The Good Life

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Star to Watch: EMMA STONE

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Since making her spot-on debut as a well-behaved party girl in 2007's smash-hit comedy "Superbad," actress Emma Stone has continued to show both promise and presence, flaunting her comedic skills and red-headed-girl-next-door looks in flicks like "The House Bunny" and "Zombieland." The 21-year-old also appeared in last year's indie comedy "Paper Man" alongside Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Daniels, and lent her voice to this year's "Marmaduke."

Next month, Stone will tackle her first leading role in "Easy A," a high school comedy that's already being compared to "Mean Girls" and "The Breakfast Club." In the film, Stone portrays Olive, a not-so-popular chick who gets more adolescent fame than she bargained for when she pretends to sleep with guys to help their reputations. Written by Bert V. Royal and directed by Will Gluck ("Fired Up!"), "Easy A" pits Stone with an enviable mix of co-stars, including Penn Badgeley, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Cam Gigandet and Stanley Tucci.

Already named by magazines like Vanity Fair as one of Hollywood's hottest rising female stars, the husky-voiced, crimson-haired Stone has the career prospects once boasted by look-alike Lindsay Lohan. Let's hope the only substance she strives for is in her work.

"Easy A" trailer:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The latest trailers for some of the most noteworthy upcoming flicks.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

One of the best trailers of the year has arrived, hopefully advertising one of the year's best movies. The lovely, ever-ripening Natalie Portman (and I mean ripe in an artistic sense, of course) stars alongside Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Barbara Hershey in this dark and creepy ballerina fantasy from Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler," "Requiem for a Dream"). Looks to be plenty of room for chilling drama, and great promise for a best-ever perf. from Portman. Keep an eye out for the last shot -- it's a killer.

Oh, puh-leeeaze. "Burlesque," the latest chase-your-dreams fairy tale about a wide-eyed girl ready to make it in the big city, looks as gum-on-your-shoe disposable as a Top 40 pop song. It's no wonder they nabbed Christina Aguilera and Cher to tackle the lead roles. That said, I'm eagerly looking forward to the glittery drama, which is worth seeing if only to find out if Aguilera can hold the screen and handle a monologue. Stanley Tucci is the co-star, which certainly doesn't hurt.

By the exceptionally average looks of this movie (a romantic comedy about a ladykilling pharmaceutical rep who starts pushing a hot new drug called Viagra), I don't quite understand the considerable Oscar buzz surrounding it. I know it has Oscar-friendly names attached like Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway and director Edward Zwick, but everything from the slow ease into tough emotions to the wiseass, ugly, advice-giving sidekick looks as if it could have sprung from any other rom com...from any time...of any year. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Studio News: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara cast in 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'

The blonde James Bond and the relatively unknown starlet have been officially cast in the American film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's blockbuster book trilogy.
Compiled by R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara have been cast in the lead roles of Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy under the direction of David Fincher.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – the first film of the series, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – begins shooting next month in Sweden. The screenplay is written by Steve Zaillian and the film is being produced by Scott Rudin, Cean Chaffin, Ole Sondberg and Søren Stærmose. Mikael Wallen and Anni Fernandez are executive producers. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set for worldwide release December 21, 2011.

The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been published in 44 countries and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide thus far. In the U.S. alone, the series has sold over 10 million copies, and the sales were recently calculated at the remarkable rate of one book per second. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has broken sales records in virtually every country in which it has been published. It has sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. and has out-sold any other e-book in that rapidly expanding market.

A literary phenomenon, all three books currently sit atop the New York Times Best Seller lists. In describing the scale of Larsson’s achievement, The Economist said: “Stieg Larsson’s vivid characters, the depth of the detail across the three books, the powerfully imaginative plot, and the sheer verve of the writing make the trilogy a masterpiece of its genre.” Michiko Kakutani, of The New York Times, described the Lisbeth character: “Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s fierce pixie of a heroine, is one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while – a gamin, Audrey Hepburn look-alike but with tattoos and piercings, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Lara Croft and the cool, unsentimental intellect of Mr. Spock. She is the vulnerable victim turned vigilante; a willfully antisocial girl . . . who has proved herself to be as incandescently proficient as any video game warrior.” The three novels have all become #1 worldwide bestsellers, an achievement unrivaled in trade book publishing.

DAVID FINCHER most recently directed this fall’s much-anticipated The Social Network for Columbia Pictures, which opens in the U.S. on October 1. DANIEL CRAIG recently starred in the two highest-grossing films in the James Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. His earlier film roles include Munich, Enduring Love, Layer Cake, The Mother, Road to Perdition, and Some Voices. He has also recently completed filming on Jim Sheridan’s Dream House, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, and Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens. ROONEY MARA will appear this fall in David Fincher’s The Social Network.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Studio News: Walt Disney Studios announces fall slate

Looking ahead to the major films to come this fall and early winter from Disney.

