The Good Life

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trailer Park

Behold! Some of the newest trailers for some of the most noteworthy upcoming releases.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Okay, the fan in me really wants to be super-excited for this movie, which reunites the fab foursome for yet another couture-filled soiree. But the critic in me sees a lot of problems here: 1. Do we really need another outing with Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda? I'm not gonna pull the age card, but I will say that one movie was a nice enough capper to an iconic series. Dragging out the story may well tarnish its history. 2. Could Carrie's stock narration sound any more desperate? Here's what I heard: "Sorry, we really don't have anything left to say, but please come see our movie anyway." 3. Finally, the most obvious complaint: What's with the desert? As a century of cinema has proven, New York is rich enough for thousands of stories, and it's the cornerstone of "SATC." No need to shuffle the ladies off to the Sahara, where broad comedy will undoubtedly ensue. Also, there's no one more qualified to strut across sand dunes in designer clothes than these girls, but that doesn't mean it doesn't look ridiculous.

Another sequel, and more skepticism for yours truly. Believe me, I adored the first "Iron Man" film, calling it one of the best superhero flicks to ever be churned out of Hollywood. But this follow-up looks to be even more cocky than Tony Stark, the metal-clad millionaire played by Robert Downey Jr. There's potential for a lot of broad humor here as well, as evidenced by jokes that may be too lame for even the great Downey Jr. to sell (in my opinion, "You complete me" is never, ever okay). Mickey Rourke is an exciting addition, but unless his Whiplash has more tricks up his sleave, he doesn't seem to be a very formidable villain. In case you missed her few seconds of screen time, Scarlett Johansson also appears as The Black Cat.

A prestige film stripped of its prestigious, Oscar-qualifying, late-2009 release date, "Creation" spent a long time searching for a U.S. distributor following its premiere at September's Toronto International Film Festival. Apparently, American audiences are especially sensitive to the Charles Darwin biopic's theme of Creationism versus evolution. The movie has since been picked up by Newmarket Films, and will open at the end of January. However good it turns out to be, the unfortunate truth is that its early-in-the-year showing will probably adversely effect its chances in the 2010 awards season. Still, it will no doubt benefit from having two terrific lead actors on board: Paul Bettany as Darwin and Jennifer Connelly, Bettany's real-life wife, as Mrs. Darwin.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Star to Watch


By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Forget Vin Diesel. Forget The Rock. Hollywood's hottest new action star is 33-year-old Australian actor Sam Worthington, who's attached to a string of major blockbusters and shows no signs of slowing down. Once a candidate to fill Pierce Brosnan's shoes in the role of James Bond (a gig that ultimately went to Daniel Craig), Worthington starred opposite Christian Bale in May's "Terminator Salvation," which didn't fare well with critics but performed fairly well in overall box-office. Worthington portrayed a cyborg in the film, the fourth installment in the popular sci-fi franchise.

By far the most crucial moment in Worthington's career came when director James Cameron tapped the gruff-looking former bricklayer to play the lead in "Avatar," Cameron's astonishing sci-fi extravaganza that's become an international phenomenon. In the landmark movie, which stretches the limits of make-believe and special effects technology, Worthington plays Jake Sully, a paraplegic war veteran who signs up for a truly out-of-body experience on a distant moon. In a performance that is both flesh and blood and enhanced via motion-capture methods and computer-generated imagery, Worthington brings a good-old-boy familiarity to the John Smith-like protagonist without sacrificing sophistication. Despite allowing tinges of Aussie to slip into his American accent, he proves himself fully capable of carrying a major film.

He'll get his chance again this March, playing the lead role of Perseus in director Louis Leterrier's remake of the Greek-myth saga "Clash of the Titans." Co-starring Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades, the fantasy flick looks to be an impressive follow-up to "Avatar," which is easily one of the best films of 2009. Also in the works for Worthington is "The Debt," a dramatic thriller about a Nazi war criminal directed by John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love") and co-starring revered thesps Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds. What can't be far behind is an "Avatar" sequel, which has been hinted at by Cameron and is likely all but confirmed given the introductory installment's enormous success.

Sam Worthington discusses "Avatar":

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DVD Spotlight - Dec. 17 - 23

Brief capsules on new DVDs worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Dir. Quentin Tarantino

At long last, Tarantino returns with a vengeance -- or, at least, with a vengeance-fueled, darkly comic head trip of a war movie that reimagines the outcome of WWII with reckless abandon and bold, wild imagination. Experiencing the thrilling bursts of action and brilliant stretches of dialogue in this highly original film is realizing just how much of an asset Tarantino is to the world of cinema. Few movies this year were executed with such assured vision and passion. (Available now.)

Dir. Marc Webb

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel make one of the best screen couples I've ever seen as Tom and Summer, two lovebirds whose relationship is doomed from the start, despite hopeless romantic Tom's firm belief in the contrary. Clever humor mixes with adorable, perfectly pitched whimsy in this irresistible film, a rare rom-com that avoids most of the predictable traps of the genre. The screenplay by young buddies Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber announces two exciting new talents to watch. (Available Dec. 22.)


