Friday, November 30, 2007

Kevin Lima's "Enchanted"



Kevin Lima's "Enchanted" is such an obvious, surefire idea for Disney - fairy-tale princess Giselle is catapulted to a place where there are no nappy endings namely, New York - that you have to wonder why it took so long for the studio to put the idea into production. Part animation but mostly live-action, and also something of a musical, Lima's movie pokes good-natured fun at all the usual Disney clichés, including its on-going princess obsession and its tendency to downplay or eliminate mothers or, as it does here, portray them as something toxic. The result is a movie that's a pleasure in performance, that grows in retrospect and that, without any exaggeration, is sneakily sophisticated and subversive without calling attention to itself. Still, the film is unimaginable without Amy Adams who, as Giselle, breaks through here with the same excitement that accompanied Julie Andrews and Daryl Hannah in Disney films from the past ("Mary Poppins" and "Splash!," respectively, of course). When Adams comes dancing up a Central Park mound in the big Alan Menken-Stephen Schwartz production number, "That's How You Know," it's an iconic Julie Andrews moment and her star quality is cemented. She's worthy of an Oscar - that's if the Academy voters can restrain their shared weakness for the pretentious that overtakes them this time of year. Cate Blanchett as Dylan may be more obvious Oscar bait, but years from now, her turn is likely to seem like a dated acting stunt. But Adams' performance in "Enchanted" has the contours of something that will truly last.

(Artwork: Amy Adams glows in Disney's "Enchanted")

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Monday, November 26, 2007

The "Sweeney Todd" Soundtrack(s)


Nonesuch Records will release two versions of the soundtrack from Tim Burton's film version of "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" on December 18th, three days prior to the film's eagerly awaited premiere on December 21st. There will be a
"deluxe" soundtrack, replete with an 80-page bound booklet with photographs and the song's lyrics, and a "highlights" version which will have three fewer tracks.

"Sweeney Todd" is, of course, the landmark Stephen Sondheim stage musical that has taken nearly 30 years to make it to the big screen, even though the material in queston is inherently bigger-than-life and wildly cinematic.

The film reportedly runs 117 minutes and there are 20 tracks/songs on the "deluxe" soundtrack:

"Opening Sequence"

"No Place Like London" (incorporating "The Barber and His Wife"), performed by Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, Jamie Campbell Bower as Anthony Hope and Laura Michelle Kelly as the beggar woman

"The Worst Pies in London," performed by Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett

"Poor Thing" (incorporating "The Barber and His Wife"), performed by Bonham Carter

"My Friends," performed by Depp and Bonham Carter

"Green Finch and Linnet Bird," performed by Jayne Wisener as Johanna

"Alms, Alms," performed by Kelly

"Johanna" (Anthony Hope's version), performed by Campbell Bower

"Pirelli's Miracle Elixir," performed by Edward Sanders as Tobias Ragg

"The Contest," performed by Sacha Baron Cohen as Signor Adolfo Pirelli

"Wait," performed by Bonham Carter

"Ladies and Their Sensitivities," performed by Timothy Spall as Beadle Bamford

"Pretty Women," performed by Depp and Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin

"Epiphany," performed by Depp

"A Little Priest," performed by Depp and Bonham Carter

"God, That's Good!," performed by Depp, Bonham Carter and Sanders

"Johanna" (Todd's version), performed by Depp, Campbell Bower and Kelly

"By the Sea," performed by Bonham Carter

"Not While I'm Around," Performed by Sanders and Bonham Carter

"Final Sequence," performed by Depp, Bonham Carter, Rickman and Kelly

The "highlights" disc does not include the "Opening Sequence," "Ladies and Their Sensitivities" and "Final Sequence."

Burton has been amazingly faithful to Sondheim's epic score. He has been quoted as saying that his film consists of 75% singing. Sounds good. The cut songs include the framing "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" (which is in John Logan's script but not filmed), "Ah, Miss," "Kiss Me," "Wigmaker Sequence," "The Letter" and "Parlour Songs."

(A third version of "Johanna" - yes, Sondheim wrote three separate songs titled "Johanna" - that was sung by the character Judge Turpin when the show when it originally opened, was eventually cut and has had the tendency to come and go from the various productions of "Todd" that I've seen over the years.)

The "deluxe" soundtrack from Nonesuch has experienced a checkered history during the past few weeks. It started out as a two-disc set. It's flipflopped several times between being listed as two discs and one disc on Amazon.com. It is being released on one disc.

It seems odd to also release a "highlights" version if the film's complete score fits on one disc. The main difference between the two soundtracks seems to be only the aforementioned booklet enclosed in the "deluxe" edition.

I'm guessing but perhaps at one time Nonesuch intended to include incidental music and maybe even outtakes on the "deluxe" soundtrack, which would have been a great idea. Who knows?

That said, I can't wait.

