Category Archives: Movies

INTERVIEW: Jennifer Hudson Chats About Her Oscar and “The Secret Life of Bees”



Jennifer Hudson is an Oscar winning actress with the voice of a true diva. This American Idol cast-off’s career  has taken off over the past few years to great heights. In her latest venture, Hudson co-stars in the upcoming film “The Secret Life of Bees” where she plays the part of Rosaleen, a young black woman living on a peach farm in the south during the volatile sixties hired to care for Lily Owens; a young white girl with an abusive father whose mother died tragically when she was a child. Rosaleen is Lily’s surrogate mother and dearest friend and when the two take the monumental yet dangerous step of trying to register Rosaleen to vote, they find themselves in a world of trouble and are forced to go on the run.

I sat down with Jennifer to chat about her role as Rosaleen and how it has impacted her life today as a young, successful African American woman; where she keeps her Oscar and I even got a peek at her gorgeous engagement ring…its ginormous!

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INTERVIEW: Dakota Fanning on “The Secret Life of Bees” and Life Outside of Hollywood

When you think of Dakota Fanning the first thing that might come to mind is a cute, sweet, blonde haired little girl with acting chops beyond her years. Her resume is littered with co-stars that make up some of the biggest names in Hollywood. But she’s not that little girl anymore. She’s actually fourteen years old now and despite the outrageous actions and less than wholesome shenanigans her tween counterparts seem to be notorious for, Fanning has grown into the talented young actor you prayed she would.

She’s co-staring along side Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Sophie Okonedo, and Alicia Keys in this week’s debut of “The Secret Life of Bees”. Fanning plays the role of Lily Owens, a young woman living in the south during the sixties in height of the civil rights movement. She’s searching for the truth about her dead mother while struggling with the knowledge that she was the one responsible for accidentally killing her. I had a chance to talk with Dakota about movies, family, and even making the cheerleading squad.

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MOVIE TRAILER/CLIP – Trailer Park of Terror

Here is something fun. The folks behind the upcoming Indie Horror DVD Trailer Park of Terror give us a sneak at the film and a behind the scenes look at the makeup effects, that were created by the world class Drac Studios, the folks who also did the makeup effects on the upcoming Watchmen movie. Featuring top production values, the film’s special makeup effects were created by the Academy Award winning effects house Drac Studios (Todd Tucker, Harvey Lowry, Greg Cannom), whose numerous film credits include the upcoming Brad Pitt starrer The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Mrs. Doubtfire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Pirates of the Caribbean, Apocalypto and Titanic. Trailer has already become a fan favorite at five film festivals including Slamdance (Park City, UT), Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors (LA) and Fantasia (Montréal).

In Trailer Park of Terror, six troubled high school students and their chaperon, an optimistic youth ministries Pastor, return from an outdoor character building retreat in the mountains. During a raging storm, their bus crashes, hopelessly stranding them in the middle of the Trucker’s Triangle, a forgotten locus of consummate evil in the middle of nowhere. The hapless group seeks shelter for the night in a seemingly abandoned trailer park they find down the road. However, when the sun sets, it’s not refuge they find. Instead, terror finds them in the form of Norma, a damned redneck reaper with a killer body who dispenses vengeance and death aided by her cursed companions, a bloodthirsty brood of Undead trailer trash.

MOVIE NEWS: Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds starts Filming.

Inglorious Bastards

I just watched the Original Inglourious Bastards on DVD last week and enjoyed the heck out of it. The one special feature on it was a 20 minute interview between Quentin Tarantino and the director Enzo G. Castellari. Of course Tarantino’s version sounds like it’s going to be radically different from the original and I’m sure he’s going to work in the judicious use of the N word – which really pisses me off about Tarantino films. The ahole gets away with it because he has his black characters use it every other word, so that somehow makes it alright. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (yes this is how they are spelling it) began principal photography last week on location in Germany.  The ensemble cast of Inglourious Basterds includes Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Daniel Brühl, Eli Roth, Samm Levine, B.J. Novak, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Paul Rust, Michael Bacall, Omar Doom, Sylvester Groth, Julie Dreyfus, Jacky Ido, August Diehl, Martin Wuttke, Richard Sammel, Christian Berkel, Sönke Möhring, Michael Fassbender, Mike Myers, Rod Taylor, Denis Menochet and Cloris Leachman.