Dir. Neill Blomkamp

A science fiction film for the ages, "District 9" is an awesome achievement for newcomer Blomkamp, who used the financial support of executive producer Peter Jackson to craft something truly transcendent. Introducing aliens on Earth not as hostile invaders, but as vulnerable refugees, "District 9" works as a fascinating faux documentary, a gripping suspense thriller, an explosive action film and a sharp social commentary. One of the best movies of the year. (Available Dec. 22.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Art House Salad

Catching up with an alternative flick that was recently tossed around in limited release. (I intended to review this film just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, but life -- and turkey -- intervened.)

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Dir. Peter Rodger
Gussi S.A. / Mitropoulos Films
98 min. Not Rated

I suppose a movie about the meaning of God doesn't need to be a sober, introspective therapy session, but it most certainly didn't need to be the pretentious, obtuse, hyperactive mess that is "Oh My God?," British photographer Peter Rodger's globetrotting documentary in which he asks a bunch of random people what they think about the man -- or woman, or whatever -- upstairs.

It's nice that Rodger took the initiative to travel the world with little more than a camera and a question, and he sure did capture some pretty scenery, but did he have to show us every last frame of his footage? The opening of this film is an unbearably lengthy montage of shots that have absolutely no context other than the depiction of people, places and things on God's green Earth and the stinking pride of the director. It's a good warning of what's to come, as "Oh My God?" is basically an aimless string of uninteresting psychobabble and ADD-style editing.

I don't even think "The Bourne Ultimatum" had as many cuts as this movie, which abandons every image for another so quickly and frequently, the topic at hand becomes immaterial and the film becomes almost unwatchable. By comparison, a therapy session would be a godsend, for at least then we'd be able to look in the eyes of an interviewee long enough to process his or her remarks.

Not that the remarks are all that thought-provoking anyway. "Oh My God?" boasts the presence of a handful of famous and non-famous individuals who, like the opening images, apparently have nothing to do with one another aside from living on Earth and appearing in this movie. Seal. Ringo Starr. David Copperfield. Sir Bob Geldof. Hugh Jackman and his "Australia director, Baz Luhrmann (both of whom Rodger fortuitously bumped into while they were on location filming their 2008 epic). Do you care a smidge about these folks' opinions about God, anymore than you would your next-door neighbor's? Me neither. And maybe that's the point, but hell if Rodger communicates it, or any other objective in this insight-free, film student-quality exercise. OMG, did I hate it.

1 star (out of 5)

"Oh My God?" saw a limited release in Philadelphia in November, is now playing in St. Louis and Chicago, and should soon be arriving on DVD. Avoid it.

Trailer Park

Behold! Some of the newest trailers for some of the most noteworthy films in the pipe.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

It would appear that Nicolas Cage's foray into more credible, interesting work -- i.e. his unwound, much-lauded performance in Werner Herzog's "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans -- was very short-lived. This spring, he reunites with his "National Treasure" director, Jon Turtletaub, and producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," a mega-budget Hollywood take on the classic tale of wizard and wizard wannabe. With the whole "Treasure" team on board (as well as actors Jay Baruchel and Alfred Molina), chances are this is going to be some highly conventional fare. Still (and I've said this before only to kick myself later), the effects look fun.


Now, this is the version of Angelina Jolie I like to see. Not the one who screams about losing her son and then lands an undeserved Oscar nomination, but the one who really kicks ass. Action is the arena in which Jolie excels. See: "Wanted," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." "Salt," Jolie's latest pulse-pounder, casts her as a CIA officer who's forced to become a fugitive after accusations fly that she's a spy for the Russians. The role was originally written for a man until Jolie, one of the few female actors who can carry a film, stepped in.


A prestigious cast leads this period film about the final year in the life of famed Russian writer and philosopher Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer). Directed by Michael Hoffman, the movie recently earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Picture. Additional cast members include James McAvoy and Helen Mirren, who's expected to find herself among this year's Best Actress Academy Award nominees. "The Last Station" is playing in very limited release.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Star to Watch


By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Twenty-four-year-old actress Anna Kendrick made her film debut in the 2003 comedy "Camp," which garnered a miniature cult following, but was largely ignored by the populace. She followed that with a role in the 2007 indie "Rocket Science," which, despite nominations from both Sundance and the Independent Spirit Awards (including a Supporting Actress nom for Kendrick), also failed to find a substantial audience.

Things have since changed for this funny and fiery performer, who appears in two of 2009's most talked-about movies: "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" and "Up in the Air," director Jason Reitman's follow-up to his 2007 hit, "Juno."

In "New Moon," Kendrick portrays lovestruck heroine Bella Swan's (Kristen Stewart) outspoken gal pal, Jessica, providing some much-needed comic relief from the silly blockbuster's syrupy melodrama.

In "Up in the Air" (which, in this reviewer's opinion, may just be the best film of the year), Kendrick breaks through as Natalie, the ambitious, yet naive foil to George Clooney's seasoned corporate axe man. Fully personifying a wonderfully written role (which Reitman wrote specifically for her), Kendrick makes Natalie a highly believable hybrid of maturity, responsibility, immaturity and ignorance -- an apt description of an early twentysomething breaking into the business world.

Practically every scene in Reitman's endlessly witty comedy-drama is a joy, but the ones with Kendrick are especially winning. And speaking of winning, awards buzz indicates that Kendrick will likely earn a deserved Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Natalie, presumably pinning her against "Precious" standout Mo'Nique.

Anna Kendrick talks about her role in "Up in the Air":

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]