The Good Life

Thursday, September 30, 2010


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

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

TRUE GRITThe Coen Brothers return with this highly anticipated remake of the 1969 John Wayne Western, based on the novel by Charles Portis. Reuniting the Coens with their "Big Lebowski" star, Jeff Bridges, and featuring supporting performances from Josh Brolin, Matt Damon and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld, "Grit" arrives in December.


A big winner at this year's Toronto Film Festival, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" stars 2009 Oscar nominee Colin Firth as King George VI, who had to overcome a stammer in order to deliver a crucial address. Heralded as a major awards contender, the royalty drama co-stars Geoffrey Rush, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter.


Another baity awards title, "The Fighter" follows in the path of "The Wrestler," with Mark Wahlberg as a professional boxer seeking a comeback. Putting his body through the wringer once again, a frail Christian Bale stars as Wahlberg's character's older brother, while a (finally!) unsweetened Amy Adams appears as the requisite love interest. I'd yawn, but "The Fighter" is helmed by David O. Russell, who's pulled great performances from Wahlberg in "Three Kings" and "I Heart Huckabees."

Friday, September 24, 2010


Brief capsules on new movies worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


After making four films together, director Ridley Scott and his muse, Russell Crowe, reteam to retell the story of Robin Hood in the same epic style that served the pair so well in "Gladiator." Many a critic threw his arms up at "Robin Hood's" lack of adherence to the comfy tale of the merry man we all know and love, but I found this origin story to be a more-than-welcome addition to a long line of tradition-bound pictures. To boot, Scott brings his usual mastery of atmosphere, giving his film a sweep that greatly elevates the adventure and successfully distracts from Crowe's miscasting.


While it's only natural to try to compare the two, whether or not the new "Karate Kid" measures up to the beloved 80s original really doesn't matter at all. The rousing action, graceful storytelling and emotional truth of this unattractive-from-afar remake are more than enough to make it a stand-alone triumph. Throw in a star-making performance from fresh-prince-of-Hollywood Jaden Smith, who meets every demand of a very demanding role, and you've got what emerged as the best surprise of the summer.


I'll admit I haven't seen this controversial shocker, but how can anyone resist checking out something so wildly and outrageously perverse? The gist: A crazy German doctor kidnaps two female American tourists and gives them their just rewards for poking around in a foreign land (a la "Hostel") by making them two-thirds of his human centipede -- a working, living unit comprised of humans surgically fused together via their gastric systems. Grossed out? Me too. Now excuse me while I go find myself a copy. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Star to Watch: RYAN REYNOLDS

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Ryan Reynolds has made a career out of repeatedly playing a wise-ass class clown who just happens to have the body of an Olympian. It all started with 2002's "Van Wilder," a rude college comedy whose titular party boy has been evoked in so many of Reynolds' subsequent films ("Blade: Trinity," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," "Waiting..."). However, newly determined to transcend that persona (and, presumably, to avoid more fowl projects like "Definitely, Maybe" or "The Amityville Horror), Mr. Scarlett Johannson is thinking big...and small.
Reynolds, 33, followed up his surprisingly thoughtful turn in last year's mega-hit "The Proposal" with a small role as a studly superhero in "Paper Man," a little-seen, but well-received, indie. The performance was a precursor to what's undoubtedly the biggest role of Reynolds's career: the lead in next summer's comic-book blockbuster "Green Lantern." (He'll also revive the comic book character he played in "Wolverine" in the spin-off "Deadpool," slated for 2012.)
In the meantime, Reynolds also has his eye on the arthouse, appearing this month in the low-budget Sundance selection "Buried." An experimental piece about a U.S. truck driver who winds up trapped in a coffin in Iraq with only a lighter and a cellphone, the film takes place almost entirely in a single tight space, and will test Reynolds's acting chops like nothing he's done before. If he nails the performance, it will introduce a whole new facet of ability, and may finally allow him to leave Van Wilder in his rearview.
First look at "Buried":

Thursday, September 9, 2010


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

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic

Not to be confused with the 1995 action flick with Cindy Crawford and Billy Baldwin (which just happens to be one of my favorite guilty pleasures), this fact-based thriller about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn -- two actors of just slightly greater reverence. Directed by Doug Liman (who needs a success after "Jumper"), "Game" was vying for the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and is being touted as an Oscar hopeful. The trailer is rather routine stuff, and I don't find Watts nearly as exciting as I did in the early '00s, but the other two times she and Penn teamed up, we got "21 Grams" and "The Assassination of Richard Nixon." Not a bad track record.


From French filmmaker Gaspar Noe comes this trippy, sleeper sensation, which recently played at Philadelphia's Danger After Dark Film Festival. Set in Tokyo and dubbed a "psychedelic melodrama" by the writer/director, the ultra-colorful, experimental-style film also debuted at Cannes, and, as you'll see in the trailer, it's drawing some highly impassioned reactions from major critics. Remarkably appetite-whetting, "Void," which centers on two siblings who vow to never leave each other following the death of their parents, looks like some seriously bold drug-cinema, perhaps the next "Requiem for a Dream."