Compiled by R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Release Date: September 24, 2010
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Odette Yustman, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber and Betty White.
Director: Andy Fickman

Successful PR pro Marni (Kristen Bell) heads home for her older brother’s (Jimmy Wolk) wedding and discovers that he’s marrying her high school arch nemesis (Odette Yustman), who’s conveniently forgotten their problematic past. Then the bride’s jet-setting aunt (Sigourney Weaver) bursts in and Marni’s not-so-jet-setting mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) comes face to face with her own high school rival. The claws come out and old wounds are opened in this crazy comedy that proves that not all rivalries are forever.

Kristen Bell reteams with Director Andy Fickman—they previously worked together in New York in theater and later on the cult film and Emmy Award®-winning “Reefer Madness,” which premiered at Sundance, debuted on Showtime and won the Deauville Film Festival’s Audience Jury Award. Film veterans Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween” 1978) and Sigourney Weaver (“Alien” 1979) got their breakout movie roles within six months of each other. They have never worked together until now. Producer John J. Strauss penned the hit comedy “Something About Mary.”
Kristin Chenoweth recently won her first Emmy Award® for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy (“Pushing Daisies”).

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Release Date: October 8, 2010
Cast: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, James Cromwell, Kevin Connolly, Nelsan Ellis, Dylan Baker, Margo Martindale, Otto Thorwarth, Fred Thompson, AJ Michalka and Scott Glenn Director: Director: Randall Wallace

Based on the remarkable true story, “Secretariat” chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge. Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.

In 1973, Secretariat became the first U.S. Triple Crown champion in 25 years, setting race records that still stand today in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.
Penny Chenery, now 87, is an integral resource in the making of the film. She also appears as an extra in one of the film’s scenes. In 1973, Secretariat graced the covers of three magazines the same week: Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated. Director Randall Wallace, whose directorial credits include “We Were Soldiers,” is the Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-nominated screenwriter of “Braveheart.” In 1999, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a 33-cent postage stamp with Secretariat’s image.

Genre: Animation
Release Date: November 24, 2010
Voice Cast: Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman, M.C. Gainey, Jeffrey Tambor, Brad Garrett, Paul F. Tompkins

Walt Disney Pictures presents “Tangled,” one of the most hilarious, hair-raising tales ever told. When the kingdom’s most wanted—and most charming—bandit Flynn Rider (voice of Zachary Levi) hides out in a mysterious tower, he’s taken hostage by Rapunzel (voice of Mandy Moore), a beautiful and feisty tower-bound teen with 70 feet of magical, golden hair. Flynn’s curious captor, who’s looking for her ticket out of the tower where she’s been locked away for years, strikes a deal with the handsome thief and the unlikely duo sets off on an action-packed escapade, complete with a super-cop horse, an over-protective chameleon and a gruff gang of pub thugs. In theaters this holiday season in Disney Digital 3D™, “Tangled” is a story of adventure, heart, humor and hair—lots of hair.

“Tangled” marks Walt Disney Pictures’ 50th full-length animated feature.
Byron Howard directed Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Bolt,” the 2008 animated comedy adventure that grossed more than $300 million worldwide and earned two Golden Globe® nominations (Best Animated Film and Best Original Song), and an Oscar® nomination for Best Animated Feature. Nathan Greno, a 14-year Disney animation veteran, served as head of story on “Bolt,” and has animation and/or story credits on such other animated features as “Mulan,” “Brother Bear,” and “Meet the Robinsons.” “Tangled” features new songs and a score by eight-time Oscar®-winning composer/songwriter Alan Menken “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” “Pocahontas,” and, most recently, “Enchanted.” Lyrics are by Glenn Slater, a 2008 Tony® and Grammy® nominee for his work on “The Little Mermaid.”

Release Date: December 17, 2010
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, James Frain, Beau Garrett and Michael Sheen

“TRON: Legacy” is a 3D high-tech adventure set in a digital world that’s unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world’s leading video-game developer. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn’s Arcade—a signal that could only come from his father—he finds himself pulled into a digital world where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-or-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe—a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape. Presented in Disney Digital 3D™ and scored by Grammy Award®-winning electronic music duo Daft Punk, “TRON: Legacy” hits U.S. theaters on Dec. 17, 2010 in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D.

