The Good Life

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Star to Watch: JADEN SMITH

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Even when they're quite good, I'm not often one to heavily applaud child actors. People always want to lavish praise on little tikes who share the screen with big stars, as if the fact that they even remembered their lines makes them Hollywood savants.

My favorite overrated kid performance to complain about is Jaden Smith's in "The Pursuit of Happyness," the fact-based 2006 drama that earned Jaden's on- and off-screen dad, Will, an Oscar nomination. Some felt Jaden deserved a Supporting nod. Others, like myself, felt that to sheer insanity. I mean, the kid played dress-up with his daddy. How hard could it have been?

I don't think I'll be telling that story again. If "The Karate Kid" is any indication, Jaden is going to be a major star just like his papa, continuing to hone his craft and put naysayers like me in their places. The lead role of this surprisingly superb remake is physically, emotionally and technically demanding, and Jaden ably carries the film on his 11-year-old shoulders. He's got natural charisma and real presence and an instinct for performance that goes beyond the typical overrated youngster turn. I guess it just took his dad getting out the way for me to see it.

What's more, Jaden is poised to repeat his dad's entertainment double-dipping, pairing what looks like a budding music career with his acting gig. For the "Karate Kid" soundtrack, Jaden lent some solid raps to the track "Never Say Never" by the inescapable Justin Bieber (you know you have the fever, too). Whether he makes his next project an album or a blockbuster, this little dude seems destined for success...and happyness.

Video for "Never Say Never," by Justin Bieber featuring Jaden Smith:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Home Video Spotlight: June 17 - 24

Brief capsules on new movies worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


Leonardo DiCaprio gets in front of the camera once again for director Martin Scorsese, who turns this typically twisty thriller into a creepy work of art. Beautiful to watch and fun to follow, "Shutter Island" boasts an incredible supporting cast, with terrific turns from Michelle Williams, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow and the great Patricia Clarkson. (Available now)


Esteemed thesps Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer both received Oscar nominations for their work in this classy account of the tumultuous final years in the life of Leo Tolstoy. Directed by Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station" is both dramatic and humorous, with supporting performances from James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti and Kerry Condon. (Available June 22


Four guys (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke) attempt a fun weekend at a run-down mountaintop hot spot, only to wind up back in the 1980s. Shrewdly written and assuredly directed by Steve Pink, "Hot Tub" is a blast of a high-concept comedy, with plenty of retro style and LOL moments. Look for cameos from 80s icons like Crispin Clover, Chevy Chase and the blonde bully from "The Karate Kid." (Available June 29)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Behold! The latest trailers for some of the most noteworthy films in the pipe.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Filmmakers Jay and Mark Duplass, the guys behind the indie darling "The Puffy Chair," return with a comedy about a middle-aged, Below-Average Joe (John C. Reilly) who catches the eye of a pretty woman (Marisa Tomei), but soon locks horns with her grown son (Jonah Hill).

Turn-ons: The cast. Of Reilly, Tomei, Hill and Catherine Keener (playing Reilly's character's ex-wife), Hill is the only one who isn't a deserved Oscar nominee (or, in Tomei's case, winner). It's a nice foursome to toss into an adult comedy; however, little about this film looks "adult" beyond its premise.
Turn-offs: Simply because a movie has independent roots (the Duplass boys are Sundance faves, and Cyrus was selected for this year's fest) doesn't mean it's anything special. Watching this trailer, I see little difference between "Cyrus" and the latest dumb Hollywood comedy.

Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star as lovers who were never meant to be in this adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story. Damon stars as a politician who learns his every move is being controlled, and getting cozy with Blunt's character isn't part of the master plan.

Turn-ons: Philip K. Dick adaptations are notoriously hit or miss. Sometimes, you get "Blade Runner." Other times, you get "Paycheck." This looks to be one of the better of the bunch, with a classy noir look and two appealing lead stars.
Turn-offs: A forbidden romance between two strangers doesn't sound very high-stakes to me, and I doubt there'll be much time to develop the love with all the cloak-and-dagger explaining to do.

Rachel McAdams stars as a desperate career girl who takes a low-paying gig as the producer of a morning show. Trouble and comedy ensue when she hooks up with a co-worker (Patrick Wilson) and brings in an industry vet (Harrison Ford) to co-host with a woman he detests (Diane Keaton).

Turn-ons: Now, this is what I'm talking about. Like 2007's "The TV Set," "Morning Glory" looks to be a wickedly funny broadcasting satire. The pairing of Keaton and Ford is very comedically promising, and lest we forget one of McAdams's breakout roles was in the highly hilarious "Mean Girls."
Turn-offs: The end of the trailer suggests things might turn safe and cuddly, a problem that plagued another recent satire, "The Joneses." Here's hoping the film will skewer the biz, not stoop to become one of its dime-a-dozen products.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

She hasn't exactly starred in the year's best films, but 24-year-old English actress Gemma Arterton has certainly broadened her rep as a bona fide screen siren since her appearance as a Bond girl in 2008's "Quantum of Solace." Born in Kent and trained at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Arterton recently brought her enchanting presence to the fantasy flicks "Clash of the Titans" and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," making her 2010's go-to gal for swords-and-sandals swashbucklers.

I griped that Arterton's roles in the two films were too similar (which they are), and every actor should strive to avoid typecasting. But there's no denying this brunette beauty's suitability for the fantasy genre, her gorgeous voice designed for mystical narration and her exotic looks just begging to be complimented by flowy period garb.

Arterton's work in "Clash" is more indicative of her talents than her performance in "Prince of Persia," partly because the stakes are higher in "Clash" and it is, however slightly, a better film than Disney's artificial video game adaptation. In both, Arterton portrays the hunky hero's crush/confidant who is instrumental in his triumph given her magical link to the gods.

Next up, Arterton plays the lead in "Tamara Drewe," a drama that premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and is directed by Academy Award nominee Stephen Frears ("The Queen"). The film is an adaptation of a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, which itself is an update of the 1874 novel "Far From the Maddening Crowd" by Thomas Hardy. Incidentally, Arterton's breakthrough role was in the BBC miniseries "Tess of the D'Urbervilles," also adapted from a Hardy book.

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