Tony winner.)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical
Colman Domingo, The Scottsboro Boys
Adam Godley, Anything Goes
John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying ***
Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys
Rory O'Malley, The Book of Mormon

(The most surprising thing here on nomination morning were the snubs of two Broadway vets returning to the stage.  John Collum for The Scottsboro Boys and Joel Grey for Anything Goes.  With both of those men gone, the race is down to an epic Emmy champ and a newcomer from the hottest show in years.  In the end, I'm wondering if Larroquette's lackluster singing prowess and technically-critical reviews will hamper his chances, giving way for O'Malley to ride the Mormon wagon to the winner's circle.  I just don't know.  Currently, I'm predicting Larroquette.)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical
Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Tammy Blanchard, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Victoria Clark, Sister Act
Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon ***
Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

(Benanti won the Drama Desk and seems to be the only actress on Broadway who's okay flaunting around her sexuality no matter where she goes.  Finally becoming a Tony-winner a mere three years ago, I don't see her winning this time.  Drama Desk voters are not Tony voters; Tony voters vote for things that they could have seen in May and April, when they're catching up on shows that they didn't bother to see the other 11 months of the year.  Benanti's show closed forever ago.  Watch out for the female standout James to accept the Tony Sunday night.)

Best Book of a Musical
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
The Book of Mormon ***
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act

Best Original Score
The Book of Mormon ***
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

(Again, these are pretty much a slam dunk.  Book and Score often go together and when the Best Musical frontrunner is represented in both, it tends to have a good shot.  I'm betting the South Park boys best the final musical collaboration between theatre legends Kander and Ebb.)

Best Direction of a Play
Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, War Horse
Joel Grey & George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart ***
Anna D. Shapiro, The Motherf**ker with the Hat
Daniel Sullivan, The Merchant of Venice

(Nearly Everyone is predicting Elliot and Morris to win for their puppet mastery in War Horse, but I'm betting the voters go for visceral emotional effect over dazzling visual harmony.  Plus Grey and Wolfe are heavy-hitters in the community.  Grey, at over 80 did 8 shows a week and directed a show.  Pretty impressive for someone who hasn't won a Tony since the Johnson administration.)

Best Direction of a Musical
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes
Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon ***
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

(Lock. Srsly).

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Kathleen Marshall, Anything Goes ***
Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon
Susan Stroman, The Scottsboro Boys

(All I read about Anything Goes was the stirring tap dance numbers.  I reckon Marshall has it.  Interestingly enough, though, all four of these Choreographers are not only the directors of their shows this year, but have all worked with Sutton Foster in the past.  Ashford on Thoroughly Modern Millie, Marshall on Anything Goes, Nicholaw on The Drowsy Chaperone, and Stroman on Young Frankenstein. You welcome for that Sunday night Look How Smart I Am tidbit when the category is announced.)

Best Musical
The Book of Mormon ***
Catch Me If You Can
The Scottsboro Boys
Sister Act

Best Play
Good People
The Motherfucker with the Hat
War Horse***

(As with the Best Musical race, the Best Play race is totally devoid of drama.  Both War Horse and Book of Mormon are locks to win the final two awards of the evening.)

Best Revival of a Play
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart ***

Best Revival of a Musical
Anything Goes ***
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

(Oddly, much like the Best Play and Best Musical races, these Revival races are just as secure.  Nothing is beating The Normal Heart or Anything Goes.)

And that's it.  Tell your friends.  This is 100% right, trust me.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Honor of the LSAT

Yesterday, I took what is hopefully the first step in becoming a law student.  The formidable LSAT wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but still pretty rough.  But, in honor of my taking the LSAT, I thought I'd compile a few of my favorite lawyer performances.  Mostly from movies, but a few from TV.  Enjoy and comment.

10. Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird
This would be higher, I think, but it's such an obvious choice.  Peck is remarkable as the stoic father in the adaptation of Harper Lee's novel.  But, as much as I loved his performance in the courtroom scene, his scenes at home with Scout are the highlight of the movie.  So his performance is less lawyer, and more awesome father.