Inglourious Basterds reunites Tarantino with Academy Award-nominated editor Sally Menke, Academy Award-winning director of photography Bob Richardson, and production designer David Wasco.  Joining Tarantino for the first time is Academy Award-nominated costume designer Anna Sheppard.
Academy Award-nominee Lawrence Bender is producing Inglourious Bastards. Erica Steinberg and Lloyd Phillips, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein are the film’s executive producers.  The co-producers are Charlie Woebcken, Christoph Fisser and Henning Molfenter. Pilar Savone is the associate producer.
The Weinstein Company and Universal Pictures, through its newly formed International Studio, are co-financing and co-presenting the film with TWC handling domestic distribution and Universal handling international distribution. The two companies are partners on the project.
Zehnte Babelsberg Film, a subsidiary of Studio Babelsberg AG, is producing Inglourious Basterds.  The film will shoot at Studio Babelsberg as well as in Berlin, Saxony and Paris.

Inglourious Basterds begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz).  Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.   
Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution.  Known to their enemy as “The Basterds,” Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich.  Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own…

INTERVIEW: Tristan Wilds Talks About “The Secret Life of Bees”, “The Wire” and 90210

In the upcoming movie “The Secret Life of Bees” (starring Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah) Tristan Wilds portrays Zack Taylor, a young, idealistic teen growing up in the tumultuous racially charged sixties during the height of the civil rights movement. As a young black man trying to find his way to becoming a lawyer, Zack works part-time for the Boatwright sisters who introduced him to a world of bee keeping, love, sisterhood and a forbidden friendship with Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning); a young white girl on a quest to find out the truth about her dead mother.

I had a chance to sit down and chat with Tristan about his role in this film, bringing “The Wire” to a close and his newest adventure on The CW’s smash hit remake of 90210 – which airs Tuesday nights at 8pm.

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MOVIE REVIEW: City of Ember: The World Ends But Life Goes On… For Awhile!

When a movie begins with a narrator intoning, “The day the world ended…” you can be sure that there’s a caveat somewhere. With City of Ember that caveat is that a bunch of the best and brightest built an underground city so mankind could live on. An ingenious device was placed in a box that would open in two hundred years, giving instructions on how to return to the surface to find out if the upper world was once again inhabitable. Unfortunately, the device [which was to be inherited by each succeeding mayor] was lost when the seventh mayor had a heart attack and the box was put away in a closet.

Doon and Lina

Now, two hundred years later, Ember is falling apart. The city’s generator is cranky and blackouts are occurring – each longer than the last. Food supplies are getting low – and what food can be grown in the city’s greenhouse is looking less and less edible. The city is run by the corrupt Mayor Cole [Bill Murray] – the only person in town who is actually fat. Into this situation come Lina Mayfleet [Soairse Ronan] and Doon Harrow [Harry Treadaway] who swap assignments after graduating from whatever school exists there – she to become a messenger, he to become a pipeworks worker.

City of Ember is darkly gorgeous to look at. The actual city looks like a close-packed English village with a central meeting circle, but the machines that keep the city alive are oddly fascinating, clunky Rube Goldberg devices that actually have uses. Though the citizens of Ember are worried about what’s happening their fears are assuaged by the mayor and a group of religious singers [led by Mary Kay Place’s Mrs. Murdo – who takes in Lina and her sister, Poppy when their grandma dies].

Based on the novel by Jeanne Duprau, City of Ember starts slowly, like the city’s generator, and then [unlike the dying generator] picks up steam as it goes – and as Lina and Doon discover that there may be a way back to the surface – all tied into fragments of instruction in a weird little box Lina finds in her gran’s closet. Their characters aren’t all that well developed but both Treadaway and Ronan make us care about them. Other notable actors also make a lot of slenderly written, though pivotal characters like Tim Robbins [as Doon’s inventor father, Loris; Marianne Jean-Baptiste as greenhouse keeper, Clary, and Martin Landau, as pipeworks veteran, Sul].

With its touches of satire, fable-like storytelling and enthralling design, City of Ember manages to engage for its ninety-five minutes – though kids will likely find it vastly more engaging than adults [if Murray hadn’t sleepwalked through the role of Mayor Cole, that might have been different].

Final Grade: B-

CONTEST: Body of Lies Washington, DC Screening Announcement!