(Artwork: The dustjacket for the upcoming "Sweeney Todd" soundtrack; Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the "A Little Priest" number; Depp and Alan Rickman singing "Pretty Women"; Depp's big soliloquy, "Epiphany," and Ed Sanders sings to Sacha Baron Cohen about "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir")

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There"


Todd Haynes' Dylan-driven "I'm Not There" reinvents the Hollywood biopic, turning it inside-out and on its head with such dexterity, that only a nostalgic sentimentalist would still be able to get excited over "Ray," "I Walk the Line" and their ilk. Haynes essentially pulls the beloved genre kicking and screaming out of the 1950s and into the new millenium. Actually, Haynes plays with a lot of genres here, as well as chronology, as he charts Bob Dylan's journey as an artist, his influence on the pop/folk music scene and, in turn, the various influences on him. Much has been made about the fact that Haynes uses multiple actors to play the various sides of Dylan (nothing new as Todd Solandz did the exact same thing in "Palindromes" just a few years ago) and that a woman, Cate Blanchett, plays one of Dylan's sides. Blanchett is good here, but isn't she always? No, the real stand out in "I'm Not There" is the prescient kid actor Marcus Carl Franklin who essentially plays Dylan as a child Woody Guthrie.

(Artwork: The poster for Todd Haynes' Dylan biopic, "I'm Not There")

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Noah Baumbach's "Margot at the Wedding"



Noah Baumbach is the new Alan Rudolph and, in his bracing new film, he lovingly uses Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh the way Rudolph once showcased Genevieve Bujold, Geraldine Chaplin and Lesley Ann Warren. "Margot at the Wedding" is another American film with a French-film fixation (again, not unlike Rudolph's stuff). The difference is that this one's good, very good, largely because Baumbach is such an astute observer of human conditions but also because Jason Leigh and particularly Kidman are on the same wavelength. Kidman plays a toxic narcissist who visits her sister (Jason Leigh) on the pretext of attending the sister's wedding while she's really there to have some quick sex with a creep who lives nearby. In his brief film career, Baumbach has nailed high-maintenance people with such accuracy that one has to wonder just how high maintenance he is. Nevertheless, it's a gift that I appreciate and, in Kidman, he has a willing accomplice unafraid of the unflinching, recognizable honesty here. She's awesome.

(Artwork: Kidman and Jason Leigh in a rare moment of levity in "Margot at the Wedding")

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales"



Definitely an acquired taste, "Southland Tales" is director Richard Kelly's rude, confrontational political black comedy about a very messed-up, dystrophian America - a film with the vigor and incorrigible quality of a work-in-progress. It seems to be evolving - morphing - before our eyes as it thinks out loud about the weird combo of vulgar celebrity culture and hypocritical conservatism that currrently grips this country. "Southland Tales" carries on like a crazy cabbie, flailing, sprawling, all over the place, sometimes brilliantly so. Freely borrowing the pop style of Altman's "Brewster McCloud" (1970) and the impassioned social conscience of Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate"(1962), Kelly unleashes an urgent, in-your-face, often hilarious fable that dares you not to agree with it or even like it. Not surprisingly, some people don't.

Not me.

(Artwork: Richard Kelly, director of "Southland Tales")

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Craig Gillespie's "Lars and the Real Girl"



Craig Gillespie's companionable "Lars and the Read Girl" (based on a socko original script by Nancy Oliver) plays like the lost third side of a Bud Cort trilogy from the 1970s. It could have been a follow-up by Cort to his turns in "Brewster McCloud" and "Harold and Maude," and one day, if there are still resouceful movie bookers around, may make a terrific triple bill with those films. As the title implies, Gillespie's film is an oddball romance about a pathetic half-person named Lars who engages in an affair with a sex doll with such innocence and dignity that he moves the people in his little town to play along. Bianca, as the doll is called, may be inanimate but the remarkable Ryan Gosling invests Lars with enough tics and bits of acting business to fill two performances - two quiet, introspective performances, that it. Almost as good are Paul Schneider as Lars' concerned brother, Gus; Emily Mortimer, like a deglamorized Audrey Hepburn here, as Gus' empathetic wife, and Patricia Clarkson as the town doctor who analyzes Lars without his even knowing it. A nice movie.

(Artwork: The scarily talented Ryan Gosling as the socially crippled Lars Lindstrom)

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com

Thursday, November 01, 2007

turner this month - bravo!

Note: This is a regular monthly feature, highlighting, well, the highlights on Turner Classics' schedule. Why? Simple. Because Turner Classics remains a veritible college education in film.

This month, Turner turns over a bulk of its programming to celebrities who pick their very favorite titles from Turner's vast film library. But in addition to the likes of Alec Baldwin, Cybill Shepherd, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump and Whoopi Goldberg, there is Paul Aguirre, a film fan who won among the 350 submissions to be a guest programmer.

Small world: I know Paul. In fact, I voted for him. I thought of vying myself for the slot, if only to meet Robert Osborne, who remains TV's best host, hands-down.

Anyway, Paul's selections, to be aired on Thanksgiving night, include Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1952), Richard Fleischer's "The Happy Time" (1952), King Vidor's "The Crowd" (1928) and William A. Wellman's "Westward the Women" (1951).