09. Susan Sarandon in The Client
I love lawyer performances that are totally against the law.  That is to say, I'm not quite sure anything Sarandon's character does in The Client is legal nor am I sure she'd have survived the situation without being disbarred.  But in the end, it's not a portrayal of legalities, but rather of love.  And she knocks it out of the park.

08. Maximillian Schell in Judgement at Nuremberg
Schell won an Oscar for his passionate and utterly brilliant performance in Stanley Kramer, as a lawyer who brings up some sticky moral arguments regarding the Nazis and how they were condemned.  The performance is so powerful you begin to question your own opinions.

07. Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde
How fabulous was Reese in this?  Sure she's not really a lawyer at all in the movie, but the point is is that she does lawyerly things, like solve the case at the end of the movie, thereby proving to everyone she's smart enough!  I jump every time she connects the perm to the shower to the murder!  

06. Jim Carrey in Liar Liar
This is still a very surprising performance from Carrey.  Even with his more famous dramatic turns, this was the turning point for him I think.  Yes he did his typical funny thing, but in the middle of that he's dealing with being a total tool and in the process loosing his child.  It's a really sad reality, and the movie forces him to go from scumbag lawyer to good father.

05. Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny
Can anyone tell me anything that's not amazing about this performance?  Pesci is a great actor, but this was really the first time I saw him do comedy.  Sure he did it in Home Alone, but this was a different breed entirely.  His perfect ability to seemingly make up things on the spot is hilarious, and his chemistry with the entire cast specifically Marissa Tomei and Lane Smith is something other actors must covet.  "Two yoots."  Love it.

04. Al Pacino in ...And Justice for All.
What's not to love about Al Pacino?  I've always thought this was the best performance of his career.  His balance of comedy and drama masterful, and his legal mentality is nothing short of spitfire.  His performance demands him to both care about his clients, juggle them with his life, and find a light at the end of the tunnel.  Great performance.  Also gave us the end-all courtroom drama quote, "YOU'RE OUT OF ORDER! THIS WHOLE COURT IS OUT OF ORDER!"

03. James Spader in "Boston Legal" and "The Practice"
Has there ever been a better closing argument delivered than James every episode of "Boston Legal"? I don't think so.  Spader's delishious ability to relish the best words and covey the desperation in defense of his client was most likely the causation of his 3 well-deserved Emmy awards for this character.  Whenever "Boston Legal" tackled major public issues, I dare any audience member watching not to change their stance into whatever Spader was arguing for.  He was brilliant.

02. Richard Gere in Chicago
The definition of a shark.  He's sheer perfection.

01. John Houseman in The Paper Chase
As the law teacher from hell, Houseman won an Oscar for his cold portrayal in the terrifyingly accurate law school movie The Paper Chase.  He's a jerk, he's frigid, and you know he cares about you in the smallest of smallest ways.  I hope I don't have anyone like him.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

5 Best MTV Movie Award Winners

The annual MTV Movie Awards are tonight.  I fondly remember when that used to be an event.  A big fun event for everyone in the MTV generation, something that people would watch and talk about the next day.  Even before my time (cough, the 90s), their winners were of consistent quality.  Then the mid aughts showed up.

I'm not saying that the MTV Movie Awards ever mattered, or that their obvious degridation means anything in the light of day, but it's just unfortunate is all.  People see this, and immediatly assume all the generation is stupid Twilight fans.  This sounds odd, but the small respect the Golden Popcorn once had has all but vanished.

Kill me please
Starting in 1992, the MTV Movie Awards had a nice run of quality and classy winners until about 2004.  In 2004, the ever-dubious and criminally-unfunny Napoleon Dynamite prevailed.  The years to follow vetted Wedding Crashers, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Transformers, and the first two adaptations of Twilight.  Prior to 2004, we had each of the Lord of the Rings film winning Best Movie, Gladiator, The Matrix, There's Something About Mary, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  I mean...what happened?  I mean, two years in a row Kristen Stewart best Oscar's Best Actress, and she looks to do the same this year to Natalie Portman.