Spend the night with Leonardo and Russell Crowe as EclipseMagazine.com and Warner Brothers team up to bring you the Washington, DC Screening of Body of Lies. The Screening will be held Tuesday, October 7, 2008 (that’s tomorrow night!) at Gallery Place in DC. I’m working with Warners on automating our contests, so we’re testing out this cool new system. To get your tickets, CLICK HERE!!! and enter the code ECLP9886.  This movie looks amazingly good so go, enter the code, download your pass, it’s that simple.

bodyoflies 

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is the best man U.S. Intelligence has on the ground, in places where human life is worth no more than the information it can get you.  In operations that take him around the globe from the Middle East to Washington, Ferris’s next breath often depends on the voice at the other end of a secure phone line – CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe).  Waging war from a laptop in the suburbs, Hoffman is on the trail of an emerging terrorist leader who has orchestrated a campaign of bombings while eluding the most sophisticated intelligence network in the world.  To lure the terrorist out into the open, Ferris will have to penetrate his murky world, but the closer he gets to the target, the more he discovers that trust is both a dangerous commodity and the only one that will get him out alive.

The film stars Oscar nominee Leonardo DiCaprio ("Blood Diamond," "The Aviator," "The Departed"), Oscar winner Russell Crowe ("Gladiator," "A Beautiful Mind"), Mark Strong ("Stardust"), Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani ("M for Mother"), Oscar Isaac ("The Nativity Story") and Simon McBurney ("The Golden Compass").

"Body of Lies" is directed by Academy Award nominee Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down," "Gladiator") from a screenplay by Oscar winner William Monahan ("The Departed") based on the novel by former Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.  Donald De Line ("The Italian Job") and Ridley Scott are the producers, with Michael Costigan ("American Gangster," "Brokeback Mountain") and Charles J.D. Schlissel ("The Prestige") serving as executive producers.

The behind-the-scenes creative team is led by cinematographer Alexander Witt ("American Gangster"), Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max ("American Gangster," "Gladiator") Oscar-winning editor Pietro Scalia ("Black Hawk Down"), and Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates ("Gladiator").  Marc Streitenfeld ("Kingdom of Heaven") composed the score.

Opening nationwide on October 10, 2008, "Body of Lies" will be distributed by Warner Bros Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.  The film has been rated "R" by the MPAA for "strong violence, including some torture, and language throughout."

MOVIE REVIEW: Beverly Hills Chihuahua: Kids’ Flick Is Smart Enough For Parents to Enjoy!

You’ve probably seen the trailers with the ancient Aztec ruins and the Esther Williams-like production number performed by Chihuahuas. The movie lacks the production number but the ruins play a crucial part in the proceedings. What’s really surprising is that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a kids’ flick that will entertain the kids but has some gags that will work only for the parents.

beverlyhillschihuahua_poster2

Chloe [voiced by Drew Barrymore] is the queen of the Beverly Hills canine scene. Spoiled rotten by her owner, Vivian [Jamie Lee Curtis], Chloe is shallow, selfish and haughty – not to mention rude to Papi [George Lopez], the landscaper’s Chihuahua who loves her. That all changes when Vivian heads off to Europe for ten days, leaving Chloe in the irresponsible hands of her niece, Rachel [Piper Perabo] – who heads off to Mexico to party, dragging Chloe along.

More concerned about partying and meeting guys, Rachel lets Chloe get away from her and the poor thing is dognapped for a floating illegal dogfight enterprise. Because this is a Disney film, the dogfight never happens as Delgado [Andy Garcia], a noble German Shepherd, rescues her just before her opponent, a vicious Doberman named Diablo [Edward James Olmos] can rip her to shreds. The rest of the film is the story of Chloe and her new friend try to get her home – all the while Rachel, Papi and his owner, Sam [Manolo Cordona] are looking for them.

Director Raja Gosnell [Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months] keeps the pace up, giving the film the feel of a romantic farce. The voice cast is extremely good [big names are joined by animation veterans like Grey DeLisle], though Cheech Marin does a little scene stealing voicing a rat con artist who works with a dim iguana. While the film is mostly light and frothy – darkening only for brief periods [and kids love a good scare, so it’s not an issue] – it is not unintelligent. The characters are well [and sometimes cleverly] drawn and the relationships that form along the way feel very natural.

Off course, we’re taking about a talking animals film [though the animals are only understood by each other], and no one does them better than Disney. The CG work that makes the animals appear to be speaking is very good, and the practical effects are right up there, as well.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua may not quite be inspired, but it is definitely good fun – good enough to not embarrass the parents whose kids drag them along to see it.

Final Grade: B

DVD REVIEW: Iron Man Ultimate 2-Disc Edition Flies High!

In my review of Iron Man during its theatrical run, after noting that the film worked mainly because of its honouring the source material from the Marvel comics, I wrapped up with:

“While the action scenes aren’t as accomplished as something by Michael Bay, they come off better because director Jon Favreau understands that it’s the characters that make everything else in the film work. He keeps the pace high enough to prevent lessening of interest and knows how to make the film’s effects serve the story. This is a film with surprising wit and genuine intelligence.”