Producer Steve Lisberger co-wrote and directed the original “TRON” (1982).
Jeff Bridges, winner of both the Oscar® and Golden Globe® for his role in “Crazy Heart,” reprises the role of Kevin Flynn, which he originated in “TRON” (1982). Bruce Boxleitner reprises the roles of Alan Bradley and Tron, which he originated in “TRON” (1982). Grammy Award®-winning Daft Punk is composing the music for “TRON: Legacy.” “TRON: Legacy” truly embraces today’s available technology. Among other firsts, it is the first 3D movie to integrate a fully digital head and body based upon an existing actor, creating the younger version of Jeff Bridges' character; it’s the first movie to make extensive use self-illuminated costumes; it’s the first movie to create molded costumes using digital sculpture exclusively, creating molds directly from computer files using CNC (Computer Numerical Cutting) technology; it’s the first 3D movie shot with 35mm lenses and full-35mm chip cameras; and it’s the first movie to record uncompressed HD Video to Hard Drive.

Release Date: December 17, 2010 (expansion)
Cast: Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw, Reeve Carney, Felicity Jones, Tom Conti
Director: Julie Taymor

In her big-screen adaptation of Shakespeare's mystical thriller “The Tempest,” Academy Award®–nominated Julie Taymor (“Across the Universe,” “Frida,” “Titus”) brings an original dynamic to the story by changing the gender of the sorcerer Prospero into the sorceress Prospera, portrayed by Oscar® winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen”). Prospera’s journey spirals through vengeance to forgiveness as she reigns over a magical island, cares for her young daughter, Miranda, and unleashes her powers against shipwrecked enemies in this exciting, masterly mix of romance, tragicomedy and the supernatural.

Notes: Julie Taymor is an Academy Award®–nominated and Tony Award®–winning director. She won Tony Awards for Best Director and Costume Design for the Broadway version of “The Lion King.” “The Tempest” is Julie Taymor’s second big-screen Shakespeare film adaptation. “Titus Andronicus” was her first, which became her 1999 film “Titus,” starring Anthony Hopkins. Academy Award®–winner Helen Mirren is no stranger to Shakespearean film adaptations, having starred in many for both film and television, but, thanks to Julie Taymor’s vision, this is the first time Mirren will play a lead character whose gender was changed from the original play, allowing her to define the classic role from a whole new perspective.
2010 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

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Release Date: December 29, 2010
Cast: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Jesper Christensen, Marton Csokas, with Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson
Director: John Madden

Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington star in “The Debt,” the powerful story of Rachel Singer, a former Mossad agent who endeavored to capture and bring to trial a notorious Nazi war criminal—the Surgeon of Birkenau—in a secret Israeli mission that ended with his death on the streets of East Berlin. Now, 30 years later, a man claiming to be the doctor has surfaced, and Rachel must go back to Eastern Europe to uncover the truth. Overwhelmed by haunting memories of her younger self and her two fellow agents, the still-celebrated heroine must relive the trauma of those events and confront the debt she has incurred.

“The Debt” is based on the 2007 Israeli film “Ha-Hov”. Actress Helen Mirren has received four Academy Award® nominations, winning the Oscar® for her performance in the 2006 film “The Queen.” For the same role, Mirren also won a Golden Globe®, BAFTA, Critic’s Choice Award and Screen Actors Guild Award®. Actor Sam Worthington portrays one of the agents at the time of the mission. Worthington’s recent credits include “Clash of the Titans” and “Avatar.”
Director John Madden’s credits include the Oscar®-winning “Shakespeare in Love,” as well as “Proof” and “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Home Video Spotlight: A PROPHET, DATE NIGHT and KICK-ASS

Brief capsules on new movies worth renting, NetFlixing or illegally downloading (though we don't condone the latter).

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


In this brilliant, sprawling, unflinching 2009 Oscar nominee*, rising star Tahar Rahim plays a French teen who winds up in maximum security prison, only to climb the ranks as a gangster after serving the mob from behind bars. The patient development of Rahim's forced-into-it aspiring thug is some of the finest characterization you'll see this year. And, in general, "A Prophet" is one of the year's best. (Now available)

*Best Foreign Language Film


Steve Carrell and Tina Fey make a perfect team as a suburban couple in big-city trouble in "Date Night," an amusing action comedy that isn't short on laughs, but works best as a tender valentine to commitment and long-term relationships. Mark Wahlberg, Mos Def, James Franco, Mila Kunis and Taraji Henson co-star, and the movie gets a lot of giggle mileage out of the lead duo's cute in-jokes and domestic ignorance.

If you're bothered by pre-teen girls who dismember people (or by profane titles, for that matter), then the unapologetic comic-book movie "Kick-Ass" probably isn't for you. And, coolness be damned, shield your young ones from it. But if you're down for a colorful, caution-to-the-wind, exceedingly well-made good time, saddle up with this rare superior superhero film. It's a bloody blast for those who can handle it.

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