Alas.  Here is what I think are their five best Best Movie winners.

01. Pulp Fiction
02. Se7en
03. Gladiator
04. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
05. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

And honestly, I could to a top 10, top 15 even.  I can't get over the shockingly abysmal drop-off in quality.  This year, The Twilight Sage: Eclipse is expected to be named Best Movie over Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Black Swan, and The Social Network.  In a brighter time, I'd say Fincher's film had a chance of winning, but when you have 15 year old girls voting for you ad nauseum, how can you lose?


Friday, June 3, 2011

Marty to Tackle Liz and Dick

Or, rather, according to Deadline New York, Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese is in talks to helm a film about the love affair between the late Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  (Just look above, aren't they the cutest couple?)  No casting has been announced, but the rumor mill is atwitter with possibilities, from Charlize Thereon, Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, and even Megan Fox.  I'm personally hoping Russell Crowe is tapped for Burton.

As you can tell from my background both on this blog and my Twitter, I'm a huge Liz and Dick fan, maybe less of their real life relationships and more of their on screen ones.  Together, when they were acting, it was like watching magic on screen.  The work they put together in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is some of the best ever in a film, and how they play off one another is remarkable.  Aside from Bogey/Bacall and Tracey/Hepburn, this is Hollywood's greatest love story.
If you existed, I'd divorce you! 

But this is said to be about their love affair.  So be it.  I won't be judgemental of this project yet, for this is a tale of Old Hollywood and recently is any director has proven himself perfectly able to tackle Old Hollywood it's The Aviator helmer Scorsese.  This type of tale doesn't need just an apt director, it needs someone who loves movies and not just making them.  Scorsese is such a man.

Who do you think should play Hollywood's most heated couple?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Girl with the Nipple Ring

It seems that director David Fincher, MGM, and super-producer Scott Rudin aren't relying on the worldwide and critical popularity of Stieg Larsson's book series or the original Swedish trilogy to sell The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to American audiences.  First, the leaked Red Band trailer (below) was speckled with teasing nudity and blood, and now the first glimpse of the poster (Tweeted this morning by @GuyLodge and seen larger here) has a very deliberate nipple ring to distract you.

I haven't read these books, but I plan to at least get through the first one before Christmas and this film in released.  The trailer looks utterly awesome.  Fincher brings back his entire team from the Oscar-winning The Social Network, including the editing duo of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth who, judging by the beauty of the trailer, could be a serious contender at the end of the year.  Beyond the technical aspects, which I expect to be happily represented by the respective branches, I'm uncertain as to the Oscar prospects of this film.  Some people are waving the flag of back-to-back nomination for Fincher and even a Lead nomination for Rooney Mara.  Until we get a better sense of the quality (and even if they'll embrace this type of film) I'll remain undecided, but hopeful.

I need to get one my early predictions, too.


Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand in "Rock of Ages"

What did I see while I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter feed today?  Oh just Rock of Ages and Hairspray director Adam Shankman tweet a hilarious picture of Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand (below) on the set of the film adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway rock musical.

I've never seen Rock of Ages live on stage, but I had listened to the soundtrack quite a bit, and from what I can  gather, Baldwin is in a pretty fun role as club owner Dennis Dupree.  Brand plays the comic sidekick of the leading man.  These are both supporting roles, so hopefully the over-the-top nature of Brand's acting and the apparent camp of Baldwin's costume won't be a hindrance.  I love Baldwin and I like Shankman, but I just hope the character doesn't go over the edge.  Can't judge a character too harsh by a cover though.

I liked Shankman's last effort, 2007's Hairspray, because he captured the spirit of the musical in a bottle.  Rock of Ages has a very lively if not heightened spirit, and I have nothing but confidence that Shankman will adapt this musical with as equal panache as he did with the 60s tuner.