Iron Man Box Art

Repeated screenings [twice more in the theater and twice more on DVD] convince me that I was remiss in grading the film a mere A-. Considering that the film’s only real flaw is that the big fight scene between Iron Monger and Iron Man is a bit clunky [which, when you think about it, is appropriate for the big, clumsy looking Iron Monger], and considering that the film translates extremely well from big screen to small, I have to revise that upwards.

Then there are the multitudinous features. How many are there? Check this out: Disc One: Eleven Deleted and/or Extended Scenes; Iron Man Adventures Teaser; Disc Two: I Am Iron Man [Seven Featurettes Documenting the Making if Iron Man: The Journey Begins; The Suit That Makes The Iron Man; Walk of Destruction; Grounded In Reality; Beneath the Armor; It’s All In The Details; A Good Story Well Told]; The Invincible Iron Man [Six Featurettes Covering the History of Iron Man In Comics: Origins; Friends and Foes; The Definitive Iron Man; Demon In a Bottle; Extremis and Beyond; Ultimate Iron Man]; Robert Downey’s Screen Test; The Actor’s Process [Downey, Jeff Bridges and Jon Favreau figure out a scene]; The Onion: Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer To Be Adapted Into full-Length Film; Galleries: Concept Art [Environments: Afghan Cave, Stark Estate, Stark Garage, Stark Industries; Characters: Iron Man, Iron Monger, Tony Stark]; Tech; Unit Photography, and Posters. There is no commentary track and that costs the Features grade.

The DVD’s menus are patterned after the 3D Hologram effects in the film and are both really cool and easy to navigate. The DVD comes in a standard box inside an embossed card stock slip cover.

Grade: Iron Man – A

Grade: Features – B+

Final Grade: A

MOVIE NEWS: The Secret Life of Bees

Last week our own Tiffany did a series of great interviews with the amazing cast of The Secret Life of Bees. Those interviews will be posted over the next few days. But coincidently the folks at Oprah sent over this trailer.  Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo will sit down with Oprah to discuss the film and answer viewer questions.  Alicia Keys will close out the show with her hit song “Superwoman”! To think, Tiffany sat down with them before Oprah.  This eppy airs this Thursday.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Miracle at St. Anna: Great Moments Do Not a Movie Make!

Spike Lee’s latest joint, Miracle at St. Anna, has a number of incredibly good moments. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole sucks big. The film, which is intended to show how black soldiers figured in World War II [and every war the U.S. has fought], has several plot threads and character arcs – enough to fuel two – or even three – sleek, ninety minute films that could make his point with benefit of sledgehammers or piledrivers.

Miracle at St. Anna

Of course, Lee has never been known for his subtlety, but sitting through Miracle at St. Anna is somewhat akin to being hammered by a sack of flying mallets. The plot twists and turn are many and varied [there’s even a flashback in the middle of a flashback], but just in case that’s not enough, we get three different tones for each piece of this unnecessarily large puzzle. The one main theme – the treatment of blacks, even in the armed forces – is hammered home time and again. If the Buffalo Soldiers aren’t been treated like imbeciles by their prejudiced commanding officer, they’re commenting on how they’re being treated like real people by the citizens of the Italian village where they spend a few days hiding from the Nazis.

Then there’s the shining hypocrisy of a character called Axis Sally [Alexandra Maria Lara] – a version of the infamous Tokyo Rose, only she aims to sew dissension among the Buffalo Soldiers so that they will turn on their white officers and join the Nazis – who would kill them outright. You need a major appliance to cut the irony – it’s that thick.

The only really compelling arc in the film is the bond that develops between the somewhat slow Private Samuel Train [Omar Benson Miller] and an orphaned Italian boy named Angelo [Matteo Sciabordi]. The two mange to figure out a way to communicate the basics, and give each other strength.

An arc that’s meant to be compelling is the triangle developed between a village woman, Renata [Valentina Cervi], Private Hector Negron [Laz Alonzo], who is falling in love with her, and Sgt. Bishop Cummings [Michael Ealy], who just wants to get in her pants. It is clichéd and trite and again, badly handled. And let’s not forget the framing device for the film, in which the postal employee kills a customer – it was in the trailers, and in the actual film, it’s just preposterous.

At two hours and forty minutes, Miracle at St. Anna is more enervating than inspiring. I can’t put it any more plainly than that.

Final Grade: D