Bad sign: Shot in 2006, the horror-thriller "Case 39" has been on the shelf for nearly half a decade.
Worse sign: The most press this film is generating is about the on-set coupling of stars Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper.
Hopefully, the Halloween timing will mean good things for "39," the latest from Christian Alvart ("Pandorum"). It concerns a social worker (Zellweger), who adopts an apparently abused girl (Jodelle Ferland), who's actually the one to fear, as demons follow her wherever she goes.
Worst sign: "Case 39" is the 947th movie about a creepy little girl. Did I mention I'm dreading it?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Studio News: Universal Pictures' Fall Slate

Just in time for Halloween, a batch of thrillers await adrenaline-junkie filmgoers, all courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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

Release date: September 17, 2010
Genre: Supernatural thriller
Cast: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O'Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Jacob Vargas
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Screenplay by: Brian Nelson
Story by: M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by: M. Night Shyamalan, Sam Mercer
Executive Producers: Drew Dowdle, Trish Hofmann

Welcome to Universal Pictures' supernatural thriller with M. Night Shyamalan's (The Sixth Sense, Signs) signature touch, Devil. Directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, The Poughkeepsie Tapes) from a screenplay by Brian Nelson (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) and a story by Shyamalan, Devil stars Chris Messina (Julie & Julia), Logan Marshall-Green (Brooklyn's Finest), Geoffrey Arend (500 Days of Summer), Bojana Novakovic (Drag Me to Hell), Jenny O'Hara (Mystic River), Bokeem Woodbine (The Last Sentinel) and Jacob Vargas (Death Race).

In the film, a group of people is trapped in the elevator, and one of them is the devil. Devil is produced by Shyamalan and Sam Mercer (The Sixth Sense) and executive produced by Drew Dowdle (Quarantine) and Trish Hofmann (The Ruins).

Release date: September 17, 2010 (Limited)
Genre: Reality thriller
Cast: Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost
Directed by: Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost
Produced by: Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling, Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Executive Producers: Ryan Kavanaugh, Brett Ratner, Tucker Tooley

In late 2007, filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost sensed a story unfolding as they began to film the life of Ariel's brother, Nev. They had no idea that their project would lead to the most exhilarating and unsettling months of their lives. A reality thriller that is a shocking product of our times, Catfish is a riveting story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

My Soul To Take
Release date: October 29, 2010
Genre: 3-D Suspense thriller
Cast: Max Thieriot, John Magaro, Emily Meade, Nick Lashaway, Denzel Whitaker, Shareeka Epps, Paulina Olszyinski, Raúl Esparza
Written and Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Wes Craven, Iya Labunka, Anthony Katagas

From writer/director Wes Craven comes My Soul to Take, a suspense thriller that warns us evil is working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if you have any chance at beating it, you'll have to fight for your life 25/8. In the sleepy town of Riverton, legend tells of a serial killer who swore he would return to murder the seven children born the night he died. Now, 16 years later, people are disappearing again. Has the psychopath been reincarnated as one of the seven teens, or did he survive the night he was left for dead? Only one of the kids knows the answer.

Adam "Bug" Heller (Max Thieriot) was supposed to die on the bloody night his father went insane. Unaware of his dad's terrifying crimes, he has been plagued by nightmares since he was a baby. But if Bug hopes to save his friends from the monster that's returned, he must face an evil that won't rest...until it finishes the job it began the day he was born.

Release date: November 12, 2010
Director: Greg Strause, Colin Strause
Screenwriter: Joshua Cordes, Liam O'Donnell
Starring: Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel

After a late night party, a group of friends are awoken in the dead of the night by an eerie light beaming through the window. Like moths to a flame, the light source is drawing people outside before they suddenly vanish into the air. They soon discover an other-worldly force is swallowing the entire human population off the face of the earth. Now our band of survivors must fight for their lives as the world unravels around them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Brief capsules on new movies worth renting.

By R. Kurt Osenlund, The Good Life film critic


Based on the popular SNL skit, "MacGruber" is the kind of stupid, bad-taste comedy that every ounce of my being tells me not to like. But, dammit, it's one funny retro-raunch adventure, positioning the hapless MacGyver doppelganger (played, hilariously, by character-originator Will Forte) as a mullet-and-tape-deck era Austin Powers. Kristen Wiig is his Farrah-Fawcett-coiffed squeeze, Ryan Phillipe is his strait-laced sidekick, and Val Kilmer is his slithery nemesis, Dieter Von Cunth. (Available Sept. 7)


If Michael Douglas is as good as expected in the upcoming "Wall Street" sequel, he'll have logged two stellar performances in 2010. In "Solitary Man," the ailing actor is slick and superb as Ben, a self-destructive ex-car salesman whose adherence to his wild past is shattering his now-gloomy present. A sort of latter-day reconfiguring of "Death of a Salesman," the film co-stars Susan Sarandon, Jenna Fischer, Danny DeVito, Jesse Eisenberg, Mary Louise Parker and Imogen Poots. (Available Sept. 7)


Like "MacGruber," "Letters to Juliet" is a movie that, upon first glance, sends the red flags flying. A schmaltzy, formulaic romance, right? Correctamundo. But there are pleasantries aplenty to distract from this film's unlovely tale of young love, such as the sunny vistas of Italy, the ever-blossoming chops of Amanda Seyfried, and a luminous supporting performance from the great Vanessa Redgrave. Playing opposite each other exquisitely (as the American girl who travels to Verona, and the aged letter-writer who must track down a long-lost Romeo), Seyfried and Redgrave share the spotlight as two screen queens at opposite ends of their careers. (Available Sept. 14)

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