Here's how the rest of the month goes:

Nov. 3: Lee Marvin in John Boorman's “Point Blank” and Alec Guinness, Noel Coward, Ernie Kovacs, Burl Ives and Maureen O'Hara, a gloriously eclectic cast, in Sir Carol Reed's “Our Man in Havana.” Also, GWTW.

Nov. 4: Strong line-up - Welles' “Citizen Kane” and "The Magnificent Ambersons” and Hitchcock's “Rebecca.”

Nov. 5: “The Whistler” and “The Power of the Whistler,” both with Richard Dix, and Charles Laughton's gleefully evil “Night of the Hunter”

Nov. 7: Wilder's “Ace in a Hole.” Say no more.

Nov. 8: Truffaut's influential “400 Blows” and the engaging "Penrod" series, based on Booth Tarkington's stories.

Nov. 9: Crawford in “A Women’s Face” and a trio of Red Skelton flicks - "Whistling in the Dark," "Whistling in Dixie" and "Whistling in Brooklyn."

Nov. 10: Gillo Pontecorvo's great “Battle of Algiers,” programmed by Danny DeVito.

Nov. 11: Tod Browning's terrific “The Devil Doll,” with a game Lionel Barrymore. (Drew should remake this already.) Also: “My Favorite Wife” and “Swing Time,” a fantastic back-to-back double-bill.

Nov. 12: – Hemmings and Redgrave in Antonioni's still trendy “Blow Up.” Anne Baxter in Fritz Lang's “The Blue Gardenia.”

Nov. 13: James Elroy's programming picks are enticing - Irvin Kershner's "Stakeout on Dope Street," Irving Lerner's "Murder by Contract," Don Siegel's "The Lineup" and three by Richard Fleischer, “Kiss Me Deadly,” "Follow Me Quietly" and "Armored Car Robbery."

Nov, 14: – Four titles in Charles Barton's "Peppers" series, and Priscilla Lane in Anatol Litvak's “Blues in the Night.”

Nov. 15: – Cary Grant in "Notorious," "Houseboat," "His Girl Friday" and "Bringing Up Baby," most of these selected by Cybill Shepherd.

Nov. 17: – Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris, all at the top of their game, in Ralph Nelson's “Requiem for a Heavyweight. Plus Ken Loach's affecting “Kes,” picked by Tracy Ullman.

Nov. 18: Richard E. Grant chewing up the scenery in the memorable “Withnail and I,” plus Mickey Spillaine and Clyde Beatty in “Ring of Far,” Fritz Lang's “Clash by Night” and “Flower Drum Song,” Rodgers and Hammerstein's most contemporary, livliest musical

Nov. 19: Hitchcock's compulsively watchable “North by Northwest.”

Nov. 20: Eleanor Parker and Glenn Ford in the superior soap opera/biopic, "Interrupted Melody,” about ill-fated singer Marjorie Lawrence

Nov. 21: John Frankenheimer's excellent "Birdman of Alcatraz,” with an unstoppable Burt Lancaster, and “Singin’ in the Rain” and “The Bandwagon,” two of Metro's better (and more tolerable) musicals.

Nov. 24: “The Ox-Bow Incident,” William Wellman's astute examination of American's lynch-mob mentality; Richard Brooks' highly entertaining “Elmer Gantry,” starring the mesmerizing Lancaster, and Woody Allen's “Take the Money and Run," his first and, arguably, best movie.

Nov. 25: “Movers and Shakers,” a very funny Walter Matthau-Charles Grodin comedy (picked by programmer Grodin), directed by William Asher of "I Love Lucy" fame, plus the surefire '60s comedies, “How to Murder Your Wife” and “That Touch of Mink,” both dripping with sexism.

Nov. 26: Most of the day is devoted to Ann Sothern's delightful "Maisie" series, created in 1938 and popular into the '40s. The unsinkable Sothern played a Brooklyn showgirl who goes through a series of jobs, adventures and men. It kicks off with the original "Maisie" and continues with "Congo Maisie," "Gold Rush Maisie," "Maisie Was a Lady," "Ringside Maisie," "Maisie Gets Her Man," "Swing Shift Maisie" and "Up Goes Maisie."

Also: Helen Mirren's first film, "Age of Consent," directed by Michael Powell and co-starring James Mason.

Nov. 28: “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane,” an enticing little thriller with Jodie Foster, at her jailbait age, and Scott Jacoby, a fine young actor who has seemingly disappeared

Nov. 29: Karel Reisz's “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning," the best of Britian's "kitchen sink" movies, starring Albert Finney.

Nov. 30: – "Hot Rods to Hell," in which Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain (young lovers in "State Fair") and family are terrorized by teen hoods during a car trip. The sublime Mimsy Farmer co-stars.

(Artwork: Guest programmer Paul Aguirre with host Robert Osborne; poster art for "Elmer Gantry," poster for "Maisie," the first in a series of popular, companionable B movies, and the unsinkable Ann Sothern as Maisie)

* * *

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com